Westside Column 15 November 2019

WESTSIDE

 

Watching the Munster club game at Semple Stadium on Sunday last you got the clear impression that Borris-Ileigh are enjoying their new-found prominence. As a parish they’re fun-loving, dog-living, but above all they love their hurling and seem intent on milking this season for everything it’s worth.

Unlike Clonoulty last year, who seemed content with their county win and went through the motions against Na Piarsaigh, Borris-Ileigh dance to an entirely different tune.  Feeding off the county breakthrough they’re playing with ebullience and look hungry to drive on to wherever this momentum takes them.

I doubt if it will take them to a Munster title on Sunday week against the vastly-experienced Ballygunner, but I’ll certainly relish watching their bold bid to emulate their predecessors of the 1980s.

Watching games like this you often find yourself trying to isolate a few key moments, little cameos, that seem to encapsulate the mood of the day. There were many such moments on Sunday but I’ve isolated two that to me best captured the spirit of if all.

Twenty-four minutes into the second half Glen Rovers had staged a rally that pared back a ten-point lead to just three. It was squeaky-bum time for Borris’, all their great work in danger of being undone. Rovers had their tails up as Donal Cronin hared towards the Borris’ goal in yet another dangerous attack.  However, Bolt-like, ‘JD’ devoured the ground to track back deep inside his own half and execute a remarkable hook on the Cork man.

If an old hand like Maher or McCormack did that, you’d put it down to experience and leadership and such-like qualities. But for a rookie eighteen-year old to have the presence of mind to see the danger and then have the daring at such a pivotal moment to take on the responsibility was incredible.

A minute later Brendan Maher stood with Pat Horgan under a dropping ball and to the delight of the home following made the catch of the day. Those two incidents highlighted the Borris’ mindset and suggested that they weren’t going to be caught.

Yet their followers still had to endure some heart-thumping moments as the game went deep into additional time and Glen Rovers’ new-found energy brought them forward in waves in a bid to save the day. An amazing block by Liam Ryan saved their line, there was a fresh-air by a forward too that might have produced another goal, a saved Horgan free was part of the drama too –  and then substitute, Mark Dooley connected sweetly overhead for the visitors’ third goal. It came almost two minutes into additional time and cut the lead to just two points.

An invaluable Jerry Kelly point made the lead safer and Borris’ held out in a frantic finish. It was tight and jittery at the end but over the span of the game Borris’ were clearly the better side and fully deserved to progress to the provincial final.

Afterwards Brendan Maher spoke of the key role team manager, Johnny Kelly played in the aftermath of the county final. His experience with Portumna was important here as he repeatedly urged the players not to have to live with a sense of regret.

Kelly’s urgings showed from the beginning of this contest. Borris’ were fastest out of the blocks with Conor Kenny hitting three points on the spin before Jerry Kelly made it four-nil after six minutes.

It was a sluggish start by Glen Rovers, who lost the Cork final to divisional side Imokilly. Yet in the tenth minute they got the perfect tonic to drag them from their slumbers. Full forward, Simon Kennefick made progress towards Killinan and with the cover drawn he passed across goal to Pat Horgan who sweetly volleyed to the net. It was a goal of the highest quality.

Yet it was Borris’ who continued to produce the snappier hurling to eventually retire at the interval leading by four, 0-10 to 1-3.

We had scarcely settled for the second half when young ‘JD’ Devaney left his mark on the contest with a sublime goal. He finished off a typical weaving solo with a low emphatic finish to the right corner of the net.

Borris’ looked streets ahead of their opponents in this third quarter. Devaney might have had a second goal when another mazy run brought him in from the right corner but the shot was blocked by a defender. His pace is electric.

Kevin Maher stepped up with a few excellent points at his stage too and the Glen were struggling to gain any worthwhile traction in the contest. The lead stretched out to ten points before Pat Horgan eventually sparked the late revival when he goaled a free from just outside the twenty meter line and slightly to the right. Borris’ will worry a little about their late vulnerability but overall it was a hugely satisfying occasion for them.

Their top performers on the day were the usual suspects. As ever Dan McCormack put in a savage shift. For a player who struggled to hit his best form with the county over the summer he’s certainly delivering in spades for his club.

Brendan Maher once again showed all the qualities that make him such an admired hurler, winning individual tussles, covering and reading the play excellently, accurately hitting frees. Then you had Conor Kenny, outstanding in the county semi-final, quiet in the final, and now pitching in with a massive six points to drive Borris’ through to a Munster final.

For me one of the features that separates this Borris’ side from previous years is the added input of the likes of Jerry Kelly and Kevin Maher, the grafting of Niall Kenny and crucially the emergence of young Devaney. We had a lot of young players to admire during the past two years of U21 and U20 successes but for me ‘JD’ has really lit up the latter stages of the club championship. His lightning pace makes him a forward to be feared and if he continues to develop at this rate then watch this space.

Anyway Borris-Ileigh now have two weeks to reset for a Munster final meeting with Ballygunner, comfortable winners over Patrickswell at the weekend. The Waterford champs are red hot favourites which will suit Borris-Ileigh perfectly in what is bonus territory for the Tipp men.

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Meanwhile on the local front there was another major hurling final put through at the weekend. The red side of Carrick is ablaze after Davins took junior ‘A’ honours in a well-contested final at Bansha on Saturday. A dominant second half saw the South side match the deeds of 1963, the last and only other occasion when the club took this title.It’s a welcome boost for Davins who have had their difficulties in the past decade slipping all the way back from senior status – not easy to take when the neighbours are teasing.

Bouncing back immediately from relegation is always the best policy. Become embedded in the lower grade for a few years and it becomes increasingly difficult to escape. In that sense both Arravale and Davins were on a similar mission on Saturday having been demoted just twelve months ago.

For Davins it was a fully deserved seven-up win – bubbly but not intoxicating, though I’m sure a few stronger beverages were indulged in over the weekend. In what I thought was a very honest contest they were the stronger side, coming to the play with more zest, backing each other better and having the edge in some key battle zones.

Arravale had the wind in the first half but didn’t really make use of it. Substitute, Jack Lowry had a goal for them midway through after Davins goalie failed to deal with an indirect free from Johnny Ryan. Kevin Faulkner atoned in the second half with a smart save from Ger Halligan.

Mikey O’Dwyer and Donagh Leahy hit a brace of points each for Rovers but the free-taking of Patrick Harris was crucial for Davins; he really punished some unnecessary fouling by Rovers. After facing the wind Davins went in a point up and you sensed at that stage that it was advantage to the South.

That feeling was underlined just seconds into the second half when an incisive move from Davins saw possession worked through Lee Mackey and Willie O’Dwyer onto Luke Faulkner who flashed in a fine goal from the right corner. It was the most critical score of the game and ultimately a blow that Arravale never fully recovered from.

The second Carrick goal came twelve minutes from the end when a sweet strike from Patrick Harris beat Thomas Gleeson between the Arravale posts. A minute earlier Ger Halligan’s effort at the other end was kept out by Kevin Faulkner and that sequence of play effectively closed out this contest.

It’s a disappointing one for Arravale who also lost the 2009 county intermediate final to Davins. They lost Paddy Dalton to injury very early on and Darren Lowry too had to be replaced late in the game. You sensed it was not going to be their day.

In the realm of long servers Arravale had one of the finest in corner back Ritchie Lohan.   He’s been there for decades serving the cause, a Tipperary junior panelist twenty-three years ago. It would have been nice – and deserved – to round it off with a win here.                                                                                                                                                For Davins, managed by Ballingarry’s Philip Ivors, it’s a welcome reversal of the downward trend of recent years. Individually they had some of the best on show in the likes of Stephen Cronin, Lee Mackey, Willie O’Dwyer and Patrick Harris but as always the collective spirit of the side was central to this success. Their task now is to make an impact in Munster and then push on next year at intermediate. I miss those old Davins/Swans senior battles of the past.

 

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