Na Piarsaigh make hard work of win over Killeagh

Na Piarsaigh's Craig Hanifin racing away from Killeagh's Killian Treacy during the Cork SHC Round 1 at Pairc Ui Rinn. Photo: Eddie O'Hare

Na Piarsaigh 0-18 - 1-12 Killeagh

Hard work did a young Na Piarsaigh side make of this first-round Cork SHC clash.

With the Cork city club having wound up in a relegation scrap at the tail end of last year, Na Piarsaigh were desperate to begin their 2019 championship campaign on a positive note.

This keenness to make sure they were first across the line in the opening game of today's double-header contributed to a nervousness in their play, characterised by eight first-half wides and numerous examples of poor decision-making upon the resumption.

What it all meant was that Killeagh were never put away as they could have been and when Sean Walsh set up Gary Leahy for a 47th-minute goal, the men from East Cork had succeeded in cutting a five-point interval deficit to the minimum, 0-13 to 1-9.

Na Piarsaigh, despite the team's average age being just 22 and the oldest member of their front six, Padraig Guest, standing at a hardly evergreen 23, were undaunted by the concession of the goal and responded with two-in-a-row from Alan Hogan, a superb score from well inside his own half, and Craig Hanifin to restore their three-point cushion.

Gary Leahy narrowed the gap to two subsequently, but no closer would Killeagh come of their opponents on the run in to the finish.

Guest, Shane Forde, set up by an excellent bit of smart hurling from Daire Connery, and Hanifin (free) saw the city lads home with three to spare.

“We made very hard work of it, but credit to Killeagh, they put us to the pin of our collar in the second-half," said Na Piarsaigh joint-manager Bill Kelleher.

The wheels came off the cart last year. We put a new management team in place and, thankfully, we’re over the first hurdle.

“We had five players starting today who played in the 2017 county minor final. Bottom line is they are a very young team. We know they can hurl. We were happy with the determination they showed to get back into the game after the Killeagh goal.

“We’ll take the win. After last year, we’ll take anything at this stage. Going forward, though, there is a lot of work to be done.”

Na Piarsaigh, despite enjoying a 0-8 to 0-3 half-time advantage, should have been further down the road to victory by the time referee Mark Maher sounded his interval whistle. Their lead could - and should - have been far more substantial than the five points it was, with their wide count climbing to eight come the end of the opening half an hour.

There were also two Christopher Joyce point attempts which dropped short into the paw of opposition ‘goalkeeper Colin Walsh.

Na Piarsaigh's Chris Joyce and Killeagh's Brian Collins go for the ball. Photo: Eddie O'Hare

Speaking of the Killeagh number one, Walsh was superb in keeping the green flag beside him grounded, producing a fine save to deny Padraig Guest’s drive in the opening minutes.

There was far less action down the other end of the field, with successive Killeagh points from Killian Treacy and Eoghan Keniry on nine and 10 minutes followed by a 21-minute barren spell.

In between, Danny Gunning, Shane Forde and a pair from Evan Sheehan sent the 2017 county semi-finalists five clear.

It was a lead they’d hold to the break, but one which was almost entirely wiped out within minutes of the restart as Midleton CBS Harty Cup winner Ryan McCarthy cut over a sideline and this was followed by white flags from Leahy and sub Sean Walsh.

The latter almost had Na Piarsaigh’s lead eaten to the minimum in the subsequent action but was well blocked.

Crucially, Killeagh were never able to get back level. Credit there goes to a fine defensive effort led by Eddie Gunning, Pa Rourke and, in particular, young Daire Connery.

That Na Piarsaigh were, at times, erratic in their play when there was no need to be is suggestive of a side which is still in the process of rebuilding confidence after a morale-sapping 2018 campaign. This first-round win should certainly help in that regard. But as Kelleher said afterwards, plenty of room for improvement.

Scorers for Na Piarsaigh: C Hanifin (0-4, 0-3 frees); D Connery (0-1 free), P Guest, E Sheehan, K Forde, S Forde (0-2 each); C Buckley, A Hogan, P Rourke, D Gunning (0-1 each).

Scorers for Killeagh: G Leahy (1-2); E Keniry (0-4, 0-2 frees); S Walsh (0-3); R McCarthy (0-1 sc), K Treacy, S Smiddy (0-1 each);

Na Piarsaigh: L Donovan; E Moynihan, E Gunning, C Buckley; A Hogan, P Rourke, D Connery; C Joyce, D Lee; C Hanifin, S Forde, D Gunning; P Guest, E Sheehan, K Forde.

Subs: K Buckley for D Gunning (53 mins); G Joyce for S Forde (59).

Killeagh: C Walsh; A Keniry, D Hogan, S Long; K Murphy, C Fogarty, K Treacy; E Keniry, M Fitzgerald; P O’Neill, D Walsh, S Smiddy; A Leahy, G Leahy, R McCarthy.

Subs: B Collins for O’Neill (25 mins); S Walsh for A Leahy, M Murphy for Fitzgerald (both half-time); K Lane for D Walsh (53).

Referee: M Maher (St Finbarr’s).

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