SHC: Tourlestrane 1-13 v Coolera Strandhill 2-14

Tourlestrane was the venue for this fourth-round tie of the Senior Hurling Championship, both sides aiming for their first win. The home side, despite some good performances, remained pointless, while the reigning champions were struggling with just two draws to their credit, having suffered defeat to Naomh Eoin in the previous round. An entertaining encounter which was in the balance right to the final whistle ended with a four-point victory to Coolera-Strandhill.

The opening quarter was a scrappy affair, neither side producing much quality hurling, though a heavy pitch and wet conditions weren’t conducive to free-flowing hurling. The visitors started the livelier but were wasteful in front of goal and went behind to a pointed free from midfielder Ruairí Brennan. A point from Conor Gillen, having been set up by Larry Cadden, levelled for the champions soon after. There then followed a period where both sides struggled to find the target, the only flag raised coming from a fine effort from Tourlestrane full-forward Mark Burke. Indeed, Burke was a handful for the visitors’ defence throughout and though this was his only score from play, he finished on a personal tally of 0-06. 

Coolera-Strandhill found their rhythm after fifteen minutes, when a well worked move through defence culminated in a pass from centre back Kevin Banks to Larry Cadden who found the net for the opening goal. Burke replied for the home side with a pointed free, but the visitors would score 1-03 before the home side registered another point. Kevin Banks was dominant at half back at this time and following another high catch, he set up Kieran Prior for the first of his four points. Tourlestrane introduced Conan Marren for Conor Gilligan at this time in an effort to curb Banks’ influence. However, Luke Comerford pointed for Coolera and a long-range effort from Cadden extended the lead to four. Tourlestrane had opportunities to cut the deficit and will rue some missed frees. They were punished for this when Larry Cadden added his second goal just before the break, but Burke reduced the lead with a free, leaving the half-time score 2-04 to 0-04 in favour of the visitors.

Another downpour during the interval meant even more difficult conditions for the second period, and both teams are to be commended for producing such an entertaining, high quality second half. Diarmuid Brennan replaced Conan Marren for the second half, but it was Coolera who started the brighter. Kieran Prior was on the mark immediately after the restart and an excellent effort from Ciarán Brennan extended the lead to eight points. At this point it seemed that the champions were in control and would see the game out, but the South Sligo side responded with four unanswered scores. A point from play from Rian Kennedy was followed by a 65 from Ruairí Brennan. The home side were running at the Coolera defence and indiscipline led to points from Brennan and Burke from placed balls. 

Having weathered the storm, Coolera settled back into the tie and Larry Cadden seemed set for his third goal of the day but Tourlestrane net-minder Jerome Quinn produced his second point blank save to deny Cadden. John Costelloe was introduced by the visitors and his running was to prove a thorn in the home defence. Scores followed from play for Coolera from Prior and Cadden while midfielder Eoin Comerford contributed three, two placed balls and one from open play. Mark Burke kept his side in the tie though and continued to punish Coolera from placed balls. 

As the game entered the final quarter, the home side piled on the pressure. The midfield battle was proving to be an intriguing contest. Eoin Comerford and Ciarán Brennan were enjoying their share of possession and combining well to set up scores for the visitors, yet the home pair of Ruairí Brennan and Kevin O’ Kennedy were also very influential at this time. Their direct running was a constant threat throughout. They combined to set up Rian Kennedy for his second point and contributed points of their own, O’ Kennedy scoring arguably the point of the day when he ran from his own 65 metre line, leaving everyone in his wake, before shooting on the run. 

With just minutes remaining, the quick-thinking Brennan found Rian Kennedy with a short free, whose low drive found the corner of the Coolera net, reducing the deficit to three points. A tense final few minutes could have been in store but Kieran Prior gained possession direct from the puck-out and fired over for the insurance point, his fourth, to secure the points for Coolera-Strandhill on a score of 2-14 to 1-13.

Coolera-Strandhill will be pleased with the points as they have put themselves back into contention in the championship with what is only their first win in four attempts. The return from injury of Larry Cadden will be particularly pleasing as he looked sharp throughout, contributing 2-03 of his side’s tally. It will please them too that they had seven different scorers over the hour, and that Ronan Redmond and Kevin Banks on the half back line were particularly effective. However, they will have to improve further if they are to entertain hopes of retaining their title. Their attacking play, albeit it with seven different scorers, was disjointed at times and didn’t always work as a unit. In contrast, Tourlestrane at times played a very effective passing game, particularly out of defence, always looking to give the sliotar to the man in the best position. Tom Brennan led the defence on the 40 and was well supported by Seán McVeigh and Shane Neary, while in goals, Jerome Quinn made two excellent saves.  The midfield pairing of Ruairí Brennan and Kevin O’ Kennedy were more than a match for their Coolera counterparts and O’ Kennedy’s speed was a constant threat. Up front, Mark Burke was a handful for the visitors’ full-back line and was a very effective target-man, and Rian Kennedy capped a fine performance with his late goal, bringing his total to 1-02. 

Tourlestrane: Jerome Quinn, Shane Neary, Ciarán Walsh, Colm McVeigh, Seán McVeigh, Tom Brennan, Aaron Moylan (Tom Corcoran), Ruairí Brennan (0-04, (2 frees, 1 65)), Kevin O’ Kennedy (0-01), Joseph Molloy, Conor Gilligan (Conan Marren) (Diarmuid Brennan), Rian Kennedy (1-02), Eoin Walsh, Mark Burke (0-06, (5 frees)), Brian Walsh (Enda Gallagher)

Coolera-Strandhill: Patrick O’ Connor, Niall Cadden, Cathal Murphy, Kevin Kelly, Thomas Moran, Kevin Banks, Ronan Redmond, Eoin Comerford (0-03, (2 frees, 1 65)), Ciarán Brennan (0-01), Luke Comerford (0-01) (John Costelle), Colin Parke (0-01), Larry Cadden (2-03), Mark Harkin (Colm Scanlon).  



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