Glenroe come in from the cold at the sixth attempt

Jimmy Barry Murphy flies through the air with delight. – Photo John Mortell.

Glenroe, at the sixth attempt came in from the cold and captured a first ever Limerick Intermediate Hurling title following victory over Newcastlewest in front of a huge attendance in Páirc Seán Mhic Ghearáilt, Kilmallock on Sunday.
The clubs had met in a county final just once previously in 2000 in the Junior Hurling Champ-ionship final when Glenroe again prevailed after a stirring battle.
It was a landmark day for Glenroe who after a high octane sixty plus minutes of intense and exciting hurling exorcised the failures of 1975, 1976, 1977, 2005 and 2017 to finally end heartbreak at intermediate hurling’s final hurdle.
It was a victory fashioned out with raw courage, commitment and no mean amount of skill and will serve as a paragon for others as to what can be achieved through good organisation and preparation.
In this regard, take a bow manager Danny Murphy, coach Maurice O’Brien and selectors Seán Coffey and Mike Sheehy who had their team meticulously prepared for everything that Newcastlewest were going to throw at them, had them focused and had inculcated into them a sense of discipline and togetherness that did not even threaten to waver or falter at any stage during the course of the 60 odd minutes of hurling.
A display of incredible internal fortitude from the goalkeeper to the left corner forward and from the first shrill on Mike Sexton’s whistle to the last, ensured that the young men of Glenroe took custody of the symbol of supremacy in Limerick intermediate hurling to reside in the picturesque landscape nestling between the Galtees and the Ballyhouras for the next twelve months.
It was a game of tough championship hurling but far from a classic and will not find its way into a purist’s manual. Glenroe will not mind, they came intent on ending a losing sequence and succeeded against a Newcastlewest side who were making their debut in the final.
It is indicative of the toughness and closeness of the second half that neither side raised a flag of either hue from open play in the half with the responsibility for working the scoreboard operator resting on the broad shoulders of Mark O’Connell and Mike McMahon from placed balls.
It was a day when little if anything went right for the men from the county town, they created two goal scoring chances in the first half and failed to make either count while Glen-roe’s solitary goal scoring chance in the same period nestled in the westerners’ rigging.
The rhythm they had shown over the previous five games deserted them as they struggled to match the intensity and work rate of a Glenroe side who appeared from the start to have no intention of leaving Páirc Seán Mhic Ghearáilt without silver-ware.
The Glenroe half back line anchored by Stephen Walsh were immense and it was here that most things Newcastlewest tried, floundered. Late call up David McCarthy who lined out for the unlucky injured Donal Kelly was outstanding throughout in his unaccustomed position of left half back. The 2015 Limerick All-Ireland winning goalkeeper struck three delightful points from long distance.
Darren McCarthy was immense at midfield while up front the O’Connell brothers led the charge to glory and contributed 1-9 between them.
Diarmuid Kelly, Bryn Nix, Eoin Hurley and Mike McMahon showed early signs of causing problems for the Glenroe rearguard but the threat quickly dissipated as Glenroe quickly began to lay down the terms of engagement.
It was a disappointing day for the Newcastlewest but there was plenty evidence on the day that they are a work in progress and like Glenroe who lost in 2017, they will take a consider-able lot away from Sunday’s final experience.
Glenroe with the breeze the swirled down towards the Millmount end opened the scoring with a Mark O’Connell free inside the first minute.
Newcastlewest responded quickly with neat points from play from Diarmuid Kelly and Mark Kelly.
David McCarthy with a long range free levelled matters and Mark O’Con-nell nudged Glenroe back in front. On eight minutes Glenroe took a grip on matters after team captain Mark O’Connell delivered into the path of his brother Brian who rounded a Newcastlewest defender and lashed the ball past Leigh Fitzgerald to the net.
Points from Mike McMahon sandwiching a Glenroe point from Mike Mansell left O’Connell’s goal between the sides at the end of the first quarter 1-4 to 0-4.
David McCarthy from distance and Mark O’Connell extended Glenroe’s lead before in the 19th minute, Michael John Farrell made a point blank save and after the ball bobbled dangerously close to the Glenroe goal, Eoin Hurley eventually steered it over the bar.
It was a let off for Glenroe and O’Connell and McCarthy responded with points to stretch the south Limerick men’s lead to six points.
McMahon and O’Connell traded frees before the Newcastlewest sharp-shooter had the last say of the half landing a 65 but it was Glenroe who were in the ascendancy at the change of ends, 1-9 to 0-7.
The third quarter yielded very little by way of scores with just two points recorded, both to Glenroe who were playing into the wind and both from Mark O’Connell as the southerners lead was extended to double scores 1-11 to 0-7. The margin could have been tighter had Newcastlewest not indulged in some uncharacteristic profligacy after half time when the target was in sight.
Mike McMahon opened Newcastlewest’s second half account in the 46 minute but mark O’Connell replied for Glenroe. Two in row from McMahon held briefly held out hope of an unlikely Magpies revival but O’Connell replied for Glenroe in the 54th minute which proved to be the last score of the game.
Both sides huffed and puffed in the remaining six minutes of normal time and four added minutes with neither goal coming under any real threat as Glenroe were happy to close in on a landmark historic victory.
Scorers: Glenroe: Mark O’Connell 0-9, 7fs, 1-65; David McCarthy 0-3, 2fs; Brian O’Connell 1-0; Mike Mansell 0-1.
Newcastlewest: Mike McMahon 0-7, 5fs, 1-65; Diarmuid Kelly, Mark Kelly, Eoin Hurley 0-1 each.
Glenroe: Michael John Farrell; Jimmy Barry Murphy, Patrick Mc Swee-ney Eoin Gallahue; Stephen Fox, Stephen Walsh, David McCarthy; Darren McCarthy, Ciarán Kelly; Mark O’Connell (Captain), Pádraig McGrath, Seán Clancy; Mike Mansell, Brian O’Connell, Eoin Walsh.
Subs: Eoin O’Mahony for Seán Clancy (35).
Newcastlewest: Leigh Fitzgerald; Mike Mulcahy, Maurice Murphy (Captain), Colm Foley; Lee Woulfe, Steven Nix, William Hurley; Niall Enright, Séamus Hurley; Mark Kelly, Eoin Hurley, Brian Hurley; Diarmuid Kelly, Mike McMahon, Bryan Nix.
Subs: Shaun Browne for Mike Mulcahy (42), Brian Foley for Mark Kelly (45), Thomas Quilligan for Eoin Hurley (50), Michael Quilligan for Brian Hurley (57).
Referee: Mike Sexton, Bruree.