Mount Sion 0-12
By Jim O’Sullivan
THE benefit of Mount Sion’s superior play in Thurles yesterday over the course of the first half, when they were wind-assisted, and for much of the third quarter would have counted for little but for Ken McGrath’s superb 56th minute point from a free far out on the left wing.
It put the Waterford side back in front at the most crucial stage of the AIB Munster club hurling championship final, which was played in atrocious weather conditions. Minutes earlier, after wiping out a five-point deficit, it appeared that Sixmilebridge were primed for victory.
Mount Sion recorded their second triumph after a 21-year gap, under the management of 1981 team member Jim Greene, because they had the character to complement their effort and ability. Fittingly, because of the major influence he exerted all through, Ken McGrath was the one who gave the leadership at the precise stage when it really counted.
It was noteworthy that, in spite of their huge wind advantage, the Waterford side found it hard enough to register scores over the first quarter. Even taking account of the general difficulties in controlling the ball and striking, they should have had a better return than the three points they had accumulated, all the more so since the Bridge were only a point behind.
On the other hand, it might have been a different story had not Davy Fitzgerald prevented a possible goal by Ken McGrath as early as the 6th minute or had he not stopped a low drive from Sean Ryan ten minutes later. By that stage, Mount Sion had lost Tony Browne from centre-back, because of an ankle injury.
Replacement Keith O’Neill was never in trouble.
In general play Mount Sion had reason to be more positive, because they were fairly well in control in defence ü despite the efforts of John Reddan and Niall Gilligan. And, while Bridge captain Christy Chaplin was prominent at stages, Mount Sion achieved much more at midfield, mainly through the efforts of Eoin McGrath.
Up front, Ken McGrath was the driving force, but fellow Allstar Eoin Kelly had little to show for his efforts on the right wing and the players inside (apart from Micheal White) found it hard to make openings against a tight-marking full-back line.
Predictably, because of the wind, the flow of possession to the Sixmilebridge forwards was limited, which meant that Gilligan in particular was rarely involved. Apart from Reddan, Stiofan Fitzpatrick got through some good work at half-forward and Mark Culbert finished strongly at midfield. At the break, it was 0-9 to 0-4 for the Waterford side.
On the resumption, Sixmilebridge’s challenge took some time to get off the ground, for the reason that they failed to put the defence under serious pressure. Brian Greene, and later Brian Flannery behind him, was prominent at left half-back and Micheal White won valuable ball on the right wing of the attack. Interestingly, while Eoin McGrath had lined up at right half-forward, (with Eoin Kelly joining the impressive Roy McGrath at midfield), he operated very effectively in front of his own half-back line and continued to play a vital role. Substitute Barry Browne, meanwhile, was to be a useful addition to the attack. It wasn’t until the 39th minute, when a Paul Fitzpatrick point proved to be the first of five in a 12-minute period, that Sixmilebridge began to shape up as serious contenders. However, while there was more ball won in the half-forward line, the supply to Gilligan and the others inside was haphazard.
Nevertheless, when Gilligan hit over a long-range free, then a fine score from play and Christy Chaplin landed a massive point from midfield to level the scores, the belief was they had turned the corner. But, they lost ground again after Ken McGrath hit over his pointed free, awarded for a tackle which saw Alan Mulready being sent off after a second yellow card.
Mount Sion were cock-a-hoop and demonstrated it with another Ken McGrath point to which the Bridge just had no answer.
* Willie Barrett faced the most demanding conditions for a referee and did extremely well to confine his mistakes to the minimum.
Scorers for Mount Sion: K. McGrath 0-9 (0-5 frees); M. White 0-3.
Sixmilebridge: N. Gilligan 0-5 (0-4 frees); C. Chaplin 0-2; C. Crowe, S. Fitzpatrick and P. Fitzpatrick 0-1 each.
MOUNT SION: I. O’Regan; J. O’Meara, A. Kirwan, B. Flannery; J. Cleere, T. Browne, B. Greene; E. McGrath, R. McGrath; E. Kelly, K. McGrath, M. Frisby; M. White, S. Ryan, J. Meaney. Subs: K. O’Neill for Browne (injured 9th minute); B. Browne for Meaney (second half); K. Stafford for O’Neill (50th); M. O’Regan for Frisby (65th); P. Fanning for Kelly (72nd).
SIXMILEBRIDGE: D. Fitzgerald; W. Kennedy, P. Hayes, T. Keogh; C. Walsh, J. Chaplin, A. Mulready; M. Culbert, C. Chaplin (capt.); C. Crowe, J. Reddan, S. Fitzpatrick; A. Chaplin, N. Gilligan, B. Culbert. Subs: P. Fitzpatrick for Walsh (17th minute); J. O’Meara for M. Culbert (50th); D. Murphy for Reddan (injured, 60th).
Referee: W. Barrett (Tipperary).