Even in Adare, however, this one won’t live too long in the memory. It was a borefest from start to finish, never took off. Ahane were game enough in the first-half but thereafter Adare slowly but surely squeezed the life out of outclassed opposition. Newly-appointed county manager Justin McCarthy was there but won’t have learned much from this.
Playing with the aid of a strong breeze, Ahane were quickly on the scoreboard, a point from centre-forward Brian Healy after just 20 seconds, but thereafter the scoring rate died a death. 0-5 apiece it was at the break, not much for any of those in the crowd of approximately 8,000 to get excited about (the official attendance was given as 4,864, an announcement which gave rise to one of the few light moments in the media box).
Against the elements, Adare were content to sit back and defend, and withdrew midfielders to bolster their half-back line. It made for a lot of rucks as one player or another from the three- and four-man melees fell on the ball.
Following that opening point for Ahane, flying full-forward Liam Costello was first to score for Adare, neutralised Healy’s point after four minutes, before Ahane again took the lead through points from free-taker Niall Moran (from his own 65) and Seán madden.
With Wayne McNamara and Aidan O’Rahilly shading the midfield battle, however, Adare had it back to parity in the 20th minute, Conor Fitzgerald with two well-struck points from placed balls, team captain Donncha Sheehan with another, Niall Moran again on target for Ahane, this one from a 65.
Pedestrian fare, and it didn’t get any better before the break, just another point apiece (Moran with a second 65 for Ahane, Fitzgerald taking advantage of a long ball from midfielder O’Rahilly for Adare).
At least it was competitive, but with Wayne McNamara exerting a massive influence in midfield in the second half, the reigning champions reeled off four points on the trot — two more from Fitzgerald, sandwiched around one each from captain Sheehan and hard-working wing-forward Michael Noonan.
Niall Moran pulled one back for Ahane, but further points from Fitzgerald and Sheehan put real daylight between them on 48 minutes, 0-11 to 0-6. As the minutes ticked on, it was obvious Ahane would need a goal, but it was also obvious that that wasn’t going to happen, not the way Adare were gang-tackling.
Timmy Houlihan in goals was ultra-safe, dealt well with the only dangerous ball that came his way, a long free from Niall Moran that was dropping just around crossbar height, safely deflected over the bar by the former Limerick keeper.
For Ahane, massive disappointment after a season that had promised so much, but they can have no complaints — they were beaten fair and square by a better unit.
Poor fare overall, but this is no reflection on Adare, who will surely trouble Toomevara in the Munster club championship. Without question they are now a better side than they were last year, far more tactically astute, far more determined to go one better this time round in Munster. I wouldn’t write them off either.
Scorers for Adare: C. Fitzgerald 0-7 (0-5 frees); D. Sheehan 0-3; L. Costello 0-2; M. Noonan 0-1.
Scorers for Ahane: N. Moran 0-5 (0-3 frees, 0-2 65’s); P. O’Connor, S. Madden, B. Healy, 0-1 each.
ADARE: T. Houlihan; S. O’Connell, JP Healy, S. Lavin; R. Kennedy, M. Foley, P. Keane; A. O’Rahilly, W. McNamara; M. Noonan, B. Foley, C. Fitzgerald; A. O’Connell, L. Costello, D. Sheehan (c). Sub: D. Sexton (B. Foley 50).
AHANE: T. Flynn; D. Madden, D. Fitzgerald, M. Carr; C. O’Reilly, O. Moran, A. Smith; J. Meskell, F. Aherne; S. O’Connor, B. Healy, D. Laing; S. Madden, N. Moran (c), P. O’Connor. Subs: C. Joyce Power (Healy 30); C. Smith (Aherne 40); R. Kelly (Laing inj. 47); T. Hayes (A. Smith 50).
Referee: D. Enright (Dromin-Athlacca). Good job.
Attendance: 4,864 (official – unofficial estimate, around 8,000).