Collins hero for Valley Rovers

THE switch of Eamon Collins from the left wing to full forward reaped a handsome reward for Valley Rovers, victors over Aghada in the first round of the Evening Echo Cork County IHC at Páirc Uí Chaoimh last night.

Two superb goals from Collins in the closing quarter decided the outcome of a substandard game, with Aghada shooting 16 wides to their opponents’ 12. It looked all so different for Aghada early on when Alan Morrissey and Vincent Morrissey, with two points in rapid succession, edged them into the lead while playing against a strong wind.

It took Valley Rovers a long time to find any rhythm but then four points on the trot from Jeremy Hurley, Gerard Rice, Eoin Manning and Eamon Collins put them in the driving seat.

But two points from team captain Trevor O’Keeffe levelled the game for Aghada before Rice, with his second pointed free in the 28th minute, nudged Valley Rovers into an interval lead of 0-5 to 0-4.

In the third quarter but Valley Rovers were leading by two points when Collins, now at full forward, kicked his first goal to the net in the 46th minute. O’Keeffe got a point back for Aghada but two minutes from the end Collins wrapped things up for Valley Rovers when his wide angled shot from the left wing found managed to find its way into Aghada net.

Scorers – Valley Rovers: E Collins (2-1), G Rice (0-3 frees), J Hurley (0-3 frees), E Manning (0-1).

Aghada: T O’Keeffe (0-4, 0-2 frees), V Morrissey, A Morrissey (0-2 each).

VALLEY ROVERS: W Burke, N O’Donovan, D Lynch, F Coughlan, R O’Donovan, C O’Donovan, J Hurley, B Lehane, R Lehane, K Canty, C O’Riordan, E Collins, J Rice, T Burke, E Manning.

Sub: J Young for B Lehane.

AGHADA: M Day, P Wall, M Galvin, K O’Connor, S Wall, J Melvin, P Kilbane, S O’Keeffe, A Cotter, V Morrissey, R Dwane, A Morrissey, C Fleming, F Day, T O’Keeffe.

Subs: P O’Neill for Cotter, E Healy for Dwane.

Referee: D O’Leary (Cloughduv).

Ollie Canning: the Galway captain is relieved his side are now on a level playing field.

WITH Kilkenny crowned National League champions in Thurles last Sunday after an epic battle with Tipperary, a new All-Ireland Senior Hurling Championship season is about to start but it’s a championship with a difference, in one province particularly.

Over many decades now there have been complaints both inside and outside Galway about the lack of any real provincial championship action for the western county. Before the advent of the backdoor system, when they won – as they did in 1980, 87 and 88 – it was said their passage to an All-Ireland semi-final was too easy; when they lost, and even after the advent of the backdoor, the complaint was they were coming in untried. Those arguments fall by the wayside now; after an unsuccessful period in the 60s in Munster, Galway are back in serious provincial action again, but this time, in Leinster, against Laois in Portlaoise on Sunday, May 31.

They came in by invitation, but, as Galway captain Ollie Canning well knows most pundits see Galway as the only realistic challengers to Kilkenny, though their welcome is far from universal.

“The Leinster championship is the Leinster championship, and they are going to have Antrim (who also accepted the invitation) and Galway in it this year. Maybe we are not going to be welcomed by teams within Leinster but I think it will be good for hurling in general. Ourselves and Antrim have been on the outside waiting for other teams to get cracking before we came in – we can start now at the same level as everybody else. I think it is going to be good for Galway and Antrim – hopefully it will be good also for the Leinster Championship.

“We’re looking forward to it, we’re hoping to bring something to it as well. It is competitive in the Leinster championship; I think Kilkenny have pushed ahead of the other teams, we’ll be in the chasing pack come Championship time, but hopefully we can put it up to them, and it will improve things in general.”

No more hiding places for Galway then, no more excuses if they fall at the first big hurdle? “I can give you 100 excuses why Galway haven’t won the All-Ireland, but it’s all down to the day really. I felt that we were at a disadvantage because we came up against teams in the last couple of seasons that had lost tough games, and had learned a lot from those games, whereas when we learned – as we did last year when we lost narrowly to Cork – we were gone out of the championship, we didn’t get a second chance. Now we’re in the same boat as everyone else, it’s either sh*t or get off the pot.”

As well as a new structure, Galway also have a new manager this year, former Tipperary star John McIntyre. A hurling lesson from Kilkenny in their league meeting in Pearse Stadium a few months ago didn’t go down too well with the new manager, and his tirade immediately afterwards made national headlines. “That was what John felt at the time,” said Ollie, who – along with his team-mates from Portumna – wasn’t available to play as they were involved in the All-Ireland club championship a week later. “John, the management, the backroom team and the players are all in this together. We are all working in the same direction to try and get some consistency into Galway hurling and try and get some good performances.! Sometimes managers and players will come out and say stuff, and I know the players in Galway didn’t read too much into it. We are all going in the same direction – trying to compete in Leinster and do ourselves justice there.”

If that’s to happen Galway are going to have to find a few forwards who will offer more support to Joe Canning than was given last year when Galway failed against Cork. On that occasion, and though still only 19 and in his first senior season, Joe shouldered far more responsibility than even a player of his undoubted talents should be expected to carry, scoring 2-12 of Galway’s 2-15.

The challenge is to avoid falling into the trap of over reliance on one player, a challenge Portumna seem to have overcome. “The guys in Portumna work hard, including Joe. He isn’t happy just getting a couple of scores and walking off the field, he puts in as much work off the ball as he does on the ball. That’s what we need to bring into Galway.”

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