Larkin goal sparks late James Stephens scoring spree

TWO late goals gave James Stephens a flattering victory margin in yesterday’s Kilkenny SHC semi-final, the city club ending with a nine-point win over St. Martin’s after an entertaining battle which could have gone either way until Eoin Larkin’s crucial 57th-minute strike.

James Stephens faced the wind in the first-half and settled quickly. Their intercounty forwards Eoin Larkin and Matthew Ruth switched at the start of the game, with Larkin playing left-half-forward and Ruth at full-forward, and the city club benefited immediately, running up a three points to nil lead in the first five minutes thanks to Larkin (free), David Walton and Ruth.

The impressive John Maher settled St Martin’s with a fifth-minute free and Kilkenny senior John Mulhall added another two minutes later. With Mulhall roving to good effect, St. Martin’s availed of the space up front to take control, brothers Joe and John Maher scoring two points apiece. The score was 0-6 to 0-4 on 19 minutes when John Maher tried a speculative shot from distance which dropped short; the bounce deceived James Stephens ‘keeper Derrick Brennan and squirted over the line: goal.

St. Martin’s didn’t build on that lucky break, however, and only managed one more point before half-time, a John Maher free, while James Stephens had efforts from Larkin (free) and Walton to make it 1-7 to 0-6 at the break.

John and Joe Maher added points after the restart before the game crackled to life in the 37th minute.

John Maher fielded a high ball and soloed through before placing Robert Shore who finished emphatically from close range.

From the puckout James Stephens drove downfield, and Niall Tyrrell buried a goal with a fine shot to the corner: 2-9 to 1-8.

The exchange galvanised James Stephens – though Shore added a point for St Martin’s soon afterwards, it was his side’s last score of the hour. The city side hit three points on the trot, two Larkin frees and an inspirational long-range effort from inside his own half by centre-back Jackie Tyrrell, making it 2-10 to 1-12 at the three-quarter stage.

Larkin – unerring from frees – tied it up with a 50th-minute free and from then on it was all James Stephens. A Jackie Tyrrell delivery was won by Larkin, who goaled from close range, and sub Eoin McCormack’s late goal was the icing on the cake.

Scorers for James Stephens: E. Larkin 1-10 (0-10 fs); E. McCormack, N. Tyrrell 1-0 each; J. Tyrrell 0-2; D. Cody 0-1 (f).

Scorers for St. Martin’s: John Maher 1-5 (0-5 fs); R. Shore 1-1; Joe Maher 0-3; J. Mulhall 0-1.

JAMES STEPHENS: D. Brennan; T. Keogh, P. Larkin, J. Comerford; E. Sheehy, J. Tyrrell (c), D. Cody; N. McQuillan, N. Tyrrell; D. McCormack, G. Whelan, M. Ruth; J. McGrath, E. Larkin, D. Walton.

Subs: E. McCormack for J. McGrath, (ht); R. Cody for G. Whelan, (35); R. Hayes for D. McCormack, (55); C. McQuillan for P. Larkin, (60).

ST MARTIN’S: C. McGrath; S. Cadigan, P. Nolan, N. Moran; A. Murphy, J. Dowling (c), R. Maher; T. Breen, D. Maher; P. Maher, E. McGrath, Joe Maher; J. Mulhall, John Maher, R. Shore.

Subs: O. Walsh for P. Nolan, (39); C. Maher for P. Maher, (43); S. Cody for T. Breen, (53).

Referee: D. Connolly (Mooncoin).

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