“It was very difficult on both clubs, Erin’s Own and Ballymartle. I don’t know what can be done to make the system fairer but the first round draw wasn’t kind to either club. We were playing Na Piarsaigh, they played Newtownshandrum, then the losers drawn against each other. Of course there’s still the safety net of another round and I wish Ballymartle the best of luck in that.
“I saw Ballymartle against Newtown in Kilworth and I thought they played some fantastic hurling, really impressed with them,” said a relieved PJ.
“I went home that night and said to myself, ‘We’ve got a very difficult battle against these fellas the next day’. I’d say that over the last few weeks we prepared as well as we’ve ever prepared for a championship match. What struck me as well is that we have only six of the team that won the county in 2007 starting today, that’s nine new players we’ve had to blood. To still come out on top is testament to the players, I’m delighted for them. They’re effort in training is fantastic, I couldn’t praise them enough.”
Erin’s Own won the toss and opted to play against the wind; it would prove a profitable decision. Five points apiece it was at the break, five measly points on a perfect afternoon for hurling, perfect sod also, only one from play for Ballymartle (Darren McCarthy) despite playing with that strong wind.
The second half was an improvement, but only slightly, and from one side only. With the wind now at their backs Erin’s Own soon raced into a three-point lead, courtesy of the outstanding Mark Collins (finished with four from play) and full-forward Eoghan Murphy (two).
Ballymartle hit back but not often enough and Erin’s Own ran out clear if not very convincing winners. One player did stand out in that second half, however, Erin’s Own centre-forward Maurice Carroll with three absolutely superb points from play, but overall it wasn’t pretty. Not that any of this particularly bothered PJ.
“Look, it wasn’t a classic by any manner of means but this was all about winning, about getting over the line and having the relegation monkey off your back — we can settle down now. We’ve had a lot of injuries, short a lot of players today through injury. It took a huge effort to deliver a performance and to get the win.”
Another pair who caught the eye were the aforementioned Collins and young corner-forward Andrew Power. “They were fantastic,” agreed PJ. “Consider that Andrew Power didn’t play in the first game (against Na Piarsaigh) — in fact we were short four from that loss to Na Piarsaigh. Andrew came in and if you were giving a man-of-the-match for effort and for taking on responsibility — in the way he took his points — he’d be your man.”
Onwards and upwards then for Erin’s Own; for Ballymartle the circle closes, another chance to escape the relegation noose but it gets tighter and ever tighter.
Scorers for Erin’s Own: E Murphy (0-5, three frees); M Collins (0-4); A Power (0-3); M Carroll (0-3); J Sheehan (0-1).
Scorers for Ballymartle: B Dwyer (0-4, four frees); D McCarthy (0-3); P Dwyer, B Corry, D Dwyer (s/l), J Dwyer (0-1 each).
ERIN’S OWN: S Bowen; S Murphy, P Fitzgerald, K Murphy; N Scanlon, S Cronin, C Dooley; K Murphy, P Kelly; M Collins, M Carroll, J Sheehan; S Crowley, E Murphy, A Power.
Subs: J Carroll for Sheehan (53).
BALLYMARTLE: Declan McCarthy (c); D Coleman, M Tobin, Declan Dwyer; J Kelly, P Dwyer, C Coleman; Darragh McCarthy, S Corry; B Dwyer, B Corry, Darren McCarthy; Dan Dwyer, J Dwyer, K Fitzpatrick.
Subs: D Edwards for Darragh McCarthy (30); R Cahalane for Fitzpatrick (42); TJ Murphy for D Coleman (54).
Referee: J Sexton (Ballyhea).