All the more impressive is that Karl O’Dwyer’s side eked out the win with only 14 men.
When Willie Minchin received his marching orders on 11 minutes for getting involved with fellow intercounty player, Sean Gannon, general consensus was that Éire Óg would pull away for a significant victory.
Indeed, that view was reinforced when Mark O’Sullivan’s goal for Éire Óg moved them into a 1-3 to 0-2 lead on 22 minutes. Seamus Kinsella’s accuracy kept his side in touch and consequently, only one point separated the sides at the interval.
“It didn’t look good and when you are playing the team that won it the year before, you would be afraid that you were going to get a bit of a hiding,” said O’Dwyer. “Every fella worked his socks off in the second half. Sometimes when you are reduced to 14 players, that can happen.”
Old Leighlin employed Carlow dual-star, Mark Brennan, in a defensive role after the dismissal and as Éire Óg’s concentration dropped, their rivals sensed blood and went for the jugular.
James Clarke, Eamon Fitzgerald and David Dowling suffocated the Éire Óg attack and the challengers had the game in safe keeping long before the final whistle.
Indeed, the holders didn’t register their two second-half points until deep into injury time and with the football championship set to break while the hurling recommences, O’Dwyer says his team is in a good place with two wins out of two.
“The real championship kicks off after the break and the main thing is not to take our eyes off the ball.”
Scorers for Old Leighlin: S Kinsella (0-8, 0-4 frees), M Cowman, D Dowling, M Brennan (0-1 each).
Éire Óg: M O’Sullivan (1-0), E Ruth (0-2), M Fitzgerald A O’Brien, D Hayden D O’Brien (0-1each).
OLD LEIGHLIN: J Clarke; S Daly, M Meaney, E Fitzgerald; B Hayes, J Hayden, D Dowling; D Bambrick, H Gahan; M Brennan, W Minchin, M Meaney; P. Hickey, S. Kinsella, M Cowman.
Subs:S Kennedy for Cowman (45 mins), A Nolan for Hickey (50).
ÉIRE ÓG: R Moore; R Mahon, C McCarthy, V Kavanagh; M Fitzgerald, A Callinan, B Kavanagh; S. Gannon, M Ware; M O’Sullivan, E Ruth, T Dowling; D Hayden, C Mullins, B Hennessy.
Subs: K Hession for O’Sullivan (40), D O’Brien for Mullins (41), A O’Brien for Dowling (49), C Bolger for Kavanagh (55).
Referee: K. Kelly (Fighting Cocks).