Coughlan was at the heart of everything that was positive in Newtown’s play and gave numerous markers a torrid time in a battling Newtown display on difficult and soft underground conditions.
Coughlan was first to every ball, possessed an exquisite first touch as well as balance and pace in the solo-run which, all combined, led to two brilliantly–executed goals.
While Coughlan stole the headlines, current Cork centre-back Tim O’Mahony retired injured after 24 minutes having picked up what appeared to be a serious elbow injury and may be up against time to be fit for the Rebels’ Munster Championship opener against Clare on 20 May.
O’Mahony, playing at centre-forward, was a central figure in Newtown’s impressive opening quarter onslaught and his side missed him when he had to leave injured after what appeared an innocuous outfield challenge.
Kanturk reacted too late to Coughlan’s positioning as a lone inside attacker, for, after 18 minutes, the damage was done with Newtown steaming into a 1-10 to 0-4 lead.
He was helped by a sharper, more skillful side that looked solid down the central positions and manager Gary Morrissey was delighted to get over a first hurdle against a side that had gained formidable momentum after lifting the All-Ireland IHC crown earlier this year.
“We’re delighted,” said Morrissey. “We knew it was going to be tough. It was being billed as a derby even though there wouldn’t be history (between the clubs) there. But it was typical first round. Conditions were heavy. It was a battle. We knew we had to bring an intensity today against a side that had won an All-Ireland hurling title.”
Though finding themselves 1-11 to 0-7 in arrears at half time, Kanturk fought manfully to the finish but a goal that would have made things interesting never materialised against a teak-touch Newtown rearguard in which Jack Herlihy, Conor Twomey and Michael Thompson excelled.
Coughlan’s brilliance was manifest from the opening exchanges, helped in no small part by the sharper, more measured hurling of Newtown as Kanturk struggled to adapt to the pace of senior hurling.
Coughlan’s goal in the fourth minute came after a powerful 30-metre solo-run and a beautifully struck shot off the hurley that flew past Anthony Nash. Further points from Mattie Ryan, Coughlan and Tim O’Mahony saw Newtown scorch into a 1-7 to 0-3 lead on 14 minutes.
Although Kanturk did their best to stay in touch with strikes from Lorcan McLoughlin and Liam O’Keeffe, Newtown’s power game continued to unsettle the Duhallow side who watched Donogh Stack, Coughlan and Tim O’Mahony embellish their lead to 1-10 to 0-4 on 18 minutes.
Kanturk did get the first point of the second half but a long outfield ball from John Geary into Coughlan saw the Newtown talisman show strength under pressure and great awareness to turn his shot over the advancing Nash and into the net.
Kanturk did outplay and outscore their opponents during the remainder of the third quarter but prising a goal opportunity proved elusive with James Bowles solid between the posts and, outside him, Jerry O’Mahony, Jack Herlihy, Conor Twomey and Darragh Guiney repelling a series of attacks.
Anthony Nash did step forward in the 55th minute to take a 25m free and, with a goal on his mind, the Cork netminder failed to get the requisite power to trouble a packed goal-line.
A mammoth free from Coughlan followed by the score of the match from Michael Thompson who soloed from his own 20m line along the right wing before cutting inside to curl over a beauty off his left from 50 metres proved insurance scores for Newtown. Late points from Ian Wash were not enough for a brave Kanturk side.
J Coughlan 2-7(5f); T O’Mahony 0-2; S Griffin, R Clifford, D Stack, M Ryan (free) and M Thompson 0-1 each.
L O’Keeffe 0-8 (frees); I Wash 0-3; A Walsh 0-2; L McLoughlin and J Fitzpatrick 0-1 each.
J Bowles; J O’Mahony, J Herlihy (c), D Guiney; K O’Sullivan, C TWomey, M Thompson; D Hawe, M Ryan; R Clifford, T O’Mahony, D Stack; S Griffin, J Coughlan, J Geary.
J Twomey for T O’Mahony (inj.24); S Young for S Griffin (48); D Lane for Thompson (63).
A Nash; P Walsh, J McLoughlin, J Browne; L O’Neill, D Browne, A Sheehy; L McLoughlin, R Walsh; I Walsh, A Walsh, D O’Connell; L O’Keeffe, A O’Keeffe, J Fitzpatrick.
M Healy for O’Connell (19); D Kenneally for A O’Keeffe (37).
P O’Driscoll (Bride Rovers)