There have been signs in the underage grades in recent times that Athenry hurling is stirring again, and yet another hint of this was their comprehensive county minor ‘A’ hurling championship semi-final victory over a fancied Turloughmore side at Pearse Stadium on Saturday.
While you would hardly describe their 10-point win as spectacular, Athenry’s display was wholly functional and, in this respect, it had coach John Hardiman’s print all over it. Superbly organised and boasting of an insatiable work-rate and intensity, Athenry really did confound the pundits with this gritty showing.
Added to this, the victors had found themselves 1-1 to no score down after just eight minutes and it appeared this could be a cakewalk for the favourites. Yet, once Athenry got their structures in place, with players dropping deep – Liam Egan often finding himself in the sweeper role – they began to make in-roads.
Incredibly, Turlough would only score one more point in the ensuing 52 minutes of play in normal time before Galway All-Ireland minor winner Conor Walsh forced home a free for a consolation goal in the third minute of injury-time.
It was a total collapse from a Turloughmore side you would have to have a great deal of sympathy for. After all, these are only young men learning their trade but, on Saturday, they were taught the harshest lesson of all. Don’t let the opposition dictate the rules of engagement.
At any rate, a converted Walsh free had Turloughmore off the mark early before Oisin Fahy forced home the sliotar for the opening goal following a passage of play that also saw Matthew Lyons initially denied by Athenry custodian, Paddy Rabbitte.
For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.