Naomh Éanna quick off the mark

Naomh Éanna 3-18 Cam­ross 2-16

The Irish Times - Monday - Sport - - GaelicGames - Malachy Clerkin At O’Moore Park

For Naomh Éanna of Gorey, this is a win­ter they hope will never end. Their first Wex­ford ti­tle came along a fort­night ago and now their first foray into the Le­in­ster club cham­pi­onship has a lit­tle wind be­hind it too. They came to Laois and put Cam­ross away with not very much fuss at all.

They got their busi­ness done early here, run­ning up a to­tal of 3-10 in the first half to go eight points up at the break and es­sen­tially coasted to the fi­nal whis­tle from there. Cam­ross had a late flurry near the end to take the bad look off the score­line but they were never close enough in the sec­ond half to jan­gle any­one’s nerves on the Wex­ford side. Life will be tougher when Naomh Éanna face off against Bal­ly­hale next day out but they’re thrilled by the very prospect of it.

“Next week­end will be our first week­end off in 16 weeks be­tween hurl­ing and foot­ball,” said Naomh Éanna se­lec­tor Wil­lie Cleary af­ter­wards. “So it’s a re­lent­less jour­ney. I have to laugh at the county man­agers, and I agree with them that four weeks in a row is drain­ing and it’s tough, but you’ve got to em­brace it. Why wouldn’t you? It’s Novem­ber, bring it on, bring on Bal­ly­hale in two weeks.”

The Wex­ford cham­pi­ons were sparkling here, in the first half es­pe­cially. At times, the Cam­ross de­fence looked like they were try­ing to catch but­ter­flies with a hula-hoop. The move­ment in the Naomh Éanna at­tack was con­stant, with Conor McDon­ald the sun at full for­ward and the rest of the for­wards or­bit­ing him, liv­ing off his heat.

Pock­ets of space

Cor­ner for­ward David O’Brien spent his af­ter­noon flit­ting around left and right and steal­ing into lit­tle pock­ets of space. The Cam­ross back­line passed him on with plenty of point­ing and talk­ing but no­body ever really came to grips with him. By half-time, he had 2-2.

O’Brien was only play­ing be­cause their county for­ward Cathal Dun­bar was sus­pended. He’ll be hard to keep out of the 15 against Bal­ly­hale af­ter this. Af­ter McDon­ald set him up for his first goal on 12 min­utes with a glo­ri­ous pick-up in a tight spot, his flick to beat Thomas Dunphy in the Cam­ross goal was straight­for­ward enough.

Not so his sec­ond 11 min­utes later. Again he tip­toed in be­hind the Cam­ross de­fence, hang­ing out on the edge of the play wait­ing for it to de­velop his way. When cen­tre for­ward Pádraig Doyle spot­ted him, his stick pass was a lit­tle un­der­hit, caus­ing O’Brien to have to show a vel­cro touch to bring the ball up into his hand. His fin­ish was in­stant and it pushed Naomh Éanna into 2-4 to 1-6 lead. They were never be­hind again.

The air went out of the Cam­ross chal­lenge fairly quickly af­ter that. They had be­gun the game as the bet­ter side, buck­ing out to a 0-5 to 0-1 lead af­ter eight min­utes. Zane Keenan was fault­less on the frees early on and Mark Dowl­ing and Niall Holmes chipped in with a pretty score apiece. But as McDon­ald’s in­flu­ence mush­roomed at one end, none of the Cam­ross for­wards could get any­thing like the same pur­chase at the other. Keenan pinged a bril­liant free to the net af­ter 15 min­utes but in gen­eral play he was well han­dled by thede­fence.

By con­trast, McDon­ald was ram­pant. The Wex­ford side were able to iso­late him one-on-one with Malvin Moloney and when he got ball in hand, dam­age in­vari­ably fol­lowed. In the space of three min­utes near the end of the first half, he put up a point of his own, got fouled for a Doyle free and then knifed the best goal of the day – a 20-yard pearler into the roof of the net. That put the seven ahead.

So Bal­ly­hale next, Henry Sh­ef­flin and the rest . . . “Well Sh­ef­flin’s on the side­line!” smiled Cleary. “TJ Reid, Michael Fen­nelly, Colin Fen­nelly, and the one thing that’s im­pres­sive about Bal­ly­hale, and it’s prob­a­bly not been noted, is their younger lads com­ing through. The Eoin Codys, the Evan Sh­ef­flins, all around the field. In the first 20 min­utes against Ben­netts­bridge in the Kilkenny fi­nal they were just un­touch­able, you’d won­der if any club would go near them. They’ve house­hold names all over the field. But isn’t it great for us on our maiden voy­age to get Bal­ly­hale in Wex­ford Park? As I said, try to do the peo­ple of Gorey and the peo­ple of Wex­ford proud? Sure it’s fan­tas­tic.”

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