Classy Charleville hold all the aces

The Corkman - - SPORT - TIMMY SHEE­HAN Lix­naw, Co Kerry

Lix­naw 0-11 Charleville 1-17

A MUCH sharper Charleville com­bi­na­tion firmly put paid to Lix­naw’s brave chal­lenge in the semi-fi­nal of the Mun­ster In­ter­me­di­ate Hurling Cham­pi­onship at Her­mitage Park last Satur­day af­ter­noon.

A lively start and a four point lead 0-5 0-1 af­ter just ten min­utes sug­gested that Lix­naw, play­ing with the ad­van­tage of a strong breeze might well have the ca­pa­bil­ity to shade the ver­dict, but once Charleville got into their stride and over­hauled the deficit to go in ahead 0-9 1-7 at the half-time break the fi­nal out­come was firmly point­ing in favour of the vis­i­tors.

For a pe­riod in the sec­ond half Lix­naw main­tained par­ity, but Charleville util­is­ing a com­bi­na­tion of pace and some pen­e­trat­ing runs, com­bined for a series of unan­swered scores and as the en­counter pro­gressed to its in­evitable con­clu­sion they ex­erted a firm grip in all sec­tors.

Cer­tainly there was no lack of ef­fort or en­deav­our on the part of Lix­naw, but in terms of the over­all qual­ity of their hurling Charleville were the su­pe­rior side. Al­ready with­out a num­ber of reg­u­lars Lix­naw’s chances were dealt with an­other se­vere blow dur­ing the week with the with­drawal through in­jury of their in­flu­en­tial mid­fielder John Grif­fin.

He would, most likely, have been en­trusted with the task of curb­ing Charleville’s All Star mid­fielder Dar­ragh Fitzgibbon, a player, who ul­ti­mately played a sig­nif­i­cant role in his side’s suc­cess.

Points from Shane Con­way (free) and Colin Sheehy af­forded Lix­naw the per­fect start in­side the open­ing three min­utes of play, but there was also some early signs at the other end of the pitch that Charleville had the ca­pa­bil­ity to open up dif­fer­ent lanes of at­tack with Tim Hawe be­ing de­nied of what looked like be­ing a cer­tain goal by a bril­liant stop at point blank range from Martin Stack­poole.

Charleville ini­tially shot three suc­ces­sive wides, be­fore John Buck­ley, who put in a huge shift through­out, in­creased Lix­naw’s lead with a mag­nif­i­cent ef­fort from way out on the side­line in the sev­enth minute.

Adopt­ing a mea­sured build up with the hand pass, a key com­po­nent, Charleville got on the score­board in the ninth minute, when Dar­ragh Fitzgibbon pointed for them. He was also on tar­get with a pointed free in the fif­teenth minute, but by that stage, at the end of the open­ing quar­ter Lix­naw were still in front, 0-6 0-3 with Shane Con­way hav­ing added three more points to their scor­ing tally.

How­ever, a lack of con­cen­tra­tion in de­fence al­lowed Kevin O’Con­nor to strike, for what ul­ti­mately proved to be a cru­cial goal in the six­teenth minute. It was a score which in­jected a lot of mo­men­tum into Charleville’s chal­lenge, re­sult­ing in they be­ing in front by that par­tic­u­lar goal 1-7 0-7 by the twen­ti­eth minute.

It owed much to the level of their com­bi­na­tion play, and, the de­fen­sive in­put of such as Dar­ren But­ler and Jack Buck­ley, both of whom were piv­otal fig­ures in their rear­guard unit.

For a pe­riod, Lix­naw strug­gled, due to a ten­dency at times to de­lib­er­ate too much when in pos­ses­sion, but with Shane Con­way con­vert­ing two pointed frees in the fi­nal two min­utes of the half it re­duced the deficit to the bare min­i­mum 0-9 1-7 at the in­ter­val break.

Given the ad­van­tage which the el­e­ments would bring in the sec­ond half Charleville were largely in pole po­si­tion at this par­tic­u­lar junc­ture. Lix­naw needed to dig deep in their ef­forts to stay within strik­ing dis­tance and they started the sec­ond half with ad­mirable in­ten­sity with Ricky Hef­fer­nan now po­si­tioned on the forty win­ning a lot of pri­mary pos­ses­sion.

How­ever, Charleville’s swarm de­fence meant that Lix­naw found it dif­fi­cult to make progress in at­tack­ing sit­u­a­tions and the abil­ity of the Cork side to ben­e­fit from play­ers sup­port­ing the ball car­rier off the shoul­der and pro­vid­ing time and space with play­ers over­lap­ping in num­bers meant that they cre­ated more clear cut scor­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties, with their cor­ner-back Fin­bar Cag­ney op­er­at­ing be­yond half­way open­ing their sec­ond half ac­count.

A brace of pointed frees from Shane Con­way meant that the en­counter was dead­locked 0-11 1-8 within eight min­utes of the re­sump­tion and, with Michael Quil­ter ef­fect­ing some fine fetches in de­fence, Lix­naw main­tained a strong chal­lenge for a pe­riod, with their de­fence be­ing par­tic­u­larly res­o­lute and com­pact.

How­ever, Dar­ragh Fitzgibbon, re­source­ful and in­flu­en­tial, stepped up a gear and with Mark Ka­vanagh be­ing pro­duc­tive from placed balls, Charleville were four points in front 1-12 0-11 go­ing into the fourth and fi­nal quar­ter.

Lix­naw needed a goal to sal­vage the sit­u­a­tion, but it never looked like ma­te­ri­al­is­ing, even if, John Buck­ley on route to goal with a surg­ing run was taken down, with a yel­low card be­ing the penalty for the trans­gres­sion.

With more gas in the tank and yards in the legs, Charleville, ul­ti­mately cruised to a pretty com­fort­able and fully de­served vic­tory. On the day, Shane Con­way was some­what short of his very best even if in­ter­mit­tently, he ef­fected some trade­mark touches.

Once again, he lacked sup­port in the scor­ing stakes and es­sen­tially that was one of the fac­tors which de­ter­mined the fi­nal out­come, with five of Charleville’s for­wards scor­ing from play.

The loss of so many key play­ers ul­ti­mately made Lix­naw’s task dou­bly dif­fi­cult, but their sea­son will ob­vi­ously be re­mem­bered as one to savour, given that their ninth County Cham­pi­onship crown rests in the vil­lage af­ter a break of four years.

LIX­NAW: Martin Stack­poole, Michael Quil­ter, Stephen Power, De­clan Mc Carthy, Ger Stack­poole, Dar­ragh Shana­han, Pat Cor­ri­dan, Brian Mc Auliffe, Bren­dan Bros­nan (0-1), Shane Mc El­lig­ott, John Buck­ley (0-1), Ray­mond Galvin, Shane Con­way, (0-8 0-7 frees), Ricky Hef­fer­nan, Colin Sheehy (0-1) Subs: Ja­son Wal­lace for S McEl­lig­ott (blood), Jeremy McKenna for R Galvin, Shane McEl­lig­ott for C Sheehy, Michael Con­way for B Bros­nan, Jamie Galvin for J Wal­lace, Jonathon Silles for D McCarthy

CHARLEVILLE: Cian Collins. Dar­ren But­ler, Jack Meade, Fin­bar Cag­ney (0-1), Alan Den­nehy, Jack Buck­ley, Cathal Car­roll, Jack O Cal­laghan, Dar­ragh Fitzgibbon (0-6 0-2 frees), Kevin O Con­nor (1-0) Jack Doyle (0-2), Mark Ka­vanagh (0-5 0-4 frees), An­drew Cag­ney (0-1), Conor Buck­ley (0-2), Tim Hawe Subs: Dar­ren Casey for T Hawe, PJ Copps for C Buck­ley, James Kennedy for J Doyle, Kieran Cag­ney for A Cag­ney, David Shee­han for D Fitzgibbon

REF­EREE: Rory McGann (Clare)

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