Round-up: Allianz Hurling League Division Two
ALLIANZ NATIONAL HURLING LEAGUE RESULTS
KERRY 4-18 DOWN 0-19
OFFALY 3-25 MEATH 3-9
CARLOW 3-19 WICKLOW 0-17
DONEGAL 1-13 ROSCOMMON 1-11
MAYO 0-21 DERRY 1-16
Kerry, Offaly and Carlow were all big winners this afternoon in the first round of games in Division 2A of the Allianz Hurling League, with the Faithful County picking up two valuable away points in Navan while Kerry and Carlow took advantage of home comfort against Down and Carlow respectively.
Fintan O’Connor’s Kingdom side were hugely impressive in this division in 2020, only missing out narrowly on promotion due to a league final defeat to Antrim, and already they look like the team to beat in 2021 after moving through the gears in the second half of their game at Austin Stack Park.
Despite effectively travelling the full length and breadth of the country, Down hit the ground running in Tralee. Gerard Hughes, Matt Conlon and Michael Hughes were excellent in defence as they completely shut down a hugely talented home attack, and with Daithí Sands winning frees and Paul Sheehan converting them, the Ulster side led by 0-11 to 0-6 approaching half time.
Daniel Collins, Mikey Boyle and Shane Nolan all pointed before the interval to reduce the gap, and Kerry kept that momentum going in the second half. Maurice O’Connor and Fionan Sullivan rattled in goals inside the first eight minutes of the second half, and Kerry never looked back with O’Connor and Nolan (a penalty) adding further green flags en route to a 4-18 to 0-19 win.
A goal from Oisín Kelly in the first minute got Offaly off to a great start at Páirc Tailteann, but Meath, who ran the Faithful County to just two points in Birr last year, looked well set to go at least as close again when a brace of points each from Padraig O’Hanrahan and Gavin McGowan saw them take an 0-5 to 1-1 lead by the 12th minute.
It was only in the second quarter that Offaly opened up and effectively won the game, as they outscored Meath by 1-11 to 0-1 in that period. Adrian Hynes got their second goal while Ben Conneely, Leon Fox and Brian Watkins all scored from deep positions to establish a convincing 12-point lead at the break. James Kelly gave Meath a glimmer of hope with a goal early in the second half, but Shane Kinsella replied in kind for Offaly in the 44th minute and they continued to dominate, with Eoghan Cahill catching the eye with a couple of scores from sideline balls.
Mark O’Sullivan and Jack McGowan added goals for Meath but Offaly still enjoyed a decisive 3-25 to 3-9 win.
The contest between Carlow and Wicklow at Netwatch Cullen Park took a while to catch fire, with Wicklow failing to score from play in the first half while Marty Kavanagh scored 0-7 for the home side as they took an 0-13 to 0-8 interval lead.
Wicklow were further hampered by losing freetaker Christy Moorehouse at half time to injury, and Carlow cemented their hold on the game through an excellent goal from Kavanagh to open the second half scoring. Kavanagh and Ross Smithers added further goals and while the last five points of the game all came from Wicklow, that still left Tom Mullally’s side 3-19 to 0-17 to the good at the end of his first game in charge of the county.
So no close finishes in Division 2A but there was drama aplenty in Division 2B, first in O’Donnell Park in Letterkenny where Donegal shot the last three scores of the game to turn a 1-11 to 0-11 deficit into a 1-13 to 1-11 victory.
A very even first half ended 1-7 to 0-7 in favour of Roscommon, Cathal Dolan finding the net from a penalty while Declan Coulter missed his penalty chance. A third penalty was awarded to Roscommon in the third quarter but this time Dolan failed to convert, and while Conor Mulry and Cathal Kenny kept the Rossies noses in front, Coulter was keeping the scoreboard moving for Donegal.
Ronan McDermott’s goal after 70 minutes tied up the contest, and it fell to Niall Cleary to inch Donegal in front with a magnificent score, before Coulter’s ninth of the game from the last puck confirmed the win.
Two points was the final margin at MacHale Park as well, Brian Hunt and Shane Boland the scorers of critical points for Mayo at the end of their 0-21 to 1-16 win over Derry. Mayo played with a strong breeze in the first half and the tie was finely poised at 0-10 to 0-5, with those in attendance unsure as to whether five points was a sufficiently big lead to hold on. A goal from Niall Ferris and good scores from Brian Cassidy and Cormac O’Doherty set up a tense finale but Mayo were able to hold on and get the scores they needed to prevail.