Tooreen and Naomh Eoin secure silverware
By Ivan Smyth
It’s a rare thing to see club teams from Mayo and Sligo contest a national hurling final but that was precisely the case last Saturday as Tooreen and Easkey/St. Farnans clashed in the CúChulainn Cup Division One Final.
Mayo side Tooreen won the inaugural hosting of this competition as they emerged 2-24 to 1-19 winners in an entertaining encounter at the Connacht GAA Centre of Excellence.
Over 60 sides entered the competition a huge success with clubs from across the land coming together, playing against unfamiliar opposition and gaining contacts for future challenge games.
With only three teams competing in the Mayo Senior Hurling Championship, this competition has given Tooreen invaluable game time ahead of their campaign which commences on Friday week against Castlebar Mitchels.
Tooreen’s victory was aided by the displays produced by the Boland brothers, Shane and Fergal, who between them accounted for 2-12 of their side’s winning total.
The winners got off to a dream start and had 1-3 on the board inside three minutes, with the goal coming from dual star Fergal Boland. The reply from the Sligo men was emphatic, however, with four points without reply as Andrew Kilcullen (two), Tony McHugh and Joe McHugh all found the target. The reigning Connacht Intermediate champions knew they were facing a determined Easkey outfit with scores by Joseph Boyle, Cathal Freeman and John Cassidy helping them re-establishing a measure of control.
Easkey/St Farnan’s came again with three of their own points in what already was turning into a cracking contest despite the miserable conditions. In a fast paced game, Tooreen seemed more adept to the conditions as Fergal Boland got on the end of a fine team move to rifle home his second goal. Easkey/St Farnan’s kept plugging away and outscored their opponents by 0-6 to 0-4 in the closing 10 minutes of the first-half, although Tooreen still held a 2-12 to 0-13 interval lead.
Despite a Kenny Feeney score nudging Tooreen back ahead by six points, a Fionn Connolly effort and two Kilcullen frees set up an intriguing end to this contest as the Sligo side slashed their arrears to just three points.
However, this was as close as the underdogs were to get and after a trade of points between Shane Boland and Kilcullen, the reigning Mayo County Champions made their move with Fergal Boland, Freeman, Daniel Huane and Shane Boland all firing over. A Kilcullen free stopped the rot with the Boland brothers hit three late points between them
Kilcullen’s stoppage time goal from a free meant he finished with 1-11 but it was only a consolation to last year’s beaten Connacht junior finalists who nonetheless had played their role in a fiercely enjoyable contest as Tooreen wrote a little piece of history with this win.
Tooreen manager Ray Larkin believes the competition is invaluable in helping his charges prepare for the forthcoming Championship campaign.
“The competition came in handy as we had the game at the weekend, then we have this weekend off before playing on Friday week. It gives us a straight run to Castlebar and we have games under the belt now.”
“It is a big prize and we took the competition seriously. We played Easkey in a challenge game last year and with this game the game was much together than the score line would suggest. We got some game time in to our squad which was important for us going forward.”
With only three teams in the Mayo Senior Hurling Championship; Tooreen, Castlebar Mitchels and Ballyhaunis, Larkin feels this competition helps to keep players engaged especially during the Summer months.
“In Mayo it’s the top two teams that go in to the final so there is shadow boxing at times. If you win your first game then you have one foot in the final. It’s only really when you go outside the county that things really kick off. In the Cú Chulainn, different teams play different styles so you are always coming up against something new. It’s great preparation for the Championship.”
“We fielded two teams this year. We have a team competing in the Junior Championship in Mayo and they were unlucky not to get through here. We are hoping to get the top Junior players playing Senior soon and competitions like this help that. When you have two teams it’s easier when both are playing as you’re getting numbers at training and it’s only raising the standard.”
Meanwhile, in the Division Two Shield Final, Sligo side Naomh Eoin secured the silverware as they overcame Aodh Ruadh 5-24 to 0-11 in the final. The winners built a 3-8 to no score lead inside the opening 20 minutes which paved the way for a comfortable victory despite Aodh Ruadh improving as the game progressed.
Arthur Wall and Fergal O’Kelly Lynch were joint captains for the winners as the 2019 Sligo champions look to try and build on this win. They started their County Championship with a defeat to three in a row chasing Easkey before beating Western Gaels. They now face Calry St. Joseph’s this Saturday in the third round of the Championship as they aim to put themselves in pole position for a semi final berth.
With just six teams competing in the Sligo Hurling Championship, this competition is very useful for Naomh Eoin according to their manager John Doyle.
“For me it’s a very good competition. We get more games than we normally would while some of our fringe players gain experience against teams from other counties. It’s a very good tournament for us. Travelling across the country is useful for us as a group as we get to face different styles of play. We got to blood a few young lads who we hope can push on now."