Abbeyside remain on course

Abbeyside\'s Garry Hurney and Passage East\'s Robert Quann, pictured in action during their Waterford SHC, second round clash at Walsh Park, Waterford.<br />
Picture by: Michael Kiely.

Abbeyside's Garry Hurney and Passage East's Robert Quann, pictured in action during their Waterford SHC, second round clash at Walsh Park, Waterford.
Picture by: Michael Kiely.

Abbeyside . . . 1-16; Passage . . . 1-6

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Abbeyside’s prospects of claiming the senior hurling championship title for the first time in their history got a further boost at Walsh Park on Saturday evening last when for the second weekend in a row they travelled east and, following victory over Mount Sion the previous weekend, added Passage to their list of conquests. As a result they must now be the warmest of favourites to be involved in the knockout stages later on in the season.

However this comprehensive ten points win must be tempered with a fair deal of caution, as the Suirsiders, severely handicapped by injuries, found themselves without the services of three or four regulars including competent defenders Shane Flood and Noel Connors and scoring ace Eoin Kelly.

That proved too much of a burden for the losers to bear and while they steadfastly refused to accept the seemingly inevitable, their inexplicable tally of eleven wides – more than half of them from reasonable scoring positions – told heavily against them in the end.

Ray Barry excels

It was always on the cards that Abbeyside would come out on top in this second round clash and the outcome became abundantly obvious at an early stage after it took a couple of breath-taking saves by the Suirsiders captain Ray Barry to keep the slick and fast moving western forwards at bay. The first of these came in the game’s second minute when he miraculously stopped a blistering shot from Mark Ferncombe and his second save four minutes later from Mark Fives unquestionably had a real touch of class about it.

Those shining moments apart, there was a routine look to most of the first quarter exchanges. Gary Hurney gave the men from the west the lead with a fine point in the 4th minute and as many minutes later the youthful Eoin Connors, who a few days earlier starred for the Waterford minors, finished off a Nicky Quinlan pass for the equaliser. Another Ray Barry intervention yielded the game’s first ‘65′, duly converted by Mark Gorman in the 9th minute, but already Passage wides at the other end had started to mount.

Aaron Connors, who had assumed free taking duties from the absent Eoin Kelly, was narrowly wide of the mark on a couple of occasions and, playing confidently, Mark Fives and Mark Ferncombe from play, made it four points to one after twelve minutes.

A ray of hope dawned for Passage in the 13th minute when a beautifully struck 55 meters side line delivery from Nicky Quinlan bisected the winners’ uprights, but quicker than it takes to relate came the winners’ first and only goal. A close in free by Mark Gorman was blocked but only partially cleared by Robert Quann, one of the losers best defenders on the evening, but the ball was snapped by the ever busy John Gorman who, to the cheers of the large Abbeyside following, readily found the Passage net.

Some of the losers’ best chances of scores came between the 15th and 18th minutes, both Aaron Connors and John Paul Collingwood coming close, before the last mentioned set up Rory Walsh for his side’s third white flag, leaving four points between the teams.

Playing somewhat within themselves and still controlling a fair supply of possession, Abbeyside went on to consolidate their position during the concluding ten minutes of the opening half with additional points from Mark Ferncombe – from an acute angle – Mark and John Gorman and Gary Hurney from play to open up a commanding interval lead of 1-8 to 0-3, their opponents last of three white flags coming in the 18th minute.

Inevitability

While there was always an air of inevitability about the match in the second half, Passage simply and courageously refused to accept defeat and after wasting another few early chances and conceding a 35th point to Abbeyside’s John Gorman, they received a badly needed uplift a minute later when a 20 meter effort from Eoin Connors was delightfully finished home by the industrious Rory Walsh to breathe new life into the proceedings and Eoin Connors quickly added a point to leave five points between the rivals.

Alas, however, this was the closest the short handed Passage outfit came to causing an upset. Mark Gorman from frees and team captain John Foley from play virtually had the outcome rapped up by the 56th minute (1-14 to 1-4). There followed a double exchange of points during the remaining minutes from Eoin Connors on the one hand and Mark Gorman and substitute Tiernan Murray on the other, to complete the scoring.

Big one to come

Two wins on the trot should be sufficient to provide Abbeyside with direct passage to the quarter-finals, but they still have to take on Lismore in a real divisional decider in their next match. They continue to look the part and while they may not be fine-tuned sufficiently to go all the way at this stage, it will still take a mighty good team to beat them. Their tight knit defence powered by Shane Briggs, John Kindergan and Richie Foley gave very little away, while elsewhere the impact of Gary Hurney, John Foley, Mark Gorman, Mark Ferncombe and Mark Fives was very much in evidence.

The losers’ last remaining group match versus Mount Sion could have a relegation look about it by the time it comes round, but personnel-wise they should be infinitely better off by that time. Even in defeat, Ray Barry stood out in goal, as did James Heffernan, Robert Quann, Rory Walsh, Eoin Connors, Brian Carey and Nicky Quinlan.

Teams and scorers

Abbeyside: D. Ryan, S. Briggs, J. Kindergan, G. Breen, B. Scanlon, R. Foley, E. Enright, S. O’Hare, J. Foley, G. Hurney, M. Gorman, M. Fives, M. Ferncombe, J. Gorman, L. Hurney. Subs: T Murray for L. Hurney.

Scorers: Abbeyside – Mark Gorman 0-6 (0-3 frees), John Gorman 1-1, Gary Hurney 0-3, Mark Ferncombe 0-2, Mark Fives, John Foley and Tiernan Murray 0-1 each.

Passage: R. Barry, R. Quann, B. Carey, L. Carey, I. Power, J. Heffernan, P. Hogan, J.P. Collingwood, R. Walsh, C. Carey, E. Connors, N. Quinlan, A. Connors, P. Fitzgerald, K. Fitzgerald. Subs: Mark Wyse for I. Power, A. Brett for J.P. Collingwood. J. Upton for P. Fitzgerald.

Scorers: O. Connors 0-4, R. Walsh 1-1, N. Quinlan 0-1.

Referee: Vincent O’Toole (Roanmore).

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