Young Shanahan grabs limelight

Lismore\'s Dave Bennett gets away from Passage East\'s Noel Connors during their game at Kill. Photos: Michael Kiely

Lismore's Dave Bennett gets away from Passage East's Noel Connors during their game at Kill. Photos: Michael Kiely

Lismore . . . 2-19; Passage . . . 2-8

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Minor and Colleges hurling star Maurice Shanahan stole the limelight from his more celebrated brother Dan as Lismore swept to a comprehensive victory over Passage in last Saturday’s opening round match of the 2008 County Senior Championship played at Kill. The game, originally listed for Lemybrien, was switched at the eleventh hour due to ground conditions and still managed to attract a fairly decent attendance. The tie marked the return of the Seasiders to senior ranks after winning last year’s Intermediate championship, but quite frankly they were never seriously in the hunt for a first brace of group points and suffered a number of grievous blows both before and during the course of the sixty minutes.

Late withdrawals as a result of injuries picked up in training saw Passage take the field without the services of their long serving goalkeeper Ray Barry and prolific scoring forward Paul Fitzgerald. This meant a debut for teenager Eddie Lynch and a recall for John Paul Collingwood and the rearranged side took a considerable time to settle. Worse was to follow for the championship newcomers and it became evident just after the break that something was amiss when county senior star Eoin Kelly handed over the free taking duties to Eoin and Aaron Connors, before signalling that a hand injury picked up just before the short whistle was much more serious than had earlier been anticipated. Before very long he was obliged to come off and a subsequent hospital x-ray revealed a fracture that is virtually certain to rule him out of Justin McCarthy’s plans for the opening Munster championship clash with Clare on June 1. Later still Passage found themselves at a further disadvantage, with the dismissal of their full back Brian Carey by referee Pat Casey for a second yellow card offence, but in truth at that stage this first round affair as a contest was all over.

Flying start

Indeed Lismore, with the assistance of the breeze at the outset, went about their task in real business-like fashion and inside the opening eleven minutes ran up a tally of seven points without reply. Much of this early damage came from the stick of teenager Maurice Shanahan who was unerring in his accuracy and repeatedly gave his marker Brian Carey a torrid time.

Finally, Passage who had wasted a number of promising chances in the early stages, brought the game to life with a bang in the game’s 13th minute when Eoin Kelly hammered a twenty metre free to the back of the Lismore net and in the process sparked off a mini-recovery for Passage. The play became a little more even coming up to the halfway stage, especially after a Noel Connors free out of defence was eventually finished home by Conor Carey for a second Passage goal and suddenly the deficit was down to just two points. Prior to this Eoin Kelly had rifled over a brace of points and Maurice Shanahan did likewise for Lismore. It was still an open enough affair when the short whistle sounded, leaving the Western colours 1-11 to 2-4 ahead, but with the breeze to face on the resumption.

Huge loss

While as expected the youthful Passage outfit restarted sprightly enough and should have reduced Lismore’s lead with a couple of early efforts, they were rocked to the foundations in the 35th minute when Eoin Kelly exited proceedings. With Dave Bennett winning an enormous amount of ball around the middle of the field and showing commendable form from play and long distance frees, Passage found themselves more and more on the defensive. Both Eoin and Aaron Connors raised flagging Passage hopes with a couple of badly needed points – one by the first mentioned in the 40th minute was without question the score of the day.

Maurice Shanahan continued to pick off the points at the other end and when Dave Bennett crashed home the winners’ second goal from a penalty in the 53rd minute there was really no way back for the Easterners – in fact apart from an excellent Conor Carey point the 2007 Intermediate champions failed to register in the final quarter and quite candidly it came as something of a relief all round when the last blast of the whistle allowed Lismore folk salute a comprehensive 2-19 to 2-8 victory and set themselves up for a possible group decider against Mount Sion next Sunday.

Improvement

While it is early days yet and players by and large have not got used to the pace of the game needed at championship level, Lismore people will be the first to admit that last Saturday’s overall form would not be good enough to bring the title back to the Cathedral Town for the first time since 1993. They likewise introduced a number of newcomers and it will be interesting to see how all of those develop as the campaign gains momentum.

Certainly they can be exceedingly happy with the debut of eighteen year old Maurice Shanahan – a personal scoring tally of twelve points, five of them from frees, was quite a feat on his senior debut and surely marks him down as a star in the making. Once again the steady influence of James O’Connor, David and Peter Howard, Dave Bennett, Brendan Landers and Dan Shanahan had much to do with Lismore’s winning championship start, but unquestionably much bigger tests are still to come.

This was not the sort of start Passage had hoped for and while despite an over abundance of setbacks before and during the game, they still managed to mount a brave effort, but will have to regroup considerably and quickly in view of a second round match this coming weekend.

Eoin Kelly’s loss was undoubtedly monumental and it is a virtual certainty that had he been able to complete the hour uninjured the scoring differential at the finish would have been considerably reduced. If the winners had their underage hero, so too had Passage and in Noel Connors they had without a doubt the most accomplished defender on view and, backed up by the solid work of James Heffernan, Liam Carey, Rory Walsh, Conor Carey and Eoin Connors, all is still far from doom and gloom and we are going to hear a lot more from Passage before the season is out.

Teams and scorers

Lismore: Brendan Landers, Eoin Bennett, James O’Connor, Anthony Whelan, David Howard, Stephen O’Keeffe, Peter Howard, Dave Bennett, Terence Walsh, Dan Shanahan, Shane Kearney, James Shanahan, Paul Prendergast, Maurice Shanahan, John Heneghan. Subs – David O’Gorman for T. Walsh, Chris O’Gorman for P. Prendergast.

Scorers: Maurice Shanahan 0-12 (0-5 frees), Dave Bennett 1-4 (1-3 frees), Paul Prendergast 1-0, John Heneghan 0-2 and Dan Shanahan 0-1.

Passage: Eddie Lynch, Shane Flood, Brian Carey, Liam Carey, Ian Power, James Heffernan, Noel Connors, Nicholas Quinlan, Rory Walsh, Conor Carey, Eoin Connors, Aaron Connors, Eoin Kelly, Killian Fitzgerald, John Paul Collingwood. Subs – Mark Wyse for J.P. Collingwood, Anthony Brett for E. Kelly.

Scorers: Eoin Kelly 1-4 (1-2 frees), Conor Carey 1-1, Eoin Connors 0-2 (0-1 free), Aaron Connors 0-1 9 (free).

Referee: Pat Casey – Cappoquin.

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