A masterful display from Noel Connors at centre-back was the catalyst for Passage to brush aside a weakened Dunhill/Fenor side in the first round of the Eastern Under-21 Hurling Championship at Walsh Park last Thursday evening. Connors was by far and away the best player on the field and dominated the game from start to finish.

Passage raced out of the blocks and piled a lot of early pressure on the Dunhill/Fenor defence. However, they only led by 0-3 to 0-0 at the end of a first quarter which was played largely in the Dunhill/Fenor half of the field. The normally reliable Owen Connors had a difficult night from placed balls and was responsible for some errant shooting in the early stages. Passage’s early points came from full-forward Brendan Fitzgerald, a Connors free and an excellent point from corner-forward, Seamus Barry.

Despite hardly catching a glimpse of the Passage goal in the first quarter, Dunhill/Fenor soon had the deficit down to the minimum when first Eamonn Murphy and then Tomás Casey fired over frees.

Passage went all the way to the Eastern final last year, beating Mount Sion along the way and they restored their three point lead through two admirable points form Mark Wyse and Patrick Walsh.

Then, Dunhill/Fenor rallied again. Eamonn Murphy fired over another free after he was fouled himself and then Davin Phelan capitalised on a slip by Jason Flood to gain possession and tap over a simple point.

As the game neared half-time it was very much in the melting pot. Passage were given a significant boost when they were awarded a 21 yard free in the final minute of the half. Owen Connors stepped up and there is no doubt that his effort was heading over the bar until it struck the outstretched hurley of a Dunhill/Fenor defender which diverted it under the bar for the first goal of he game. From the puck-out, Aaron Connors won possession and scored from long-range to give Passage a 1-6 to 0-4 lead at the interval.

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