For all the Shels supporters travelling to Monamolin last Saturday afternoon it was what Alex Ferguson might say “squeaky bum” time as our senior hurlers faced an anxious 60 minutes that would determine our senior status in the championship.
However in fairness to the hurling men of Shelmalier with a determined and polished performance they set about the unenviable task of survival with some aplomb.
From virtually the throw in the result of this vital senior hurling relegation battle was never in question as a fiercely committed performance from Shelmaliers proved much for Oylgate Glenbrien with the Shels retaining their senior status by a score of 2-11 to 2-4 in a game played in miserable wet conditions in Monamolin last Saturday afternoon.
In the early stages of the game the Shels got into the swing of things, midfielders Eoin Doyle and Conor Walsh gained a vital foothold in the middle sector of the field and Alan Griffith from centre forward was pulling the strings in attack.
Impressive Shels midfielder Conor Walsh set the early tone with a splendid point before Jamie Reck, one of the few Oylgate attackers to cause problems on the day equalised in the 7th minute.
Oylgate’s cause was not helped when midfielder Daithi O’Mahony was forced to retire in the 4th minute having taken a heavy knock.
Another couple of tidy points from Chris “Hopper” McGrath and Ciaran O’Shaughnessy put the Shels back in front but in the 13th minute the first breakthrough goal arrived. Shelmaliers centre forward Alan Griffith who had an influential match fed Stephen Banville and the county star shot splendidly to the back of the net.
In the 20th minute Banville turned provider when he capitalised on a poor Oylgate clearance, gathered the ball fed Chris McGrath and the live wire attacker duly converted to put Shels 2-3 to 0-2 in front.
The Shels attack moved well in the first half and Brian Doyle and “Knocky” were helping to keep the flow of ball into the dangerous full forward line that caused endless problems for the Oylgate defence.
Shels were dominating all the key areas of the park and with a very strong spine in defence with Brian Malone at full back blotting out Oylgate danger man Padraig Doran and centre back Clive Lawlor continuing his injury rehabilitation in convincing form there were little opportunities for Oilgate to reduce the deficit.
In the latter stages of the half the mobile Shels attack added further points, Joe Kelly popped over a free, Stephen Banville added another and Conor Walsh advanced from his midfield role to convert his 2nd score.
Right on the interval Oylgate did get a great chance of getting closer to the Shels after Peter Nolan had been fouled and they were awarded a penalty by referee Damien Donovan.
The light was very poor in Monamolin last Saturday afternoon and as Padraig Doran’s rasping shot looking destined for the top of the net the most important man in the field from a Shels perspective Brian “Turf” Murphy saw the ball clearly and deflected the shot brilliantly over the bar.
This point left the half time score Shels 2-6 Oylgate 0-4.
In the second half conditions deteriorated and there were few scores with the Shels adding to the scoreboard with good points from Chris McGrath from a very difficult angle, from Ciaran O’Shaughnessy and Stephen Banville.
The fact that scores were sparse had a lot to with the solidity of both defences. The Shels full back line of Andre O’Brien, Brian Malone and Aidan “Ned” Murphy was providing a great shield to “Turf” in the goal and wily wing backs David Cloney and Aidan Cash were assisting Clive Lawlor in the half back line in helping repel any Oylgate comeback.
Shels were now in the comfort zone leading by 2-9 to 0-4, ¾ way though the game.
To their credit Oylgate never folded and with the solid defensive work of Fergus and Michael Heffernan and the probing of Eoin O’Mahony in midfield they were rewarded with a couple of late goals Jamie Reck goaling in the 54th minute and right at the end Padraig Doran scored Oylgate’s 2nd goal from close range.
In between the Oylgate goals Joe Kelly and Stephen Banville settled nerves with further points to keep the Shels well in front.
The Oylgate goals came too late to change the outcome and the Shels breathed a sigh of relief as their senior status was secured at the final whistle while Oilgate will play in the competitive intermediate ranks next year.
Brian Murphy, Andre O’Brien, Brian Malone, Aidan Murphy, David Cloney, Clive Lawlor, Aidan Cash, Conor Walsh (0-2), Eoin Doyle, Ciaran O’Shaughnessy (0-2), Alan Griffith, Brian Doyle, Chris McGrath (1-2), Stephen Banville (1-3), Joe Kelly (0-2, 0-1 free).
Shane Griffith for Brian Doyle, Stephen Corrigan for Joe Kelly.
Mick Shiggins, Brian McCormack, Aidan Murphy, Robert O’Connor, Fergus Heffernan, Michael Heffernan, Anthony Doyle, Eoin O’Mahony, Daithi O’Mahony, Peter Nolan, Trevor Moulton, John Foley (0-1), Fergal Doran, Padraig Doran (1-2, 0-1 free, 0-1 penalty), Jamie Reck (1-1)
Adrian Nolan for Daithi O’Mahony injured, John McCormack for Peter Nolan, Tommy Stamp for Fergal Doran.
Referee Damien Donovan