James Stephens 1-20
James Stephens showed exactly why they are amongst the favourites to dethrone Ballyhale Shamrocks in Kilkenny this year after a convincing victory against the Rower-Inistioge in Thomastown on Saturday in the opening round of the St. Canice’s Credit Union Senior Hurling League Group B.
The 2019 county finalists raced into an early lead thanks to an Eoin Guilfoyle free and a fine Cian Kenny score from play.
Both sides exchanged impressive points from play in the opening exchanges with Tom Doyle and Joe Lyng efforts adding to David Kelly frees giving the Rower a brief 0-04 to 0-03 lead. It would be the first and only time that they would hold the lead.
The Village began to get a foothold in the game as it progressed with prominent scorers Tadhg O’Dwyer, Matt Ruth and Luke Scanlon giving them a 0-07 to 0-05 advantage midway through an intriguing first half.
It was the second quarter that would prove crucial to the outcome of the game as the town club moved through the gears and extended their lead to 0-14 to 0-08 at half-time.
It was a case of the same names causing serious damage to a Rower-Inistioge backline who struggled to stem the tide as the opening period drew to a close.
Guilfoyle frees along with well-taken points from play by Scanlon, Matthew McWey and Cian Kenny were enough for a young and energetic team to move into what would prove to be an insurmountable six-point lead for the southern club to claw back.
There were no scores from play in the opening 20 minutes of a second half that saw the Rower half their deficit with 10 minutes remaining thanks to fine execution from placed balls from free taker David Kelly. Guilfoyle showed he was equally as capable from frees and ’65s as his Rower-Inistioge counterpart Kelly with a free and a ’65 as the Village found it difficult to create scoring opportunities early in the second half.
The momentum had seemingly shifted towards the Rower with the game entering its final stages, but the killer blow came when Tadhg O’Dwyer got the only goal of the game to make it James Stephens 1-16 to 0-13 Rower-Inistioge and in the process giving James Stephens the breathing space that they desperately craved.
It was a case of seeing the game out for the team who held a significant advantage in the last few minutes as points from O’Dwyer, Scanlon and Guilfoyle comfortably saw them over the line despite the best efforts of Kevin Murphy who put over two late points for Rower-Inistioge.
A solid performance and equally good result for James Stephens as they look forward to a mouth-watering tie with county champions Ballyhale Shamrocks next weekend. For the Rower, they will look to bounce back next Saturday when they return to Thomastown to take on 2019 intermediate champions Tullaroan.