Patrick Walsh starred with an individual total of 3-06 as Mooncoin shrugged off a battling Shamrocks side on Saturday afternoon to claim the AIB Leinster junior championship.
An evenly contested first half was in stark contrast to the one-sided spectacle that the spectators witnessed after the interval as Walsh put in an outstanding display that Shamrocks could not contain as the game progressed.
Martin O’Neill and Nigel Dunne exchanged early frees at a sun-drenched but bitterly cold UPMC Nowlan Park. Soon after, Shamrocks full forward Shane O’Toole Green made no mistake with an effort after five minutes to get the game’s first score from play and move the Offaly side into the lead.
It was the turn of Mooncoin’s full forward Patrick Walsh to get on the scoresheet with another free as the opening exchanges were anything but uneventful. That was cancelled out by an exceptionally taken score by Shane Moran from the sideline. Ciarán Quilty gave a timely response for Willie Coogan’s men as the scoreboard at the Town End of the home of Kilkenny GAA read Mooncoin 0-03 to 0-04 Shamrocks after ten minutes.
Sharpshooter Dunne took advantage of more ill-discipline from the Mooncoin defence by pointing another free as the underdogs didn’t allow the home team to settle despite Patrick Walsh keeping them within a single point of their opponent’s thanks to a point from a tight angle under the Old Stand.
A sideline ball that landed in a dangerous area landed at the feet of Walsh who turned expertly and rattled the net to get the game’s first goal and move Mooncoin into a 1-04 to 0-05 lead. That was the final score before the first half water break as Mooncoin edged a well-contested opening quarter.
That was not the turning point, however.
Playing against a strong wind in the opening period, Shamrocks were content with keeping within touching distance of the 2016 Leinster junior champions by drawing fouls and allowing Dunne to take care of the frees. His fourth point of the game came in the 18th minute and halved his team’s deficit.
Mooncoin struggled to gain complete control of the decider but trustworthy free taker Patrick Walsh and the in-form Ciarán Quilty got back-to-back points to make it a three-point game, the biggest margin between the teams since the throw-in.
Centre back Martin O’Neill got another long-distance free as Mooncoin began to flex their muscles. Shamrocks looked as though they desperately needed a score to stem the tide and Dunne answered their call with a fifth free to make it Mooncoin 1-07 to 0-07 Shamrocks.
The Offaly intermediate runners-up were economical throughout the first thirty minutes and a low ball into the forward line found O’Toole Green who doubled his tally and soon won two frees that Nigel Dunne pointed to reduce the deficit to one-point yet again.
Walsh continued to lead the Mooncoin charge as he and Mairtin Gannon linked up for their final point of the first half as a flat looking Mooncoin side went into half-time with the narrowest of margins, 1-08 to 0-10.
They were far from flat at the start of the second half as Mooncoin made their move in an attempt to gain an unassailable lead.
Adam Croke struck over the bar when the goal was at his mercy but there was to be no mistake when Patrick Walsh delivered a beautiful hand pass to Mairtin Gannon who found the bottom corner and gave Mooncoin a 2-09 to 0-10 advantage.
Dunne replied with Shamrocks’ first score of the second half from another free as the Offaly men refused to accept defeat. Two more frees in quick succession made it a three-point game once more, Mooncoin 2-09 to 0-12 Shamrocks.
The game entered a lull period midway through the second half as wides became the norm rather than an unusual site as they were in the first half.
Full back Jim Delahunty took it upon himself to raise the temperature as he gathered possession deep in his won half, drove right through the heart of the Shamrocks and pointed from within his won ’65 to crucially make it a two-score game.
Scores were scarce in the second half but a third goal came on the stoke of the water break for Mooncoin as Patrick Walsh got his second of the game after a scrappy phase of play on the goalmouth to give the Kilkenny junior champions a 3-10 to 0-12 lead with fifteen minutes remaining.
Walsh completed the hat-trick with an incredible finish after an equally incredible run to end Shamrocks’ challenge.
Man of the match Walsh increased his tally to 3-06 with another point from play as Mooncoin stormed into a 4-12 to 0-14 lead. There were some late scores traded between the sides but the damage had been done by Walsh and co. in the second half.
History for Mooncoin as they are deservedly crowned AIB Leinster junior champions and advance to the All-Ireland semi-final in a fortnight against Salthill.