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MLR survive massive scare from rejuvenated Naomh Eoin

Joe Nolan
July 1, 2023

Mount Leinster Rangers 0-15

Naomh Eoin 1-10

Driving from this entertaining 1st round game to Rosslare gave me plenty of time to contemplate the what ifs, they why didn’t they and the if only’s of a match that went right down to the 2nd last puck – the last being a Dean Grennan puck out on the 63rd minute after Gavin Ruschitzko had blazed a game winning chance just wide moments before.

If I was a Miseal player, I would mull over it less than I did as I hit the seaside town – but we will come to that later.

Conditions were far from ideal despite peak summertime billing for this game in Netwatch Cullen Park. Misting rain and a strong breeze blowing into the O’Hanrahans goal end certainly effected the pattern of this game.

Both teams were missing key names we have been accustomed too over the years for various factors – honeymoons, injury, retirements being a few that were mentioned.

MLR started minus the services of a trio of Joe Mc winners – Jon Nolan, Evan Kealy and Fiachra Fitzpatrick and none went on to play any part of the game. They had big starts for Jamie Nolan at cornerback, Tim Brennan at midfield and Michael Joyce filled the number 3 jersey.

Miseal were minus Eoin Hosey whose season is over with a knee injury, Cathal Treacy and a few “older” players such as Ross Smithers and Martin Doyle who seem to have stepped away after many years of service. 

Naomh Eoin took advantage of the elements in the first half and made a very positive start with 3 excellent points from play by Adam Kenny, Colm Beck – an effort from under the stand, and the live wire Gavin Ruschitzko who started wearing the number 17 jersey.

The men in black/amber were full of energy and indeed only for some poor wides – a story for both sides throughout the game, this advantage could have been further. Michael Kavanagh was motoring well at midfield and with both Ciaran Abbey and Michael Nolan foraging around him, it ensured quick ball into their full forward line.

MLR weathered this start and got a foothold in the game with a scoring burst of their own. From the 6th to the 9th minute, they hit for 3 good scores – Ted Joyce who looked sharp hit the first of his 5 points from a free and it was quickly followed with a Dean Tobin minor following good work by Edward Byrne.

Donagh Murphy who looked razor sharp hit the last of the 3 from close range.

Naomh Eoin needed a reply and Colm Beck scored a nice free, but this was quickly cancelled out by another Dean Tobin score. This left the score at 4 a piece after 12 minutes.

Naomh Eoin will rue some long-range efforts in this period when perhaps a little more patience was needed on the ball. Their half back line was a good mix of energy on the wings with Dunne and Kavanagh and Dwaine leading the orchestra at 6. MLR were guilty too and often didn’t seem as relaxed in their shooting from scoring positions albeit into the breeze. 

Naomh Eoin’s blood was up and their defiance in defence was paying off where James O’Hara in particular was outstanding for the 60 plus minutes. This platform gave them the base to move the ball well and between the 15th and 27th minutes they hit 1-3 from play.

John Michael Nolan grabbed a brace of inspirational scores from the wing that sandwiched a nice effort from Ciaran Abbey. The goal was scored as we neared the end of the 1st half following a bit of controversy as Ciaran Kavanagh thought he had hit an MLR point only for the umpires to wave it wide. Linesman Billy Fanning was in agreement with the MLR man, but referee Johnny Murphy went with the wide verdict.

From the resulting long puck out, Adam Kenny did well to keep the ball alive for Scott Treacy who flicked the ball across the square to an unmarked Ruschitzko who buried from close range. This left it 1-7 to 0-4. 

In the remaining minutes of that half, MLR dug deep and picked off 2 very crucial scores from a free by Ted Joyce and a lovely Chris Nolan effort off his left side as the clock ticked into injury time. It could have been better for the Rangers when a short puck out was intercepted and Donagh Murphy had a goal chance saved by Brian Treacy. So, at half time it was 1-7 to 0-6 to Naomh Eoin

MLR knew they were in a serious tussle and despite having the elements at their back, they would need leaders to stand up. One man who has consistently done that for club and county is Kevin McDonald and while his influence grew on the game in the later end of the 1st half, we really saw the best of him in the 2nd.

Inside 2 minutes MLR had narrowed the gap to just 2 points via Ciaran Kavanagh and a long-range missile by Tony Lawlor – their half back line now sweeping up the breaks in that middle 3rd

Naomh Eoin were still working hard but were not making as many inroads into their inside line. Diarmuid Byrne was sweeping effectively and Naomh Eoin were guilty at times of hitting his space or just maybe taking the wrong option to recycle the ball. One passage of play epitomised the range of skills that we love to see in our games.

John Michael went to the clouds for a delivery, coming across the defender to fetch a ball under the stand. As he planted his feet to strike, a calm and composed Kevin Mc reached in with a beautiful hook and MLR won the resulting line ball. 

Naomh Eoin needed a boost, and they received it from the stick of Beck again who struck a beautiful 65 into the teeth of a strong breeze to make it 1-8 to 0-8 after 36 minutes of the game.

Unfortunately for them, it was their last score for the next 23 minutes in which time MLR hit them for 0-6. First off was Ted Joyce with a nice free and this was followed by 2 crackers by the accurate McDonald. He was playing loose and deep and it’s a role that suited a player with his head and hands given the elements. In the 46th and 53rd minutes Joyce and Murphy both hit good scores from play to push MLR into 0-13 to 1-8 lead. 

Wides were still an issue for the teams as they struggled to manage the breeze and slippy underfoot conditions. In the 57th minute McDonald hit his 3rd point from play as it looked like MLR would see the game out at their ease. Naomh Eoin to their credit stuck to their task and with James Smithers pace winning frees, Colm Beck hit 2 points in the 59th and 62nd minutes to make it 0-14 to 1-10.

With the need for cool heads, MLR worked the ball to Chris Nolan who won a free as he tried to break away and Joyce duly slotted it over.

So surely that was the end of the drama? Not so! Naomh Eoin rallied once more deep into injury time in search of a match winning goal. Colm Beck won a good ball in the half forward line and his long dipping shot was parried by a vigilant Dean Grennan at cross bar height and dropped perilously close to the goal line – no shouts to the ref!

The ball was cleared but poorly and Adam Kenny did well to win possession and pick out an unmarked Ruschitzko who took the ball stretching backwards, pivoted but placed his shot narrowly wide from 8 yards. What a chance!

Ref Johnny Murphy blew the whistle on the puck out and MLR took the 2 valuable points on offer.

The victors will be happy to have got the win but will be disappointed in some aspects of their game. Their play lacked an energy at times and their shooting/shot selection was very poor for a team who normally are so lethal up front.

Without an exact figure, I estimate they hit close to 20 wides over the hour, and it would have been a harsh lesson had that goal gone in – but that’s championship. They will have some re jigging to do but pleased to have got good game time into a number of new faces which will only strengthen their panel as the group develops. 

Naomh Eoin, I said will not want to dwell too much on this in some ways and like me on the drive down, keep looking forwards in the windscreen rather than backwards in the wing mirrors.

Why might you ask? They need not to think of this as a game that was lost because of a missed opportunity as this can often take the focus from all the good aspects of their play tonight and blunt the mind ahead of what is a big game next week v Ballinkillen.

Feeling sorry will not result in a win in that but more of the same honesty, positivity, thoughtful play and energy that they showed tonight could. There is a lot to like about what we saw and this Naomh Eoin team are going the right way.

As Cyril Farrell often said of a Sunday afternoon in Thurles or Croke Park, “Game on now, Ger”.


MLR – Ted Joyce 0-5 (0-4 frees), Kevin McDonald 0-3. Dean Tobin 0-2, Donagh Murphy 0-2, Tony Lawlor 0-1, Chris Nolan 0-1, Ciaran Kavanagh 0-1

Naomh Eoin – Gavin Ruschitzko 1-1, Colm Beck 0-5 (0-4 frees), John Michael Nolan 0-2, Adam Kenny 0-1, Ciaran Abbey 0-1


MLR ON - Gary Lawlor & Tadhg Doran -OFF – Richard Coady & Tim Brennan

Naomh EoinON – Diarmuid Deacon & James Smithers – OFF – Tadhg Daly & Ciaran Abbey