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St Mullins start strong to see off Ballinkillen

LWB Reporter
June 29, 2023

St Mullins 3-18

Ballinkillen 1-11

“Success isn’t owned, its leased. And rent is due every day.” 

JJ Watts words were in evidence in Netwatch Cullen this evening as St Mullins laid down a strong marker that they mean business again this year in the Senior Championship with a comprehensive 13-point win in the opening round. 

Their starting team was familiar with more or less a full hand to pick from. Ger Coady was ruled out before the throw in and was replaced by Oisin Boland at midfield with Jack Kavanagh moving back to his now customary No 7 berth. Eamon O’Shea and Eddie Doyle both made their starting debuts – Doyle having featured last year, in their back 6 and Paudie Kehoe moved into centre back.

Ballinkillen opened their campaign with a reshuffled team from their titanic battle in last years semi v the same opposition. This was possibly in an effort to strengthen up their attack given some key absences particularly up front.

Eric English moved to 11 after a successful stint in the half back line last year and both Craig and Jamie Wall started after missing out last year. Billy Nolan, Craig and Adam Kehoe all made their championship debuts for Ballinkillen. 

The scoring was opened in the 1st minute from a dead ball by Mouse and the same player repeated the process just a minute later. St Mullins opened at a very high tempo and even at this early stage their direct running was causing big problems for the Ballinkillen back line.

In the 3rd minute they unlocked the defence again and a good run by Philip Connors created an overlap for Paddy Boland to zip a shot past Thomas Dowling from close range to leave it 1-2 to no score.

Ballinkillen needed a lift and a long-range David English free gave them a foothold in the game and it was followed by points from the impressive Jack Treacy and Eric English which sandwiched a lovely John Doyle score for St Mullins.

Ballinkillen then failed to land another score for 20 minutes and the champions in turn turned the screw and hit an impressive 1-8 without reply, including a beauty from Paudie Kehoe from long range and frees from Mouse. As good as this period of dominance sounds, only for 2 magnificent saves from Thomas Dowling and the concession of some close in frees when goals were on, it could have been far worse.

Dowling produced the first of his 2 great saves in the 10th minute, and he had to repeat the same in the 12th – both chances landing to Paddy Boland when the Ballinkillen defence was ran at and overlaps were created. Boland did turn provider for James Doyle when he goaled in the 25th minute with a 1 hand flick from close range.

When Eric English broke the champions scoring burst with a point from a free in the 28th minute, the scoreboard read 2-11 to 0-3 and the game was effectively over. Both teams traded points before Brian Deering blew the halftime whistle to leave the score at 2-12 to 0-4. 

Ballinkillen knew they would have to tighten things up and take something from the game even if the result was beyond them. They started the 2nd half with massive intent and inside the first 7 minutes of the second half they hit for 1-3 without reply.

Jack Treacy was causing huge problems in the half forward line for the Ballinkillen and the Carlow Seniors mazy 60-yard run set up Craig Wall for a goal in the 31st minute. Wall finishing well from close range despite an attempted Paul Doyle hook.

Eric English hit 2 good frees and a sideline to compliment the goal and leave the scoreline at a more manageable 2-12 to 1-7 after 37 minutes. The scoring rate dropped off a little from there on in as both sides were guilty of some poor wides. 

St Mullins managed the game well and their big-name players popped up with key possessions and plays. Another cutting run from Jason O’Neill in the 40th minute saw him pull a ball across the 21 which was initially missed by an unmarked Mouse, but on hand was Paddy Boland who buried the ball with ease into the canary road end goals.

This goal took the sting out of the Ballinkillen challenge, and the winners hit 3 quickfire points from play through O’Neill, Oisin Boland and the dangerous Doyle who was carrying on where his Joe McDonagh form ended – on a high. 

Great credit to Ballinkillen who hit 4 of the last 6 points as they kept trying to engineer a major, but a resolute and well organised Saints defence kept them shooting from distant. At this stage they had lost John Doyle to a 2nd yellow card in an incident where David English also received a yellow and a small fracas ensued.

Jack Treacy’s point near the end was just reward for a tireless hour of work and fittingly it was replied to by James Doyle to cap a great performance by him. When Brian Deering blew the whistle on 61 mins it was the current county champions who came out of top on a scoreline of 3-18 to 1-11.

St Mullins will be really pleased with the points but also with the way they controlled the game. Their key men carried in their Joe McDonagh form and focus, and their overall team play was excellent at times.

An ability to create goals and goal chances like they did tonight with quick hands and direct runs will open any defence this year, but they will be disappointed with their return from some of these and some bad wides also by their standards.

The tweaks to their team worked well and the introduction of Seamus Murphy for the last 15 minutes will surely give them another string to their bow for later in the year.

Ballinkillens chanced were hampered no doubt by missing personal, but they will be disappointed with some silly mistakes that saw them cough up some easy scores. They were dominated in the air and only matched the winner’s tempo in patches.

They will take some heart from this good play in parts and indeed created some more scoring chances even if they ended in wides. They have 2 big matches in the next 2 rounds that you would imagine will have a big impact on whether the make the last 4. 

St Mullins – Mouse Kavanagh 0-8 (0-7 frees), Paddy Boland 2 -1, James Doyle 1-4, John Doyle 0-3, Paudie Kehoe 0-1, Oisin Boland 0-1

Ballinkillen – Eric English 0-7 (0-4 frees, 0-1 sideline), Craig Wall 1-0, Jack Treacy 0-2, David English 0-1 (0-1 free), Kevin Kavanagh 0-1