By Randal Scally
Three Offaly clubs will contest Leinster finals over the next two weekends, starting with Shamrocks who travel to UMPC Nowlan Park this Saturday, January 8 to take on Mooncoin in the Leinster club JHC decider (throw-in 1pm).
The final provides Shamrocks with an opportunity to make amends for their surprise defeat to Birr’s second team in November’s Offaly IHC final as well as for their heavy loss to Bennettsbridge in the Leinster club JHC final seven years ago. They also came up short against Two Mile House of Kildare in the 2018 Leinster club IFC final, so motivation shouldn’t be an issue for the Rahan-parish outfit who were back training on St Stephen’s Day.
However, they face a tough task against the Kilkenny junior champions, something which manager Jimmy Conway – who played in the 2014 final – is quick to acknowledge.
“The hurling has been a good distraction for the lads at a time when Covid dominates everything. But we’re under no illusions about how good Mooncoin are,” he said.
“We were on the crest of a wave going into the 2014 Leinster final and Bennettsbridge gave us a hurling lesson. Kilkenny teams are always strong. We’ll work on ourselves and try to give the best performance that we can.”
Mooncoin came from behind to beat Tullogher-Rosbercon 3-19 to 3-11 in the Kilkenny JHC final before needing extra-time to get past Wexford’s Tara Rocks in the Leinster semi-final. They smashed six goals past Slieverue in the county semi-final which illustrates their scoring prowess.
For their part, Shamrocks have shown impressive powers of recovery since the county final. Despite losing, they earned the right to represent Offaly in the Leinster club JHC as Birr’s second string were ineligible to take part. They resurrected their season with a 21-point hammering of Meath’s Boardsmill before edging out Maynooth from Kildare on a 2-9 to 2-8 in the semi-final.
Five points (four frees) from former county footballer Nigel Dunne and goals from brothers Shane O’Toole Greene and David O’Toole Greene were central to Shamrocks’ victory in Hawkfield. They laid the foundations for their success in the opening quarter when points from Dunne, David Molloy and Darragh Minnock along with a Shane O’Toole Greene goal gave them a five-point cushion at the first water break.
“We rode our luck,” Conway admitted.
“Maynooth had 15 wides, we had only one. But we dug deep, worked hard and forced them into making mistakes. It’s great to have a Leinster final to look forward to now because the heads were down after losing the county final. Birr were the better team and they deserved their win.
“We never gave playing in Leinster a thought, but we decided to give it a go. I’m very happy with the response to losing the county final. These opportunities don’t come along too often and when they do, you have to take them.
“I can’t give the lads enough credit. We had a massive win over Boardsmill in the first round which lifted morale and got us going again. I’m very proud of how they’ve reacted,” added the Shamrocks boss, whose selectors are Alan O’Connell, Declan Conroy and Trevor Darcy.
Clara and Clonbullogue are also preparing for Leinster club IFC and JFC finals respectively. Clonbullogue meet Kilcullen of Kildare in Newbridge on Saturday week, January 15 and Clara take on Meath’s Trim in Pairc Tailteann on Sunday, January 16 with both deciders throwing in at 1pm. All of the Leinster finals must produce a winner on the day.