A damp night led to a damp squib of a county premier under-21 football under the Mick Neville Park lights on Saturday as favourites Newcastlewest coasted to an easy 5-9 to 0-5 victory over Rathkeale to bring the first title back to the West Limerick capital in two decades.
The lethal combination of full-forward James Kelly and his youthful supplier Cian Sheehan hammered the stakes into the Deelsiders’ heart every time they looked like making a game of it.
Not only did Kelly finish off three of the first four goals but he was also pulled down for the penalty that led to the other and no sooner than he had been substituted to the applause of the crowd than his replacement Eoin Hurley rattled home a fifth.
It just wasn’t a night made for the losers. Conceding height and bulk to their older opponents, they found it difficult to handle the ball in the greasy conditions which led to them breaking the stride of their running game more than they would have liked.
Those moments of hesitation as they struggled for control were meat and drink to a Magpie defence that crowded out the efforts of county senior Eoghan O’Connor and wing-backs Paul White and Darren Jones to open the channels of attack.
But they were also undone by Newcastle’s use of the two-man full-forward line which left the space for Kelly and Thomas Quilligan to run out to.
And when Iain Corbett was winning the high ball in the middle and Sheehan was bursting onto line-breaking runs and lacing the deliveries to his front men, they had all the ammunition to strike on the counter.
Rathkeale continued their resistance against the odds up to the closing minutes but, despite the dirty ball they collected around the middle and their efforts to stretch their opponents by varying the direction of the attack, they were still over-dependent on O’Connor to create the chances.
But every time he got the ball, a swarm of black jerseys descended on him and, with his efforts increasingly running into a brick wall, his side couldn’t come up with a Plan B. After Kelly pounced for Newcastle’s fourth goal, the game ended in a turkey shoot.
SCORERS - Newcastle West: James Kelly 3-3 (0-1 free), Eoin Hurley 1-1, Jamie Lee 0-3 (all frees), Thomas Quilligan 1-0 (penalty), Cian Sheehan, Paul Hannan (free) 0-1 each; St Mary’s-Sean Finns: Eoghan O’Connor 0-3 (two frees), Eoin O’Donnell, Colin Barry 0-1 each.
NEWCASTLE WEST - James Stack; Michael O’Leary, Brian O’Sullivan, Joey Healy; Brian O’Doherty, Paul Hannan, Gavin Reidy; Iain Corbett, Kieran McMahon; Cian Sheehan, Jamie Lee, Ronan Kelliher; Thomas Quilligan, James Kelly, Jamie Quaid. Subs: Donnachadha Woods for Thomas Quilligan (52 mins), Mike Mulcahy for Gavin Reidy (53 mins), Conor Fanning for Joey Healy (53 mins), Eoin Hurley for James Kelly (54 mins).
ST MARY’S-SEAN FINNS - Anthony Supple; Adrian Stackpoole, Colin Barry, Frank Geary; Paul White, David Mooney, Darren Jones; Seán Sheehan, Dean Maune; Steven Power, Eoghan O’Connor, Seán White; Eoin O’Donnell, Martin Roche, Richard Shorten. Subs: Cormac O’Shea for Martin Roche(26 mins), Ciarán English for Frank Geary (56 mins), Jimmy Dillane for Colin Barry (58 mins).
REFEREE - Donie Enright (Dromin-Athlacca)