Just a matter of weeks after Manorhamilton claimed the county senior hurling championship for the first time in over half a century the club demonstrated why they hope to remain at the top of the pile in the years to come as they proved too string for Gortletteragh in last Saturday’s U16 Championship Final in Mohill meaning they have now won this championship four years in a row.
With team captain Karl McDermott and Kieran McPartland dominant in midfield and the likes of Martin Feeney and Damon Beattie in fine form Manorhamilton had the platform from which they were able to assert their dominance early in the game and ultimately their superior skills with the hurl ensured Gortletteragh were always chasing their opponents.
After a tentative opening in which Gortletteragh had the better of the chances including a goal chance which Gavin O’Hagan kept out when he saved first from James Mitchell and then the rebound from Keith Beirne.
Having survived that let-off Manorhamilton opened the scoring when Damon Beattie converted an eight minute free and four minutes later he doubled his side’s lead from another free.
The game’s first score from play arrived midway through the half when Kieran McPartland benefited from fine Martin Feeney play before striking for an excellent long range point.
Things may not have been going their way but Gortletteragh knew with so little between the sides on the scoreboard they were still very much in contention and they began to increase the level of pressure they were applying, allowing them to enjoy some forays into the Manorhamilton half and they began to ask questions of the Manorhamilton half-back line for the first time in the game.
With seven minutes of the half remaining Gortletteragh’s persistence was rewarded when a Keith Beirne free, dangerously lofted towards the Manorhamilton goalmouth resulted in a scramble and the quickest to react was Evan Ward who got a clean contact on the sliotar to force it to the Manorhamilton goal.
It appeared as though the half would end with nothing to separate the sides but right on the stroke of half time Manorhamilton struck for their first goal of the game and it proved to be very similar to the one scored at the other end of the pitch. Damon Beattie’s free caused plenty of problems for the Gortletteragh defence and Stephen Loughlin was on hand to force the ball to the net meaning Manorhamilton enjoyed a 1-3 to 1-0 lead at the break.
The opening stages of the second half proved to be cagey as Gortletteragh looked for a way back into the game while Manorhamilton looked to increase their lead. Despite the best efforts of both sides there was to be no change to the scoreline until Karl McDermott struck for an excellent point after a strong run 11 minutes after the restart.
The likes of Keith Keegan, Evan Ward, Keoghan McGovern and David Mulvey did their best to get their side back into the contention but ultimately their efforts were in vain as Manorhamilton seemed to get stronger as the game entered its final quarter.
With 12 minutes of the game remaining the result was effectively put beyond doubt when Martin Feeney soloed his way through the Gortletteragh defence before delivering a perfect pass to Damon Beattie. The impressive Beattie still had a lot to do but such was the accuracy and power he generated in his shot Gortletteragh goalkeeper Ronan Gordon could do little to prevent the ball finding the net.
The lead was soon increased when Alan McSharry pointed and Gortletteragh’s task became considerably tougher when David Mulvey was given his marching orders after receiving a second yellow card.
Although the game seemed to be beyond them Gortletteragh continued to battle and their determination was rewarded when one of their best players on the day, Francie Flynn, found the top corner of the Manorhamilton goal with an excellent free.
Ultimately that score was to be little more than a consolation and it was Manorhamilton who finished the game the stronger with frees converted by Damon Beattie and Karl McDermott in the closing stages to put an emphatic look on the scoreline.
Gavin O’Hagan, Andrew Loughlin, Ethan Clancy, Ryan Lonican, Michael Feely, Christopher Ferguson, Fergus Munday, Karl McDermott (0-2), Kieran McPartland (0-1), Martin Feeney, Damon Beattie (1-3), Alan McSharry (0-1), Stephen Loughlin (1-0), Conor O’Hagan, Peter Poniard. Subs: Fergul Rooney for Poniard (HT), Evan Kerrigan for Loughlin (54 mins).
Ronan Gordon, David Mulvey, Francie Flynn (1-0), Sean McGuinness, Keoghan McGovern, Oisin Madden, Dylan Hackett, Keith Keegan, Evan Ward (1-0), James Heslin, Dylan Ward, James Mitchell, Eoin Ó Bradaigh, Keith Beirne, Jamie Stenson. Subs: Conor Woods for Heslin (56 mins), Jack McGarry for Ward (56 mins), Glen Ward for Mitchell (58 mins).
Referee: Charlie Candon.