posted 10 Jun 2013, 01:01 by Unknown user
Match Report from Connacht Tribune
SHC, in Gort Saturday 1st June 2013
By Alan Dooley, Connacht Tribune
Last year’s finalists still to concede a goal in title race as Callanan’s heroics save Kinvara from heavier loss

LOUGHREA joined Castlegar as opening round victors in Group C of the senior hurling championship as they held off the challenge of Kinvara at Gort on Saturday evening. A contest that lacked the intensity of the earlier knock out games could have been decided before the interval, but for the excellence of Kinvara ‘keeper Colm Callanan.  

 Twice in a four minute first half spell, Callanan produced top drawer stops to deny Johnny Maher and Kenneth Colleran from opening up a significant advantage. Just after the interval, the Galway netminder reacted well to deny Johnny O’Loughlin, and Callanan remained central to the narrative when he was unsuccessful with a 44th minute penalty attempt at goal.


 Despite looking the classier outfit throughout, Loughrea were only three to the good in the closing moments and an unlikely draw could have been forced had Conor Kavanagh’s overhead pull lodged in the corner of the net rather than blazing agonizingly wide. Instead, Loughrea remain one of only two teams, Tommie Larkins being the other, not to have conceded a goal so far and their defensive solidity remains a huge asset.


 At the other end, Loughrea have a variety of scoring options and they utilised them well in a first half in which nine of their ten points came from play. Kinvara clung on to their coat-tails thanks to Callanan’s excellence and the free-taking of Conor Kavanagh, but some poor shooting also scuppered any real chance Ollie Bergin’s side had of recording an upset.


 The opening quarter suggested Loughrea might canter to victory as Neil Keary grabbed a fine brace of points before the 60 second mark had passed. Kavanagh quickly had the sides level with two frees, but Loughrea quickly re-established authority through smart points from Maher, Johnny Coen, and a long distance Seán Sweeney effort.


 Then, on 12 minutes, Maher pounced on a long ball and ran into space, but his low drive was repelled by Callanan, who dived sharply to his left as the umpire prepared to wave the green flag. Four minutes later, after Conor Whelan reduced the deficit to two, Callanan produced yet more heroics as he first saved well from Kenneth Colleran before bravely diving on the loose ball to clear the danger.


 Colleran was unfortunately injured in the incident, but Maher converted the resultant ’65 to put Loughrea 0-6 to 0-3 in front. They continued to pick off points as Gavin Keary profited from loose marking while Coen landed a sweet effort from the right touchline, but Tom O’Donovan and another Kavanagh free kept Kinvara in touch.


 Kinvara finished the half well and could even have taken the lead on 28 minutes when Whelan latched onto a Ger Mahon flick and was left one-on-one with Nigel Murray, but the young forward’s low effort lacked sufficient power and Murray kept his clean sheet intact. David Huban’s first point in injury time left Kinvara only a point in arrears, but Neil Keary had the last score of the half for Loughrea.


 Kinvara, now with wind advantage, needed a positive start to the second half, but again it was Loughrea who grabbed the first two scores. A clumsy challenge gave Johnny Maher an easy chance to tap over his first free of the day, before Sweeney drilled over a long range free a minute later.


 The lively O’Donovan again reduced gap to three after O’Loughlin was denied a goal, before another Maher free made it 0-13 to 0-9 after 38 minutes. Paul Hoban then became the fourth Loughrea forward to score after his shot was initially waved wide, before referee John Keane stepped in to correctly award the point.


 The game appeared to be drifting away from Kinvara, but they received a lifeline when David Huban, much more effective at full forward, set up O’Donovan for a run at goal before he was dragged down and Callanan came forward to strike the penalty. His shot was well struck but at a decent height for those on the line, and Damien McClearn looked to be the one who made the crucial block.


 Despite this miss, Kinvara registered three of the next four scores through Colm Burke, Conor Kavanagh, and Huban to leave only a goal in it with seven minutes left to play. Another huge free from Sweeney ended a ten minute scoring drought for Loughrea before Kavanagh responded in kind on 57 minutes.


 A sideline cut from Huban in stoppage time almost delivered the equaliser as Kavanagh connected well but saw his shot fly just wide. In the next attack, though, Loughrea finally put the result beyond doubt when Maher won his own free and duly rounded off the scoring.


 This win cements Loughrea’s position as favourites to top the group, not through a performance of sustained excellence, which this was not, but because of the sense that there is more in the tank and if the likes of Seán Sweeney, Johnny Maher, Johnny Coen, Neil Keary, and Brian Mahony maintain their efficient standards they should cruise into the quarter finals.


 Kinvara are by no means out of contention despite this loss and the must-win nature of their next fixture should focus the minds. They weren’t helped on Saturday by injuries to Alan Leech and Brian Carroll, but they had solid performers in Colm Callanan, Conor Kavanagh, Aidan Moylan, David Huban, and Tom O’Donovan.


Loughrea: N. Murray; Eoin Mahony, D. McClearn, T. Regan; S. Sweeney (0-3, two frees), B. Mahony, P. Quinn; A. Cormican, G. Keary (0-1); P. Hoban (0-1), J. Coen (0-3), N. Keary (0-3); J. Ryan, J. Maher (0-6, three frees, one ’65), K. Colleran. Subs: J. O’Loughlin for Colleran (18 minutes), Emmet Mahony for Cormican (26 minutes).


Kinvara: C. Callanan; T. Reynolds, S. Kavanagh, A. Moylan; B. Carroll, S. Quinn, C. Burke (0-1); S. Moylan, N. Bermingham; C. Kavanagh (0-6, four frees, one ’65), T. O’Donovan (0-2), D. Huban (0-3, one free, one ‘sl); A. Leech, G. Mahon, C. Whelan (0-1). Subs: M. Kavanagh for Leech (25 minutes), E. Linnane for Carroll (37 minutes), Leech for M. Kavanagh (58 minutes).


Referee: J. Keane.