HURLING: St Brendan’s And Lixnaw To Do Battle For Final Place

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Mike O’Halloran looks forward to the Garvey’s Supervalu Kerry SHC semi-final on Saturday in Abbeydorney (6pm) between St Brendan’s and Lixnaw…

Tim Hannafin nets, St Brendan's, early goal. Photo by Dermot Crean.

Tim Hannafin nets a goal for St Brendan’s against Abbeydorney earlier in the championship. Photo by Dermot Crean.

St Brendan’s 4-16 Causeway 1-8. That was the scoreline in St Brendan’s absolute demolition of Causeway.

The St Brendan’s display that day was awesome in every aspect, they had been beaten by Abbeydorney in the opening round and had stuttered past Ballyheigue to set up their duel with Causeway.

From the throw-in, their intensity was evident, typified by the instructions being roared out from the back by Rory Horgan who was was leaving none of his comrades in any doubt as to their task all over the field.

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This display by St Brendan’s was almost military-like with, as Lord Nelson said, “every man expected to do his duty”.

Do their duty they did with a unity of purpose that resembled the discipline of the Irish Rugby squad.

Every man knew what his team mate was expected to do with the ball. Their tenacity in the tackle, their skill and their ability to carry out their plan to give the opposition no space either in the air or on the ground, was impressive.

This was typified by the actions of each St Brendan’s player on the field holding their hurley aloft prior to each puck out. Can you imagine looking down the field and seeing fourteen hurleys in the air and trying to decide where it was safest to puck it.

The St Brendan’s plan of getting the ball to a man in a scoring position was a joy to watch but of course that can be easy when you have the hurling brain that is John Egan around to pounce on every scoring chance. 1-10 he scored the last day. Enough said.

The St Brendan’s focus never wavered and the introduction of subs did not disrupt their game plan. They were able to switch their full back Jerry Wallace to full forward where he scored a goal with Tim Hannafin going to the other end.

One could trot out the usual names Hogs, Dazzler, Daithi, MacKessy, Skinner and Delaney, but keep an eye out for young Eric Leen.

Talent and class all over the field accompanied with power, guile and the “old heads’ of Flaherty and Corridon make St Brendan’s a complete outfit.

Lixnaw's James Flaherty keeps his eye on the ball. Photo by Dermot Crean

Lixnaw’s James Flaherty keeps his eye on the ball earlier on in the championship against Ballyheigue. Photo by Dermot Crean

Lixnaw have sailed through the championship at their ease and as the reigning champions they will go into this game as favourites, no matter how anybody eulogises the quality of St Brendan’s.

Having eased past Ballyheigue and Causeway with complete efficiency and only a little bother from a young Ballyheigue team, Lixnaw players I have spoken to are pleasantly surprised that they are in a semi-final without using any door other than the front one.

I have written quite a lot about the military efficiency of the scorched earth policy of St Brendan’s in their defeat of Causeway, but the manner of the Lixnaw win over Causeway was equally impressive.

Lixnaw did not not seem to be as organised as St Brendan’s the day they defeated Causeway, they just relied on their great, well-marshalled, teak-tough defence and their hard working midfield and of course on the mercurial talent of their beautiful hurling forwards.

In Martin Stackpoole between the posts they have have one of the top keepers in the county not alone for his shot-stopping qualities but they can also rely on his excellent game management skills from pucks out and clearances never mind his ability to convert long range frees.

The success of most teams is usually based on a solid defence and Lixnaw has that in spades.

Ger Stackpoole and the Corridons with Stephen Power are part of a fence that is electrified by young Darragh Shanahan and a man who is returning to his best after an injury the great Brendan Brosnan.

Brosnan can defend and attack from the halfback line in equal measure as well throw over a few long range frees. That voltage of that electric fence will further be boosted by the return of dual star Trevor McKenna who was togged the last day and was raring for action.

John Griffin, the Kerry captain, is the playmaker at midfield with Mike Stackpoole assisting and then we come to the snipers, led by the field marshall Galvin, the ageless Enda. He has under his command the most skillful sharp shooters in the battlefield.

Mike Conway is the man who orchestrates the likes of Ricky Heffernan, John Buckley or James Flaherty, also under his wing are perhaps two of the most beautiful forwards to grace the hurling fields of Kerry, Shane Conway and Colin Sheehy.

Then you can also mention the hard working Jeremy McKenna who is hoping to make it two in a row with Trevor.

The chase is on as Shane Conway of Lixnaw breaks towards the goal during the Ballyheigue v Lixnaw Kerry Senior Championship game in Abbeydorney on Friday evening. Photo by Dermot Crean

Prodigious talent Shane Conway of Lixnawin action against Ballyheigue earlier this year. Photo by Dermot Crean

The great John Hennessy told me the other night, after the Lixnaw minor win, that he thought young Shane Conway is destined to be the greatest forward Kerry hurling will ever see, praise indeed from one of the greats.

There is an impression that Lixnaw play off the cuff and are not as organised as other teams. That impression is false because, like their opponents St Brendan’s, they bring the organised defence systems from their football training and they have the skill to execute some great scores.

The game between St Brendan’s and Lixnaw is the game of the Championship so far and will produce the winner of the final I think.

It is again impossible to call. Lixnaw will hardly leak four goals and every point will be hard earned. At the other end they have the forwards to punish any half chance presented to them.

For St Brendan’s to win they will have to be even better than they were against Causeway. If they can do that, they can push Lixnaw all the way.

Verdict: A Draw

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