WHITEHA LL HOT!
Whitehall Colmcille5-19 St Oliver Plunkett's/ER0-14 0-14
A stunning opening ten minutes set Whitehall Colmcille on course for a comfortable 20-point success over St Oliver Plunkett's/Eoghan Ruadh in their 2014 Dublin Under-21 'B' Hurling Championship Final on the all-weather surface at Chanel last Saturday afternoon.
The winners struck five goals in that period, taking advantage of some hesitancy in their opponents' defence but the clinical nature in which they took the chances that came their way reflected well on the scoring potential within their attack.
Seán Gray's contribution cannot be overlooked in that regard with last year's Dublin minor excelling throughout as he helped himself to a massive personal tally of 2-13 over the hour, with 2-6 of that arriving from open play.
Gray was one of a number of Whitehall forwards to benefit from the excellent distribution and constant supply of intelligent ball delivered by the likes of accomplished centre-back Cormac Ryan and midfielder Niall O'Donnell.
For Plunkett's, the late withdrawal of attacking talisman Cian Boland with a shoulder injury was a massive blow and their uphill task became even steeper inside forty seconds when Gray's shot was batted down by Dylan O'Reilly into the path of Peter Hunt who clinically fired to the net from close range.
Although Eimhín Walsh replied with a 3rd minute free for the Navan Road outfit, luck seemed to be in Whitehall's favour as a Conor Sheedy point attempt a minute later struck the upright only for Gray to highlight his predatory instincts by crashing the rebound home past O'Reilly.
An excellent solo score by Conor McDonnell briefly stemmed the flow towards the Plunkett's goal but after Gray and Walsh had traded scores, a third goal arrived for Whitehall in the 8th minute with Hunt turning sharply before piercing a precise finish just inside O'Reilly's right-hand upright.
Within a minute, Gray was completing his own brace as he availed of a quick free from Ryan to net a fourth goal for Colmcille and with alarming chasms evident in the Plunkett's defence, it was of scant surprise when O'Donnell raced through unopposed to effectively settle the tie as a contest with barely ten minutes having elapsed.
Plunkett's finally took steps to address that particular weakness by withdrawing Mikey Walsh to act as a sweeper and his redeployment there paid instant dividends, albeit arriving too late to spare his side from their by now inevitable fate.
There was a marked improvement in their fortunes with Eimhín Walsh showing unerring accuracy from placed balls, landing three frees on the bounce towards the end of the first quarter.
However, despite Whitehall not showcasing their goal threat as previously, they garnered sufficient possession to tag on points as the half progressed and despite Eimhin Walsh hitting another three frees towards the end of the half, a late free by Gray ensured Colmcille a healthy 5-6 to 0-11 interval advantage.
With the wind at their backs after the break, Whitehall took a while to get going, understandably perhaps given the margin in their favour as they focussed on ensuring that the goal required to ignite an unlikely Plunkett's comeback would not materialise.
Eoghan O'Donnell's typically classy performance from full-back was pivotal in that regard while Gray was happy to tag on scores at the opposite end. Eimhín Walsh continued to convert the point opportunities that came his way from frees while McDonnell battled in vain to drive his side forward as the energy seeped slowly but surely from the Oliver Plunkett's challenge.
Despite Colmcille being reduced to fourteen men after the needless dismissal of wing-back Eoin Howard for a show of petulance at the end of the third quarter, their numerical disadvantage never looked likely to prove fatal and they gradually increased their lead as they added points from play through Gray, Niall O'Connor and Cathal Ryan.
A raft of substitutions failed to unduly break the cohesion of the Colmcille attack as they showed little mercy on their opponents although the likes of Mikey Walsh, Luke Doherty, Brian O'Sullivan, Conor Stone and McDonnell all continued to impress individually despite the precarious nature of their position.
With space inevitably opening up in the closing stages, Whitehall were under little pressure as they enjoyed a degree of target practice in the final quarter while in contrast, their opponents registered their final score of the game with eighteen minutes remaining after a powerful surge down the middle from McDonnell.
Cathal Ryan and Niall O'Connor added to Plunkett's misery with excellent points from distance with the final word, fittingly, belonging to the stylish Gray who popped over the final score in the 60th minute to leave an accurately emphatic gloss to the final scoreline.
Given the quality of their display, the winners could well have made a decent stab in the 'A' championship, which may leave them with a degree of regret while there was a silver lining for the beaten finalists, who could well have shipped an even greater loss had the talented Cormac Costello togged out for Whitheall instead of lining out for Dublin in their National Football League opener against Cork 24 hours later.
Scorers - Whitehall Colmcille: S Gray 2-13 (0-7f), P Hunt 2-1, N O'Donnell 1-0, C Ryan, N O'Connor 0-2 each, E Hoban 0-1. St Oliver Plunkett's/ER: Eimhin Walsh 0-11 (0-11f), C McDonnell 0-2, M Walsh 0-1.
Whitehall Colmcille: D Greene; C Nolan, E O'Donnell, S Cassidy; E Howard, C Ryan, A Harte; S Power, N O'Donnell; P Spellacy, N O'Connor, C Ryan; C Sheedy, S Gray, P Hunt. Subs: Subs: P Corry for Sheedy (52), A Griffin for Power (55), E Hoban for Hunt (56), R Wade for Spellacy (58), O Mulhall for Nolan (59).
St Oliver Plunkett's/ER: D O'Reilly; C Heffernan, M McCabe, C Stone; B O'Sullivan, L Doherty, M May; E Whelan, C McDonnell; C Breslin, B McDonnell, Eoin Walsh; I Kelly, M Walsh, Eimhin Walsh. Subs: T Hall for McCabe (12), K Shannon for Kelly (38), C Doyle for Breslin (46), B Cullen for Stone and M Jordan for Heffernan (55).
Mentors - Whitehall Colmcille: David Timlin, Ciarán O'Connor, Lar Canny, Shay Curtis, Pádraig McKeon, David Ryan, Martin Troy. St Oliver Plunkett's/ER: Donal Byrne, Finn Dunleavy, Ken Doherty, Terry O'Brien.
Referee: Anton Keating (Setanta).
Wides - Whitehall Colmcille: 10 (3+7); St Oliver Plunkett's/ER: 5 (5+0)
Conditions: Bitterly cold but interspersed with sunny spells.
Player of the Game: Seán Gray (Whitehall Colmcille).