Pearses 0-14 Meelick-Eyrecourt 1-8. Report by Ciaran Tierney, Connacht Tribune. Pearses are back among the elite after the shortest possible period down under. Just one year after suffering the trauma of relegation, they experienced the other end of the emotional spectrum when they proved too strong for a disappointing Meelick-Eyrecourt challenge at Athenry on Sunday. The men from Gurteen and Ballymacward hurled with conviction and pure passion to capture their second Intermediate hurling title in five years and their celebrations were all the more compelling in the wake of the recent double tragedy in the club.
While many neutrals in the crowd might not have been too impressed with the standard of hurling, few could complain about the the level of commitment from these two fired up teams and even fewer could dispute the result at the finish. In the end Pearses’ victory was down to two men – former county U21 star Francis O’Brien, who ruled the roost at midfield and his namesake at corner-forward Tom O’Brien, whose unerring accuracy from frees made all the difference as the the tension rose in the second half. But this was also a fine team performance, particularly from a solid defence which made life hard for the Eyrecourt forwards. Led by the example of Seamus Lawless they rarely looked to be in trouble – despite their side’s inability to build up a convincing lead at any stage over the hour.
It took Pearses a while to get going, though, as they had to wait all of 15 minutes before Tom O’Brien sent over their first score. Previous to that, Eyrecourt goalkeeper Gay Lyons dealt comfortably with their ineffective long deliveries while John Burke, Noel Larkin and Cathal McEvoy mopped up in their half. The midfield tussles were absorbing. Marcus McEvoy just about had the measure of Pearses’ Tony O’Brien but his partner, young Liam Hogan was under extreme pressure from the rampant Francis O’Brien for long periods. Eyrecourt enjoyed a brighter opening, with McEvoy sending a penalty over the bar in the second minute before setting up a fine point from Noel Kenny seven minutes later. But the O’Briens soon made their mark, with Francis sending over a breath-taking point from all of half-way barely thirty seconds after Tom had opened their account.
Francis was in inspirational form, adding two similar scores in the second half and setting up some fine passes for his colleagues in attack. Tom O’Brien added two further points, including a peach from play from the left hand corner, in addition to a fine score from Joe Fahy. While the Eyrecourt forwards proved highly unimpressive at the other end. Much was expected of Basil and Tommy Larkin, but they found the Pearses full-back line impossible to thwart over the hour and Meelick-Eyrecourt had to rely on a pointed free and a sideline cut from McEvoy to complete their half-time tally. Tom O’Brien sent over his third point from a free, to leave Pearses 0-6 to 0-4 in front at the break.
Pearses only seemed to be in trouble for a short period after the break, when Tom Turley kicked the ball to the net to give Eyrecourt the lead two minutes into the second half. But Pearses soon regained the initiative, with Tom O’Brien sending a succession of frees over at the other end, while Joe Fahy and Francis O’Brien registered two fine points from play to give Pearses a three point lead. McEvoy was Eyrecourt’s only consistent point scorer. He sent over a free to complement a Paddy Larkin point, to leave just one point between the sides with 12 minutes to go.
And the result could have been quiet different, had Larkin not smashed the ball inches wide of the Pearses goal five minutes earlier. However the Pearses men had something in reserve and their forwards ran the Eyrecourt defence ragged as Noel Carr, Francis and Tony O’Brien sent over a succession of fine points from play in the closing stages. Eyrecourt might have salvaged an unlikely draw right at the end, when Basil Larkin broke loose only to shoot the ball across the face of the goal. But Pearses fully deserved their three point win, thanks to the hard work of the O’Briens, O’Neill, Lawless, Emmett Lydon and Joe Fahy.
PEARSES: J. O’Grady, E. Lydon, S. O’Neill, M. Carr, PJ O’Connell, S. Lawless, J. Jenkins, Tony O’Brien, F. O’Brien (0-3), J. Fahy (0-2), N. Carr (0-1), P. Murray, M. O’Brien, K. Hillary, Tom O.Brien (0-8, 6f). Subs: D. Hillary for Murray (38 mins), T. O’Grady for M. O’Brien (38 mins).
MEELICK-EYRECOURT: G. Lyons, S. Moran, J. Larkin, J. Burke, C. McEvoy, N. Larkin, J. Hurley, L. Hogan, M. McEvoy (0-6, 5f, 1sl), N. Kenny (0-1), T. Turley (1-0), T. Larkin, B. Larkin, P. Larkin (0-1), M. Kenny. Subs: R. Howe for M. Kenny (47 mins), D. McElroy for T. Larkin (48 mins).