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*Captain Gavin Cooney was to the fore for Éire Óg. Photograph: Gerard O’Neill

COUNTY CHAMPIONS Éire Óg have started the defence of the Jack Daly with a merited but hard-fought one point win over St Breckan’s.

Éire Óg 0-13
St Breckan’s 0-12
Venue: Cusack Park, Ennis

A surging second half from Paul Madden’s Éire Óg in which they outscored their North Clare opponents 0-08 0-04 saw them come out on top in Cusack Park on Saturday evening.

In a repeat of last year’s semi-final, the Ennis side were once again superior when it mattered most with Gavin Cooney and Mark McInerney hitting a combined 0-11, 85 percent of their entire tally. At the other end, Manus Doherty kept Joe McGann scoreless while Ronan Lanigan was equally impressive.

Lining out without four of last year’s county final team – goalkeeper Nathan Murray, full back Aaron Fitzgerald, centre back Conall Ó hÁiniféin and centre forward David Reidy – they welcomed Shane Daniels, Jarlath Collins, Oran Cahill and Ikem Ugwueru into the fray instead.

Murray’s absence was telling in the early exchanges with St Breckan’s pointing on three occasions in the opening half straight from Éire Óg kickouts.

Donie Garrihy’s men from the Spa held the lead for the majority of the tie, Éire Óg didn’t nudge in front until the forty sixth minute.

By half-time, the gap was three points with those involved with Breckan’s frustrated the margin was not greater.

On the restart, the Townies began to dominate, kicking four of the first five scores as the attacking duo of Cooney and McInerney were clinical which was the key pillar of their comeback. Their county teammate Ciaran Russell had the opportunity to equalise but he spurned a glorious goal chance right in front of Tristan O’Callaghan on thirty three minutes.

It didn’t deter the champions however, the experience of their exploits last year filling them with the necessary self-belief that no distance would prove too far to travel.

Jamie Stack kicked the North Clare side’s second score of the half on forty two minutes, their first coming from Dale Masterson ten minutes previous.

A rally of four Éire Óg points without reply followed while Masterson, the captain of his side was dismissed on a straight red card with fifty two minutes on the clock for an apparent strike back on Niall McMahon.

Stack kicked the final two scores of the contest to reduce the deficit to a single score but experience showed in the dying seconds as despite having possession, the 2019 intermediate champions lacked the urgency when moving forward in their final attack and a backward pass from Joe McGann presented referee Chris Maguire with the opportunity to blow the final whistle, which he duly did.

For the winners, the quartet of Doherty, Lanigan, Cooney and McInerney impressed along with Ikem Ugwueru and Éinne O’Connor. Though it is job done from their perspective, there will need to be considerable improvement from their first round showing to match their ambitions of retaining the county title.

If Breckan’s are to have serious championship aspirations, a serious improvement is needed while their more established players will have to produce the goods. Colm O’Brien, Rowan Danaher, Raphael Considine and Patrick Doherty were prominent for them.

Scorers Éire Óg: G Cooney (0-06 4f), M McInerney (0-05 3f), P Talty (0-01), D O’Neill (0-01)

Scorers St Breckan’s: J Stack (0-06 6f), P Kelly (0-03), A Davidson (0-01), C O’Brien (0-01), D Masterson (0-01)

Éire Óg:
16: Shane Daniels

2: Manus Doherty
4: Ronan Lanigan
17: Jarlath Collins

7: Ciarán Russell
6: Aidan McGrath
5: Éinne O’Connor

8: Darren O’Neill
9: David McNamara

12: Niall McMahon
11: Ikem Ugwueru
10: Oran Cahill

15: Mark McInerney
14: Gavin Cooney
13: Philip Talty

18: Danny Griffin for Talty (53)
19: Conor O’Halloran for McMahon (57)

St Breckan’s:
1: Tristan O’Callaghan

2: Patrick Doherty
3: Raphael Considine
4: Cian Burke

5: Colm O’Brien
6: Alan Sweeney
7: Maccon Byrne

8: Michael Flanagan
11: Dale Masterson

17: Rowan Danaher
9: Padraig Kelly
12: Jack Sheedy

13: Jamie Stack
15: Aiden Davidson
14: Joe McGann

10: Denis O’Callaghan for Davidson (46)
18: Cathal Guerin for Danaher (56)
21: Conor Burke for Sweeney (61)

Referee: Chris Maguire (Wolfe Tones)

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