Mountmellick 2-12 Park-Ratheniska/Timahoe 2-8
Laois Shopping Centre IHC
Mountmellick survived a late scare against Park-Ratheniska-Timahoe to get their campaign off to a winning start tonight.
Defeated semi finalists in 2019, Mountmellick had 18 wides and missed a plethora of goal chances as they ran out four point winners in the end.
Park-Ratheniska-Timahoe, who were junior champions last year, trailed by nine points with 18 minutes to play but made a real fight of it and narrowed the gap to three points at one stage.
Nevertheless, Mountmellick just had that little bit extra in the tank to give themselves a great chance of reaching a semi final.
The sides could not be separated for the first 27 minutes of the game as Mountmellick saw goal chances for Nigel Murphy, Jimmy Hilliard and Sean Mangan go abegging with Park-Ratheniska-Timahoe keeper Brendan Dowling in great form.
Corner forward Hilliard actually rounded the Park-Ratheniska-Timahoe stopped at one stage and shot into the newly laid astroturf in front of the goal only to see the sliotar bounce over the bar.
Nigel Murphy, Hilliard and Donnacha Hartnett all pointed for Mountmellick but scores from Robbie Foyle, Pa Foyle and Jimmy Langton left the game level at 0-5 each after 27 minutes.
But then Mountmellick finally found the net when a neat passing move involving Hartnett, Nigel Murphy and Peter Dunne resulted in Barry Mangan rattling the net.
Pa Foyle responded with a point but Mountmellick added two more via Sean Mangan and Nigel Murphy before the ball was in the net again.
This time a storming run from Nigel Murphy resulted in him hitting the crossbar only for the waiting Barry Mangan to strike it home and leave Mountmellick 2-7 to 0-6 ahead at half time.
The second half began very slowly with both sides committing fouls and getting involved in needless scuffles.
But Mountmellick managed the first two points through Hartnett and Mick Bermingham to go nine ahead with 42 minutes on the clock.
Park-Ratheniska-Timahoe needed a spark and they got it before the water break with two goals.
The first came from Brendan Fingleton and the second via a close range Robbie Foyle free. Donnacha Hartnett and John Connolly struck points for Mountmellick in between but a long range Damien O’Connor score left it 2-11 to 2-7 with 15 minutes to play.
Robbie Foyle cut the deficit to three with a free and then almost levelled the game only for a brilliant double save from Mountmellick keeper Cathal Flynn who denied him and then got up to block down the rebound.
Park-Ratheniska-Timahoe kept pushing for scores but in the end a Jimmy Hilliard free for Mountmellick was the final score as they prevailed.
SCORERS – Mountmellick: Jimmy Hilliard 0-4 (two frees), Donnacha Hartnett 0-3 (two frees), Sean Mangan 1-1, Barry Mangan 1-0, Nigel Murphy 0-2, John Connolly and Mick Bermingham 0-1 each Park-Ratheniska/Timahoe: Robbie Foyle 1-3 (1-2 frees), Pa Foyle 0-2, Brendan Fingleton 1-0, Damien O’Connor, Jimmy Langton and Michael Brennan 0-1 each
MOUNTMELLICK: Cathal Flynn; Jarlath Connolly, Bernard Rochford, Eddie Melia; Redmond McEvoy, Laurence Kenny, David Fennelly; Peter Dunne, Nigel Murphy; Donnacha Hartnett, Sean Mangan, John Connolly; Mick Bermingham, Barry Mangan, Jimmy Hilliard. Subs: Ciaran Rochford for Hilliard (40), Hilliard for Connolly (48)
PARK-RATHENISKA/TIMAHOE: Brendan Dowling; Jimmy O’Connor, Joe Foyle, Danny Brennan; Brian Fingleton, Gavin Tynan, Damien O’Connor; Jimmy Langton, Geoff Kennedy; Brendan Fingleton, Michael Brennan, Geoff Kingman; Ruairi O’Connor, Robbie Foyle, Pa Foyle. Subs: Colm Lalor for O’Connor (15), Sean Tynan for Kennedy (49)
REFEREE: JJ Gorman