Ballinteer Saint Johns notched up their first points of this year’s Division 1 Dublin Hurling League against Craobh Chiarain in Marley Park. Craobh Chiaráin started off proceedings playing in the direction of the Ballinteer clubhouse against a strong south-westerly wind. Almost as soon as the sliotar was thrown in the match began to take shape with Johns winning a free that was delivered in low by James Gilligan. Chiaráin’s defence managed to repel this move but the resulting clearance was mopped up by Gilligan whose pass off to Oisin Power produced the games opening score with a competent point from play. Craobh were not idle in this early period and responded with an attack, facilitated by a Ballinteer defensive error, which ended with Robbie Mahon being impeded in the box. Cue a Craobh penalty with less than five minutes on the clock and a chance for the visitors to take the early initiative. The Craobh Centre Back’s shot at the home side’s net was blocked on the line by Fionán Clabby however the resulting ’65 by David Keane went over the bar to tie things up. Quick thinking from Ballinteer’s puck out fed possession to Sean Lane who supplied a smart pass into Aodhán Clabby. Clabby’s quick turn in the box drew the foul out of Craobh’s Eugene Farrell and, when the Ballinteer man stepped up to take penalty, the resulting shot rifled the back of the net.
The impetus was now with Johns, who submitted the opposition to a spell of early pressure. Despite a Clabby wide, a further point was slotted over when Power converted a free after Lane was pulled down in the corner. Chiarain’s responded with a point from play but the match would now descend into a scrappy affair with most scores coming from set pieces. Gilligan struck a nice long range free but the first real movement of class in the match was provided by the visitors who netted to even things up midway through the first half; A nice waist high ball was passed in across the box from the corner and Mahon’s volley gave Johns keeper Louis O’Flaherty no chance. Ballinteer would claim the next three scores from frees with Power pointing on each occasion; indeed a mixture of defensive indiscipline and smart play, from Clabby and Gavin Byrne, was providing Power with the opportunity to work on his shooting. Craobh’s David Keane kept his side in touch with a free of his own from midfield. Power and Keane would then exchange pointed frees before a fantastic score over the left shoulder by Sean Lane finished off proceedings in the opening half. Half Time Score: BSJ 1-8 CC 1-4.
The second half got under way with both sides coming close to scoring a goal within the opening minute. It was Craobh who made the brighter start on this occasion Mahon adding a point from play following good support work by Keane. Despite a subsequent wide ball, Craobh continued their momentum with another free from Keane. However this would be the northside men’s last score in the match mitigated by a number of factors. Francis Usanga, whose physical presence was causing defensive problems for Johns in addition to providing Mahon and Keane with breaking ball, limped off ten minutes after the restart. Concurrently, the defensive shift put in by Ballinteer players Cormac O’Brien, Ronan Collins, Ruaidhri Donnelly, and Frank O’Donoghue during this period finally began to halt the attacking threats coming from Mahon and Keane. With their defence now on top an offensive platform was established, through Clabby and James Gilligan, initiating a Ballinteer resurgence. Power tapped a point over following a cross field pass from Clabby.
With Ballinteer 3 points ahead, Craobh almost levelled things when Mahon ran onto a breaking ball near the box only to have his shot somehow snuffed out as he pulled the trigger from point blank range. The resulting clearance found Glen Whelan in space and, following a good move in front of the goal, Ballinteer moved six points clear with a wonderful goal on the move. A further pointed free from Power rounded up the day’s scoring with several minutes to go on the clock. Craobh finished off the match well by laying siege to the Johns defence but several wides, and Ballinteer clearances attributable to a side going for late goals, saw this scrappy encounter finish in favour of the home side. Final Score: Ballinteer St Johns 2-10 Craobh Chiarain 1-6.