NAAS 4-21 SHINRONE 0-18
By Paul Keane at St Conleth’s Park, Newbriddge
Kildare champions Naas used goals as their battering ram to an historic AIB Leinster club SHC victory, securing a glamour Croke Park semi-final clash.
Tom Mullally’s side led by just three points with around 20 minutes remaining but burst clear from there, outscoring favourites Shinrone by 2-10 to 0-4 to ease to a surprisingly comfortable 15-point win.
Just months after winning the All-Ireland intermediate championship, Naas had little trouble with the step up to senior provincial duty and had goalscorers in Jack Sheridan, who finished with 1-11, Kevin Aherne, Charie Sheridan and James Burke.
The win means they will travel to Croke Park for a November 27 semi-final tie against heavyweights and Leinster title holders Ballyhale Shamrocks or Castletown Geoghegan.
The result also came as a welcome boost after the Naas footballers exited the provincial championship at the hands of Kilmacud Crokes last weekend.
After a 15-minute delay to throw-in, Shinrone began as narrow favourites having overcome 2012 provincial winners Kilcormac Killoughey in the Offaly decider.
That was back on October 2 and they suffered a blow in the meantime, losing full-forward and county final Man of the Match Ciaran Cleary.
His five points from play in the county decider proved decisive that day and the visitors lacked his scoring threat this time, blasting seven wides in the first-half alone.
They were costly misses as the two Naas goals, from Charlie Sheridan and Aherne in the ninth and 25th minutes, left Naas in pole position throughout.
Both of those first-half goals were set up by Cathal Dowling who, on both occasions, burst clear, the first time on the left wing and the second time on the right, before cleverly offloading.
The Charlie Sheridan goal left Naas 1-3 to 0-1 ahead and indicated that Shinrone could be in for a long afternoon in Newbridge.
A week after the Naas footballers bowed out of their provincial competition, the hurlers – with dual players James Burke and Brian Byrne in attack – brought their unique brand of hungry hurling to the contest, smothering Shinrone around the pitch and moving the ball precisely through the hands.
They led 2-7 to 0-8 at half-time and should have been further clear with seven wides costing them.
Dowling closed out the first-half scoring for Naas with a tidy score from distance.
Shinrone, making their debut in the competition as first time Offaly champions, narrowed the gap to three points on three occasions during the third quarter of the game as they upped the intensity noticeably.
But points from Byrne and free-taker Jack Sheridan, followed by a third Naas goal in the 44th minute from Burke, swung the game and ultimately broke Shinrone’s resolve.
From there on, it was all Naas and the Kildare men strode to an impressive win with Jack Sheridan’s 55th minute goal a victory for hard work and persistence after his initial one-handed shot was blocked.
Naas scorers: Jack Sheridan 1-11 (0-10f), Kevin Aherne 1-1, Charlie Sheridan 1-0, James Burke 1-0, Brian Byrne 0-2, Simon Leacy 0-2, Cathal Dowling 0-2, Harry Carroll 0-1, Kevin Whelan 0-1, Conan Boran 0-1.
Shinrone scorers: Donal Morkan 0-11 (0-11f), Dara Maher 0-2, Killian Sampson 0-1 (0-1 s/l), Sean Cleary 0-1, Luke Watkins 0-1, Jason Sampson 0-1, Declan Cleary 0-1.
Naas: Cormac Gallagher; John McKeon, Ross Kelly, Peter O’Donoghue; Harry Carroll, Sean Gainey, Kevin Whelan; Rian Boran, Simon Leacy; James Burke, Brian Byrne, Kevin Aherne; Charlie Sheridan, Cathal Dowling, Jack Sheridan.
Subs: Conan Boran for Whelan 43, Liam Walsh for McKeon 59, Ferran O’Sullivan for Charlie Sheridan 61, Rian Monaghan for Byrne 62, Conor Dowling for Burke 64.
Shinrone: Eamonn Cleary; Darren O’Meara, Peter Cleary, Darren Crean; Killian Sampson, Micheal Cleary, Dara Maher; Declan Cleary, Luke Watkins; Jason Sampson, Donal Morkan, Adrian Cleary; Paul Cleary, Conor Doughan, Sean Cleary.
Subs: Adam Landy for Declan Cleary 47, DJ McLoughlin for Paul Cleary 55, Darragh Landy for Watkins 59.
Referee: Caymon Flynn (Westmeath)