Har­ri­ers bridge 18-year gap in mem­o­rable Wex­ford Peo­ple Mi­nor hurl­ing Premier fi­nal

Game for the ages as 18-year gap is bridged in style

Enniscorthy Guardian - - SPORT - ALAN AH­ERNE


FAYTHE HAR­RI­ERS and Rapparees have a proud shared tra­di­tion of serv­ing up dra­matic con­tests in un­der-age cham­pi­onship fi­nals, and this one was prob­a­bly the best of the lot.

Satur­day’s Wex­ford Peo­ple Premier Mi­nor de­cider in O’Kennedy Park, New Ross, was a truly mag­nif­i­cent con­test, one of the finest ex­hi­bi­tions of hurl­ing that it has been my plea­sure to wit­ness in a long, long time.

While I was against the de­ci­sion to al­ter the age grade at this level from Un­der-18 to Un­der-17, I won’t be com­plain­ing for too long if games of this stan­dard be­come the norm.

Both sides, and their men­tors, de­serve noth­ing but credit for con­tribut­ing so richly to an outand-out clas­sic, with the Har­ri­ers outscor­ing the Rapps by 1-5 to 0-1 from the 54th minute on­wards to cap­ture this cov­eted ti­tle for the first time since 2000.

It was en­tirely fit­ting that the new Hughie Fo­ley Me­mo­rial Cup was the prize for the win­ners, be­cause that much-loved and missed gen­tle­man from Rath­nure would have been en­thused by the high qual­ity of hurl­ing served up.

Some of the score-tak­ing and in­di­vid­ual dis­plays were sim­ply sen­sa­tional from teenagers in such a pres­sure cooker at­mos­phere, and the over­all stan­dard au­gurs well for the fu­ture of the game in the county.

There was just one neg­a­tive, and it was quite a se­ri­ous one, be­cause the all-in row that started deep into added time and took a full five min­utes to bring un­der con­trol was ex­tremely ugly and not in keep­ing with what had gone be­fore.

John O’Lough­lin, ref­er­ee­ing his third suc­ces­sive fi­nal in this grade, would have needed eyes in the back of his head to col­lar all of the wrong-do­ers, es­pe­cially those who raced on from the side­line and un­for­tu­nately got away with their an­tics.

When or­der was fi­nally re­stored, he showed straight red cards to Rapparees trio Floyd Mur­phy, Seán Breen and Matthew Balfe in that or­der. Sec­onds af­ter re-start­ing the ac­tion with a throw-in, he wisely blew for full-time, spark­ing wild cel­e­bra­tions from the Har­ri­ers who will have a num­ber of their All-Ire­land winning Féile na nGael team of 2016 avail­able again next year.

There was real bite to the ac­tion from the off, with county Mi­nor Jack ‘Sharky’ Kir­wan grab­bing the first of his eight pointed frees for the Rapps be­fore the im­pres­sive Oisín Pep­per dou­bled their lead in the third minute.

The Har­ri­ers goaled for the first time less than 60 sec­onds later when Glen Mur­phy-But­ler got a slight touch on Richard Lawlor’s long line ball from the left to beat An­thony Larkin from close range.

It was the start of a huge con­tri­bu­tion from the tal­ented cor­ner-for­ward who went on to add a su­perb five points from play, not bad go­ing for some­body who has hap­pily re­cov­ered from a cru­ci­ate in­jury.

The Har­ri­ers led by 1-3 to 0-5 by the end of the first quar­ter, with Josh Shiel (play and free) plus Mur­phy-But­ler adding points while Matthew Balfe, Oisín Pep­per and Jack Kir­wan (free) replied for the Rapps.

The En­nis­cor­thy club had won the last meet­ing of the long-time ri­vals in a fi­nal by two points in 2011, and they went on to lead by 0-12 to 1-7 at the end of a very en­ter­tain­ing and full-blooded first-half.

The Har­ri­ers had the player of the match in my view in ex­cel­lent right half-for­ward Ja­son Gor­don whose ball-winning ca­pa­bil­ity from his own puck-out was im­mense.

He may have only scored one point, but his real con­tri­bu­tion was in cre­at­ing chance af­ter chance for col­leagues as a re­sult of his prow­ess un­der the drop­ping ball.

Still, Gor­don and his col­leagues knew they had a lot to do at the break, af­ter five more Jack Kir­wan frees, plus ef­forts from play by Pep­per and Evan Mur­phy, had pushed the Rapps in front de­spite replies from Glen Mur­phy-But­ler (two), Josh Shiel (free) and Conor Ke­hoe.

If the open­ing half was good, the sec­ond pe­riod was even bet­ter, with the tone set when four goals were shared in the first eight min­utes.

Richard Lawlor, now at full-for- ward, won a 50-50 ball on the ground and shook off a de­fender be­fore edg­ing the Har­ri­ers into a 2-7 to 0-12 lead af­ter 90 sec­onds.

Af­ter Jack Kir­wan (free) and Ja­son Gor­don swapped points, Kalem Dobbs drilled the re­bound to the net for the Rapps fol­low­ing a su­per Josh Walsh save from an Oran Carty piledriver.

Thirty sec­onds later, An­thony Larkin made an equally good stop from Conor Ke­hoe at the other end, but the lat­ter was cred­ited with scram­bling the ball over the line, with Richard Lawlor also close to the scene (3-8 to 1-13).

In­cred­i­bly, the lead changed hands again with yet an­other goal. Oran Carty lost his hurl in the left cor­ner but still man­aged to use his boot to set up Cian Han­ley, and it was im­pos­si­ble to take one’s gaze off the field for fear of miss­ing out on an­other big mo­ment.

Although Glen Mur­phy-But­ler con­verted a free, the ini­tia­tive was firmly with the Rapps en­ter­ing the last quar­ter af­ter Oisín Pep­per flicked a Kalem Dobbs de­liv­ery to the net in the 44th minute for a 3-13 to 3-9 lead.

The Har­ri­ers pro­duced a stun­ning re­sponse, as four points in less than four min­utes from Josh Shiel (two frees), plus Mur­phy-But­ler and Shiel from play, re­stored par­ity once more.

Rapps net­min­der An­thony Larkin came up­field to split the posts from a free and a ’65, with Eoin Ka­vanagh mak­ing a vi­tal hook on Jack Kir­wan in be­tween (3-15 to 3-13).

A Conor Ke­hoe flick was cleared off the line be­fore Richard Lawlor sent a line ball wide, but the puck­out that fol­lowed had a huge bear­ing on the out­come.

It was caught by the tal­ented Ja­son Gor­don whose de­liv­ery was grabbed in turn by Lawlor, and his 54th-minute goal gave the Har­ri­ers a lead they were de­ter­mined to keep (4-13 to 3-15).

Shiel (’65) and Mur­phy-But­ler con­tin­ued their point-scor­ing ex­ploits, but Oisín Pep­per brought his tally to 1-4 to leave just two be­tween them with 90 sec­onds to go.

In the end, three late pointed frees from Shiel, the last two in added time, fi­nally made sure of the Hughie Fo­ley Me­mo­rial Cup af­ter a game for the ages.

The ex­cep­tional stan­dard of hurl­ing will be re­mem­bered by all those lucky enough to be present, long af­ter that late flare-up is for­got­ten.

Faythe Har­ri­ers: Josh Walsh; Seán Byrne, Cil­lian Bog­gan, Josh Mur­phy; Liam Cassin, Kyle Scallan, Lee Nolan; Em­mett Nolan (capt.), Ben Hynes; Ja­son Gor­don (0-1), Richard Lawlor (2-0), Eoin Ka­vanagh; Glen Mur­phy-But­ler (1-6, 0-1 free), Conor Ke­hoe (1-1), Josh Shiel (0-10, 7 frees, 1 ’65). Subs. - Paul Deeny for L. Nolan (41), Josh McMa­hon for Mur­phy (48), also Jack Fin­u­cane, Mark Henebery, Daniel Browne, Cian Twomey, Eoin Fo­ley, James Ryan, Harry Ke­hoe, Cian Carty, Billy Hil­lis.

Rapparees: An­thony Larkin (02, 1 free, 1 ’65); Michael De­laney, Mar­cus McCarthy, Michael McGrath; Matthew Kin­naird, Seán Breen (capt.), Ro­nan Ker­vick; Evan Mur­phy (0-1), Matthew Balfe (0-1); Floyd Mur­phy, Jack Kir­wan (0-8 frees), Cian Han­ley (1-0); Oisín Pep­per (1-4), Oran Carty, Kalem Dobbs (1-0). Subs. - Aaron Browne, Re­gan Treacy, Adam Sheri­dan, Mikey McVeigh, Jack Walsh, Tommy McVeigh.

Ref­eree: John O’Lough­lin (Mon­ageer-Boolavogue).

The Faythe Har­ri­ers play­ers cel­e­brate with men­tors Fran­cis Byrne, Peter Cassin, Brian Walsh, Tommy Hynes and Nicky Lawlor af­ter vic­tory in Satur­day’s epic Wex­ford Peo­ple MHC Premier fi­nal.

The new Hughie Fo­ley Me­mo­rial Cup is pre­sented to Em­mett Nolan, the Faythe Har­ri­ers cap­tain, by Anne Fo­ley, with Alan Ah­erne (Group Sports Editor, Peo­ple News­pa­pers) and Coiste na nOg of­fi­cers Angela McCor­mack and Bobby Goff look­ing on.

Ja­son Gor­don of Faythe Har­ri­ers makes one of his spec­tac­u­lar catches dur­ing Satur­day’s epic Mi­nor fi­nal in New Ross.

Kyle Scallan pre­par­ing to clear.

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