Rath­nure re­joice

Last-gasp penalty save seals vic­tory

New Ross Standard - - SPORT - DAVE DEV­EREUX

RATH­NURE OU­LART-BAL­LAGH 5-11 2-17

THERE WAS high drama in In­no­vate Wex­ford Park on Sun­day as a late Seán O’Con­nor goal saw Rath­nure dump old ad­ver­saries Ou­lart-The Bal­lagh out of the Pet­titt’s Se­nior hurl­ing championship race, forc­ing them to look on from the side­lines when the ti­tle is de­cided in the com­ing weeks.

The ex­cite­ment didn’t end there though in a high-oc­tane Group B en­counter, as Ou­lart-The Bal­lagh had the op­por­tu­nity to draw level sec­onds later when they were awarded a 60th-minute penalty.

Goal­keeper Conor O’Leary made the long walk for­ward but his op­po­site num­ber, Der­mot Flynn, pulled off a fab­u­lous save to keep the three-point ad­van­tage in­tact.

The re­sult means Rath­nure march on to a quar­ter-fi­nal meet­ing with Rap­pa­rees, while Ou­lart-The Bal­lagh must now wait un­til 2019 to get an­other crack at fur­ther championship hon­ours.

It was fre­netic stuff from the out­set with both de­fences be­ing carved open at will, and af­ter Rory Hig­gins and Michael Red­mond had picked off early points for Rath­nure, they al­most plun­dered a goal, but Conor O’Leary pulled off a fine save from Jack Guiney in the sixth minute.

Sec­onds later the onion sack was rat­tled at the other end when a del­i­cate pass from Murtha Doyle put Nicky Kir­wan in the clear, and af­ter his ini­tial ef­fort was saved, he was played in again by Gar­rett Sin­nott, and this time he made no mis­take, find­ing the cor­ner of the net.

The goal chances con­tin­ued to ar­rive like taxis to a bustling rank, with Rath­nure’s Rory Hig­gins next to be of­fered up an op­por­tu­nity when he was found by Seánie Red­mond, but he blazed his ef­fort wide of the far post.

Within sec­onds Billy Dunne sluiced through the de­fence at the other end, but Der­mot Flynn was equal to his shot.

Nicky Kir­wan was the sole scorer for Ou­lart-The Bal­lagh as they built up a 1-3 to 0-3 ad­van­tage by the 17th minute, with Eoin Bog­gan re­ply­ing with a mon­ster ef­fort, in a low-scor­ing but re­lent­less open­ing pe­riod.

With Ou­lart-The Bal­lagh threat­en­ing to get on top, Rath­nure then got the fil­lip they needed in the 26th minute when Michael Red­mond flicked the ball into the path of Jack Guiney, who didn’t need a sec­ond invitation as he fired past O’Leary.

Eye-catch­ing points from Des Mythen and Billy Dunne put Ou­lart-The Bal­lagh three clear, but the black and am­bers went into the half-time break with a real spring in their step af­ter pounc­ing for an equal­is­ing goal, when Ciarán O’Con­nor was on to an Eoin Hig­gins block like a flash, be­fore driv­ing the ball home to leave the sides dead­locked at 2-4 to 1-7.

Ou­lart-The Bal­lagh man­aged to eke out a four-point lead by the 47th minute when sub­sti­tute Martin Og Storey split the posts to put his side 2-15 to 3-8 ahead.

Their goal came from the stick of Des Mythen in the sec­ond minute of the half when he broke clear from an O’Leary puck-out and fin­ished with con­fi­dence.

How­ever, the Rath­nure re­sponse was quick as three min­utes later Michael Red­mond found Ciarán O’Con­nor, who turned and planted the ball past O’Leary.

Af­ter the on-song Jack Guiney had con­verted a free in the 48th minute, Rory Hig­gins went on a lung-burst­ing run, be­fore tee­ing up Seánie Red­mond who blasted to the net to draw Rath­nure level (4-9 to 2-15).

They then nosed two in front with points from Guiney and Michael Red­mond, but back came Ou­lart-The Bal­lagh and scores from Peter Sut­ton and Gar­rett Sin­nott had them all square by the 59th minute.

The par­ity didn’t last long though, as within a minute sub­sti­tute Seán O’Con­nor gath­ered a Shane Lawlor de­liv­ery and ri­fled the ball past O’Leary.

Sec­onds later Gar­rett Sin­nott was taken down for a penalty and Ou­lart-The Bal­lagh had one last chance for sal­va­tion.

Up stepped O’Leary but Der­mot Flynn stretched ev­ery sinew to pull off a fan­tas­tic save and the de­fence scram­bled the ball to safety.

Rath­nure: Der­mot Flynn (capt.); Paddy White­ley, Brian Quigley, Eoin Bog­gan (0-1); Podge Doyle (0-1), Cathal O’Con­nor, Ai­dan Red­mond; Richie Flynn, Eoin Hig­gins; Shane Lawlor (0-1), Jack Guiney (1-4, 0-3 frees), Michael Red­mond (0-3); Rory Hig­gins (0-1), Seánie Red­mond (1-0), Ciarán O’Con­nor (2-0). Subs. - Seán O’Con­nor (1-0) for A. Red­mond (HT), Micheál O’Con­nor for R. Flynn (45), James Tobin for S. Red­mond (48), De­clan Fo­ley for M. Red­mond (54).

Ou­lart-The Bal­lagh: Conor O’Leary; Barry Ke­hoe, Keith Ros­siter, Ian Storey; Ea­mon Mur­phy, Shaun Mur­phy (capt.), Den­nis Mor­ton; Rory Ja­cob, Peter Mur­phy (0-2); Billy Dunne (0-3, 1 free), Des Mythen (1-2), An­thony Roche; Murtha Doyle, Gar­rett Sin­nott (0-2), Nicky Kir­wan (1-6, 0-3 frees, 0-1 ‘65). Subs. - Kevin Sheri­dan for Ke­hoe (34), Martin Og Storey (01) for Roche (38), Kevin Nimmo for Sheri­dan (49), Peter Sut­ton (0-1) for Mythen (54).

Ref­eree: Justin Hef­fer­nan (Black­wa­ter).

THE DUST has scarcely set­tled on the in­ter-county G.A.A. scene for 2018, and al­ready the an­nounce­ment of the pro­vi­sional fix­tures for the next Na­tional League cam­paign has whet­ted the ap­petites of sup­port­ers.

And there will be a mouth-wa­ter­ing start to the hurl­ing ac­tion, as newly-crowned All-Ire­land cham­pi­ons Lim­er­ick will be vis­it­ing In­no­vate Wex­ford Park on Sun­day, Jan­uary 27.

The squad will be on the road to Cork one week later, while they will be host­ing Tip­per­ary on Fe­bru­ary 17.

And af­ter a jour­ney to take on Clare on Fe­bru­ary 24, a wel­come third clash on home soil will be against Kilkenny on March 3.

The Di­vi­sion 4 football cam­paign will also be­gin on Jan­uary 27, away to Leitrim, and Wex­ford will be at home to Antrim one week af­ter that.

There is a trip to London on Fe­bru­ary 10, fol­lowed by games at home to Water­ford (Fe­bru­ary 24), away to Wick­low (March 2), home to Lim­er­ick (March 16), and away to Derry for the sec­ond year run­ning on March 24.

All of the above fix­tures are pro­vi­sional and sub­ject to con­fir­ma­tion.

WEX­FORD’S UN­DER-21 hurl­ing cam­paign was ul­ti­mately a dis­ap­point­ing one, be­ing pipped by Gal­way in an epic Le­in­ster fi­nal af­ter ex­tra-time be­fore fail­ing to make the most of a first-ever sec­ond chance for pro­vin­cial run­ners-up when they were ham­mered by Cork.

How­ever, some fine in­di­vid­ual per­for­mances were pro­duced in the course of their three-game cam­paign, and this has been re­flected in the selec­tion of six play­ers on the short­list for the Bord Gáis En­ergy team of the year.

De­fend­ers Damien Reck, Dar­ren Byrne and Ian Carty have been in­cluded, along with star per­former Rory O’Con­nor, his first cousin and name­sake Joe, and lead­ing marks­man Sea­mus Casey.

While th­ese awards are nor­mally heav­ily weighted in favour of the fi­nal­ists, hope­fully at least some of the Wex­ford crew will be hon­oured.

Rory Hig­gins of Rath­nure tries to make life dif­fi­cult for Des Mythen (Ou­lart-The Bal­lagh).

Podge Doyle of Rath­nure keep­ing tabs on An­thony Roche.

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