Hold­ers sur­vive a tough test

Rap­pa­rees stayed in hunt un­til last-gasp Ou­lart goal

Wexford People - - SPORT - ALAN AHERNE in In­no­vate Wex­ford Park

TI­TLE-HOLD­ERS Ou­lart-The Bal­lagh had to wait un­til added time to get the job done in In­no­vate Wex­ford Park on Sun­day when a goal from an un­likely source in the form of wing-back Kevin Sheri­dan fi­nally killed off a brave Rap­pa­rees chal­lenge in the sec­ond of the Pet­titt’s Se­nior hurl­ing cham­pi­onship semi-fi­nals.

Su­pe­rior ex­pe­ri­ence of the big oc­ca­sion was un­doubt­edly a key fac­tor on a day when the favourites were more im­pres­sive be­fore the in­ter­val than af­ter it, but they have yet another de­cider to look for­ward to af­ter Sheri­dan popped up at the end of a move fea­tur­ing Nicky Kir­wan and Martin Og Storey to put the game to bed.

Ou­lart-The Bal­lagh had led by 1-11 to 0-8 at half-time, with Gar­rett Sin­nott pos­ing all man­ner of prob­lems at full-for­ward, but the Rapps dug deep and pro­duced a storm­ing third quar­ter to outscore the op­po­si­tion by 0-8 to 0-3 and nar­row the gap to the min­i­mum.

While there was a lot to ad­mire about the slick pass­ing and move­ment from the vic­tors at times, it was mixed with in­di­vid­u­als tak­ing the wrong op­tions and in­dulging in poor shoot­ing dur­ing that sec­ond-half.

In­deed, eleven wides were chalked up in that spell for an over­all tally of 15 (the Rapps had nine), and the prospect of a shock couldn’t be ruled out with that one-point mar­gin be­tween them with 15 min­utes left.

How­ever, cham­pi­ons nor­mally find a way to come through in th­ese kind of sit­u­a­tions, and it was a sim­i­lar story this time around as they set up another fi­nal meet­ing with St. Martin’s - the pair­ing that prac­ti­cally ev­ery­one would have pre­dicted at the out­set of this cam­paign.

The win was un­der­stand­ably laced with a lot of sad­ness as it came on a day when Wil­lie Sun­der­land, a stal­wart of the Ou­lart-The Bal­lagh club both on the pitch and side­line, passed away.

They re­tired the num­ber 8 jersey he had worn with such dis­tinc­tion as a mark of re­spect, with a minute’s si­lence ob­served too for a ded­i­cated hurl­ing man who also served as a Wex­ford Se­nior and Intermediate se­lec­tor dur­ing John Meyler’s spell in charge.

The key fig­ure in the first-half with­out a doubt was Ou­lart-The Bal­lagh’s strong full-for­ward Gar­rett Sin­nott. Apart from scor­ing his side’s first and last points, he was fouled for two more, set up another brace, and also played a big role in the goal that left them 1-11 to 0-8 clear at the in­ter­val.

The hold­ers moved clear by 0-3 to 0-1 af­ter six min­utes, with Sin­nott, Nicky Kir­wan (free) and Rory Ja­cob lay­ing down an early marker be­fore free-taker Tomás Ma­hon got the un­der­dogs off the mark.

Richie Far­rell then blasted over from a pos­si­ble goal chance af­ter a pierc­ing run by Kevin Fo­ley, be­fore the lively Des Mythen picked off the first of his five points from play.

Liam Ryan won the sub­se­quent puck-out and made it a one-point game again though, be­fore the county de­fender but club at­tacker lev­elled af­ter good work from Tom Wall and Jack Kelly.

The Ou­lart-The Bal­lagh goal ar­rived in the eleventh minute when a long Shaun Mur­phy free broke off Sin­nott into the path of ace poacher Nicky Kir­wan who lashed the slio­thar to the net at the Clonard end (1-4 to 0-4).

The Rapps weren’t un­duly upset by this set­back all the same as they grabbed two of the next three points cour­tesy of An­thony Roche and James Peare, with Peter Mur­phy on tar­get for the lead­ers in be­tween.

Ou­lart-The Bal­lagh then opened up the first bit of day­light be­tween the sides with three points on the trot from Kir­wan (free), Mythen and Kir­wan from play, with the lat­ter two scores com­ing from hand­passes by Gar­rett Sin­nott who had a con­sid­er­able phys­i­cal ad­van­tage on di­rect op­po­nent Dil­lon Red­mond.

Ryan Ma­hon pulled back a point be­fore David Red­mond didn’t con­nect prop­erly with a goal open­ing, while Ou­lart-The Bal­lagh’s An­thony Roche bravely blocked an even bet­ter op­por­tu­nity for Richie Far­rell at the other end with his body.

That was a key mo­ment, and the cham­pi­ons tagged on the next three points through Mythen (two) and Sin­nott, while the Rapps con­tin­gent felt that a Roche tackle on Dar­ragh Pep­per mer­ited a penalty but ref­eree Dan Crosby didn’t agree.

Tomás Ma­hon pulled back a point from a free in added time, leav­ing the En­nis­cor­thy town team six adrift at the break.

The first five min­utes on the re-start fea­tured five points, with ef­forts from James Peare, Tomás Ma­hon (free) and Dar­ragh Pep­per draw­ing re­sponses from Tommy Storey and Rory Ja­cob (1-13 to 0-11).

At that stage the Rapps chal­lenge was stepped up con­sid­er­ably, with Ricky Fox a key fig­ure down the spine of the back line as they reg­is­tered four points with­out re­ply from Kevin Fo­ley, Jack Kelly and two Tomás Ma­hon frees.

In­deed, they were only de­nied a goal by a last-gasp clear­ance from Eoin Moore af­ter county col­leagues Fo­ley and Ryan com­bined to set up vet­eran Ma­hon in the 38th minute.

A long ball into the dan­ger zone from Fo­ley ended up in the net too less than 60 sec­onds later, but it was ruled out for a square in­fringe­ment at a stage when it looked like Ou­lart-The Bal­lagh’s five third quar­ter wides might come back to haunt them.

Des Mythen’s point near the mid­way point in the half was pre­cious as it was their first for al­most seven min­utes af­ter a pe­riod when con­stant pres­sure was the name of the game.

Their cause wasn’t helped by the loss of Shaun Mur­phy to in­jury, with Eoin Moore drop­ping back to the cen­tre of defence.

Another Tomás Ma­hon free made it a one-point game again be­fore a bizarre in­ci­dent in the 46th minute.

Ref­eree Dan Crosby, han­dling only his sixth Se­nior cham­pi­onship game, seemed to blow his whis­tle pre­ma­turely, think­ing that the ball had gone over the end­line when it was still in play.

He then ges­tured with his hands to play on, and Des Mythen set up Den­nis Morton for a point that was only cor­rectly ruled out when a Rap­pa­rees men­tor ran on to protest, with the ball thrown in on the 20-me­tre line.

Both sides were guilty of missed chances at that vi­tal stage, with two Ou­lart-The Bal­lagh wides fol­lowed by a costly stray shot by Ryan Ma­hon who was in the best po­si­tion of the lot.

The cham­pi­ons got their swift in­ter-change game go­ing again when it was needed most, with Gar­rett Sin­nott, sub­sti­tute Billy Dunne and Peter Mur­phy point­ing three on the trot be­tween the 53rd and 57th min­utes.

Liam Ryan hadn’t tested Conor O’Leary with a pull for goal at the other end in that spell, but another Tomás Ma­hon free left the Rapps still in with a shout.

Ou­lart-The Bal­lagh struck another three wides be­fore they fi­nally pounced for that vi­tal sec­ond goal un­der 30 sec­onds into added time, with their ri­vals pay­ing the price for push­ing play­ers for­ward in a last-ditch at­tempt to sal­vage some­thing from the game.

Martin Og Storey was fouled late on and his point-blank shot for goal was saved by Ea­monn Fur­long.

Nicky Kir­wan tapped over the free be­fore sub­sti­tute Eoin Quigley hit a late con­so­la­tion for the Rapps who will learn a lot from this first semi-fi­nal ap­pear­ance for the club in 16 years.

Ou­lart-The Bal­lagh: Conor O’Leary; Barry Ke­hoe, Keith Ros­siter, An­thony Roche; Den­nis Morton, Shaun Mur­phy, Kevin Sheri­dan (1-0); David Red­mond, Eoin Moore; Rory Ja­cob (0-2), Des Mythen (0-5), Nicky Kir­wan (capt., 1-4, 0-3 frees); Tommy Storey (0-1), Gar­rett Sin­nott (0-3), Peter Mur­phy (0-2). Subs. - Martin Og Storey for S. Mur­phy, inj. (41), Billy Dunne (0-1) for Mythen, inj. (50), Peter Sut­ton for Red­mond (53), Mythen for P. Mur­phy (60), Adam Nolan for Kir­wan (60+3).

Rap­pa­rees: Ea­monn Fur­long; Tom Wall, Dil­lon Red­mond, Ben Ed­wards; Jack Kelly (0-1), Ricky Fox, James Peare (0-2); Kevin Fo­ley (capt., 0-1), An­thony Roche (0-1); Richie Far­rell (01), Liam Ryan (0-2), Kevin Ryan; Ryan Ma­hon (0-1), Tomás Ma­hon (0-7 frees), Dar­ragh Pep­per (0-1). Sub. - Eoin Quigley (0-1) for Far­rell (57).

Ref­eree: Dan Crosby (Kilmore).

Rap­pa­rees mid­fielder An­thony Roche holds on to pos­ses­sion as David Red­mond of Ou­lart-The Bal­lagh ap­plies strong pres­sure.

An­thony Roche of Ou­lart-The Bal­lagh gets to the ball ahead of Rap­pa­rees vet­eran Tomás Ma­hon.

Liam Ryan of Rap­pa­rees wins this duel with county col­league Shaun Mur­phy (Ou­lart-The Bal­lagh).

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