Byrne penalty key score
A Conor Byrne penalty with ten minutes remaining propelled Shelmaliers to a deserved victory in an entertaining Junior hurling championship semi-final in a sunny Cushinstown on Sunday.
Shelmaliers 2-8 Rapparees 0-11
Byrne was brought down in the area and he dusted himself down before blasting the ball to the back of the net to give the Wexford District side a three-point advantage, and Rapparees were unable to bridge the gap thereafter.
That was the first time there was more than two points between the sides in a keenly-contested encounter, with the Shels just about shading it in terms of possession and chances created.
The Enniscorthy side started brightly, getting the first two points on the board through John Ryan and a Barry Nolan free, but sharp-shooter Conor Byrne edged Shelmaliers in front by the tenth minute with three placed balls on the trot.
Then it was the turn of Barry Nolan to show what he could do at the other end, arrowing over two frees before Tom Ryan put them two ahead after being cleverly picked out by Gary Murphy.
However, Shelmaliers were back in front in the 18th minute when Michael Feeney did brilliantly to pluck a Conor Byrne free from the air, and he fed James Cash, who rifled the ball to the net to make it 1-3 to 0-5.
Back came Rapparees though, and Barry Nolan helped himself to the next three points, slotting over two frees either side of a good point from play, to give his side a two-point advantage.
The pendulum then swung back Shelmaliers' way as half-time approached with two Conor Byrne frees tying it up at the break (1-5 to 0-8).
Gary Murphy edged Rapparees back in front within seconds of the re-start but Michael Feeney ended a dazzling run with a point to restore parity in the 38th minute.
Graham Staples took advantage of some lax marking to pop over a point after gathering a short free from the quick-thinking Conor Byrne four minutes later, but the Rapparees response was instant with Lenny Connolly splitting the posts.
Then came the pivotal moment with Emmet O'Leary finding the inrushing Conor Byrne, and when he was dragged down referee John Tobin had no hesitation in awarding a penalty, which 'Bomber' rifled beyond goalkeeper Jim Connors.
Rapparees did hit back quickly with a Barry Nolan free, but Conor Byrne cancelled it out with a timely first point from play.
Shelmaliers had a chance to put the icing on the cake in injury time, but substitute Eoghan Nolan saw his shot saved by netminder Jim Connors.
Shelmaliers: Feargal Hynes; Eoin O'Leary, Kevin O'Leary, Eoghan Fitzgerald; Aaron O'Neill, Barry O'Connor, Cian Manley; Denis Kelly, Graham Staples (0-1); Emmet O'Leary, Conor Byrne (1-6, 0-5 frees, 1-0 pen.), Chris Gordon; Michael Feeney (0-1), Stephen Whelan, James Cash (1-0). Subs. - Niall Murphy for O'Connor, Eoghan Nolan for Whelan, Craig Parker for Gordon, Ronan Kavanagh for E. O'Leary.
Rapparees: Jim Connors; Ryan Hadley, John Barron, Ronan Kirwan; Ciarán Cronin, Pa Doyle, Mark Redmond; Seánie O'Gorman, Lenny Connolly (0-1); Lee Murphy, Barry Nolan (0-7, 6 frees), John Ryan (0-1); Gary Murphy (0-1), Tom Ryan (0-1), Aaron Ronan. Subs. - Caolan Carty for O'Gorman, Pa Hore for J. Ryan, Diarmuid Cullen for L. Murphy.
Referee: John Tobin (Geraldine O'Hanrahans).