Cloughbawn's lay down an impressive marker
Cloughbawn have put down an early-season marker with a further two points, but they had to endure a tense closing spell to hold off a dramatic late Rapparees surge in this entertaining Pettitt's Senior hurling championship Group A game at Innovate Wexford Park on Sunday.
Cloughbawn 2-20 Rapparees 1-21
With four minutes of normal time remaining, Cloughbawn seemed on their way to victory when they led by six points (2-19 to 0-19), but a Tomás Mahon goal three minutes from the end hauled the Cathedral town side right back into contention, leaving the eventual winners to defend desperately through the final tense minutes.
While there was plenty of merit in the Rapparees display, they have left themselves with much to do in their two remaining games to try to salvage a knockout spot and avoid a potential relegation battle with town rivals Shamrocks.
After Declan Ruth (free) and Bob Whitty exchanged opening points, the sides were still deadlocked at 0-6 each at the end of the opening quarter. Three minutes later Cloughbawn got the decisive breakthrough.
A ball into the goalmouth broke to the left where M.J. Furlong was lurking, and he calmly blazed low to the opposite corner of the net beyond Eamonn Furlong.
Davin Murphy and Kevin Foley traded points, while Tomás Mahon's pointed frees kept the Rapps in contention, but Cloughbawn had marksmen in Colm Kehoe, Harry Kehoe and Connal Flood to go in leading by 1-10 to 0-11 at the interval.
In a crisp opening five-minute spell on the resumption, Cloughbawn laid down a marker as they struck for excellent points from Alan Carton and Barry Carton, while after 33 minutes Alan Carton finished a Paul Foley pass inside the defence to net, giving his side a 2-12 to 0-11 lead.
Alan Carton's fight to win his appeal against his red card in the Rathnure game was justified as he proved a pivotal figure in his side's attack throughout the 60 minutes.
Rapparees, inspired by the excellent Liam Ryan, responded with three Declan Ruth points, (one free and two '65s) to stay in contention as they now reduced the deficit to four points (2-12 to 0-14). Cloughbawn through were producing the greater attacking options as they responded with points from a Paul Foley free, Harry Kehoe and Connal Flood to take a 2-15 to 0-15 lead into the final quarter.
With Harry Kehoe and Alan Carton the chief instigators in the Cloughbawn attack, they were able to counter Tomás Mahon's points to leadby 2-20 to 0-19 with four minutes remaining. Three minutes from the end, Mahon create space to the right of a packed goal before firing home a superb cross shot into the opposite corner of the net.
Points followed from a Ricky Fox free and Daragh Pepper to leave just two separating the sides with one minute of normal time remaining.
Although the Rapps laid siege to the Cloughbawn goal in the final tense minutes they were unable to fashion a winning goal as both Tomás Furlong and Colm Kehoe defended superbly, with Kehoe having a particularly outstanding game throughout.
Cloughbawn: Noel Carton; Gavin Murphy, Tomás Furlong, Barry Kehoe; Johnny Cullen, Páidí Cullen, Colm Kehoe (0-1); Davin Murphy (0-2), Barry Carton (0-3); Connal Flood (0-3), Alan Carton (1-2), Paul Foley (0-3 frees); Bob Whitty (0-2), M.J. Furlong (1-0), Harry Kehoe (0-4).
Rapparees: Eamonn Furlong; Ben Edwards, Liam Ryan, Mel Doyle; Jack Kelly, Declan Ruth (0-4, 2 frees, 2 '65s), Kevin Courtney; Peter O'Sullivan, Tomás Mahon (1-10, 0-8 frees); Ricky Fox (0-1 free), Tom Wall, James Peare (0-1); Darragh Pepper (0-3), Kevin Foley (0-2), Ryan Mahon. Subs. - Anthony Russell for Doyle, Eoin Quigley for O'Sullivan.
Referee: James Flood (St. Mary's, Maudlintown).