Easy victory for Oulart
Oulart-The Ballagh 4-23 Rathnure 2-13
Oulart-The Ballagh's ambitious second string made light of the Rathnure challenge at St. Patrick's Park, turning Sunday's Top Oil Intermediate 'A' hurling championship second round Group A contest into a cakewalk.
The 16-point margin of victory did not quite match the lopsided scale of the league encounter between the teams, but the destination of the points was never seriously in doubt.
On a sunny Sunday afternoon, they had a dozen different names on the scoresheet, headed by the enormously energetic Billy Dunne.
Supposedly playing in midfield, he seemed to pop up wherever he was needed as well as taking an occasional free.
His skills over the placed ball were little in demand as easy-going referee John Carton blew just five frees Oulart-The Ballagh's way all day.
Rathnure must have realised they were in trouble when opposition wing-back Eamon Murphy hoisted the first point of a match in which they spent most of their time chasing red and black shadows.
Free-taker Jason Lawlor levelled the score briefly but thereafter it was not so much a question of whether the form team would win as to by how many.
Oulart-The Ballagh had a couple of goals on the board - from Gary Murphy under Kevin Sheridan's high ball and the ubiquitous Dunne - before Nigel Higgins rattled the net at the other end.
Such defiance was in short supply as the men from the mountains were a distant 3-15 to 1-5 in arrears at half-time, goal number three knocked in by Tomás Dunne.
Oulart-The Ballagh sprayed intelligent, low-hit passes around the field all afternoon and backed each other up throughout in an unrelenting display of fine teamwork.
Goal number four arrived shortly after the resumption, batted in by Tomás Dunne once more, at the end of a move started by wide-roving Billy Dunne in deepest defence.
Although the Rathnure defence floundered at times, the team's attack cobbled together a decent total in these most trying of circumstances.
Seán O'Neill opened his shoulders to flog over a brace of frees from inside his own half while close-range free-taker Jason Lawlor top scored for the losers with five.
Rory Higgins enjoyed some success after being introduced as a substitute and his 58th-minute goal may have eased some of the pain.
But there was no denying that the victors were a class above in every department, with the early retirement of full-back Dennis Morton their only serious concern.
Oulart-The Ballagh: James O'Toole; Seán Murphy, Dennis Morton, Ian Storey (0-1); Eamon Murphy (0-1), Ben O'Connor, Kevin Sheridan; Billy Dunne (1-5, 0-2 frees), Darren Nolan (0-2); Pad Mythen (1-4, 0-1 '65), Tomás Dunne (2-0), Adam Nolan (0-4); Cormac Finn (0-1), Niall Redmond (0-2), Gary Murphy (1-1). Subs. - Kevin Nimmo for Morton (41), Peter Sutton (0-1) for G. Murphy (46), Michael O'Dowd (0-1 free) for B. Dunne (52).
Rathnure: Seán Nolan; James Flynn, Eoin Boggan, M.J. Murphy; Eoin Higgins, Seán O'Neill (0-2 frees), Alan Ronan; Anthony Westnott, Thomas Furlong; Billy Conran, Fran Murphy (0-2), Michael Martin (0-1); Ben Ronan (0-1), Nigel Higgins (1-1), Jason Lawlor (0-5, 4 frees, 1 '65). Subs. - Dylan Hogan for Flynn (25), Kiall Byrne for Murphy (46), Rory Higgins (1-1) for Conran (52).
Referee: John Carton (Monageer-Boolavogue).