Higgins trio in rampant form
Rathnure seconds on top
Published 12/05/2015 | 00:00
It was the Higgins hour in Bellefield on Saturday when Rathnure made it two wins out of two in the Top Oil Intermediate 'A' hurling championship Group B with a comfortable dismissal of a weakened Liam Mellows outfit.
Rathnure 4-18 Liam Melllows 1-13
Nigel has terrorised defenders in the Senior grade for more than a decade so it was no surprise to see him cutting loose with 2-3 from play as the black and ambers cruised home. And he was aided and abetted by his younger cousins, Eoin and Rory, who picked off 0-2 and 1-3 respectively as Rathnure led from start to finish.
Liam Mellows had only 18 players available due to a combination of exams, injuries and suspension, and included among them was veteran Eoin Cullen who came out of retirement to aid the cause at full-forward.
However, they had the worst possible start as Nigel Higgins was fouled for a penalty inside two minutes and the new one-on-one arrangement suited top scorer Jamie O'Connell as he dispatched his shot low to the right of netminder Seán Roche.
Rathnure had 1-3 on the board before the Coolgreany crew got off the mark in the seventh minute through free-taker Tommy Dixon, with the Blackstairs crew remaining comfortably ahead despite playing into the wind.
Liam Mellows did spark to life in the lead-up to half-time as they hit four points on the trot, with the scorers including Danny Gardiner whose brother, Stephen, had won an All-Ireland League rugby medal with Lansdowne earlier in the day.
Still, it was hard to see the north county side recovering from a 1-8 to 0-7 interval deficit, and the issue was wrapped up less than three minutes into the new half when Nigel Higgins latched on to a Teddy O'Connor free from long range and lashed it to the net.
The lively full-forward batted home the third goal after a lovely set-up by Rory Higgins - fresh from his All-Ireland Junior football-winning exploits with Good Counsel - in the 41st minute.
Rory finished off the fourth himself, a speculative effort from the right wing which netminder Seán Roche fumbled en route to the net midway through the closing quarter.
Tommy Dixon had crashed a 20-metre free to the net at the end of the third quarter to make it 3-12 to 1-8, but Liam Mellows are still seeking a first win and may struggle to qualify.
Rathnure: Liam Barron; Aodhán Foley, Shane Barron, Brendan Flynn; Matty Creane, Teddy O'Connor (0-1 free), Dermot Reddy; Eoin Higgins (0-2), James Tobin (0-1); Stephen Furlong, Fran Murphy (capt.), Rory Higgins (1-3); Patrick Flynn, Nigel Higgins (2-3), Jamie O'Connell (1-8, 0-4 frees, 1-0 pen.). Subs. - Anthony Westnott for P. Flynn (40), Seánie Redmond for Furlong (50), David Maher for Reddy (54), Martin O'Connor for O'Connell, inj. (56).
Liam Mellows: Seán Roche; Aaron Condren, Conor Cleary, Peter Fogarty; Stephen Maloney, Andy Merrigan, Joe Gardiner; Risteárd Kinsella (0-2), Danny Gardiner (0-1); Tommy Dixon (1-6, 1-4 frees, 0-1 '65), Brendan Halpin (0-3), Richard Farrell (capt., 0-1); Stephen O'Rafferty, Eoin Cullen, Donal Kavanagh. Subs. - Liam Condren for Fogarty (44), Daniel Kennedy for Kavanagh (52).
Referee: Paul Browne (Clonee).