Ramsgrange were playing catch-up from the start
Despite a spirited display, St. James' bowed out of the AIB Leinster Junior hurling championship at the first hurdle, falling to St. Oliver Plunkett's in Robinstown on Saturday.
St. Oliver Plunkett's 2-12 St. James' 1-11
The Ramsgrange club led for less than 40 seconds after Kevin O'Grady opened the scoring in the first minute, but were otherwise always playing catch-up against the Westmeath Intermediate champions.
With a glamour tie against Kilkenny Junior victors Mooncoin on the horizon for the winners, it was an especially disappointing end to another fantastic year for St. James'. Despite conceding the opening score, their opponents were up for the challenge.
The hosts hit the front in the third minute when good work in the middle third by Ciarán Curley helped find Greg Gavin on the right, and the corner-forward caught a rusty Jimmies defence off-guard and cut inside to net.
Only the leg of Conor Bracken stopped St. James' hitting back when Andy Walsh got through in the eighth minute, but by the end of the first quarter the Wexford Intermediate 'A' champions were trailing by 1-3 to 0-1.
With a partially helping crosswind, St. James' had their best spell between the 16th and 27th minutes.
O'Grady notched four points, Daniel Keating and Robbie Barron pointed, while Alan Walsh was unlucky to see a goalbound effort deflected wide.
The purple patch brought the visitors level (1-4 to 0-7), but they were hit with a sucker punch just before the break when Ciarán Curley's mishit shot from just outside the '20 on the right wing looped over Luke Murphy into the far top corner.
A good start to the second-half would have really helped St. James' but they didn't get it. Instead, Plunkett's tacked on the first three points of the period to move into a game-high six-point lead.
Ramsgrange found scores from play a struggle during the second period. O'Grady did tap over a couple of close-range frees to pull his side within four but, every time St. James' threatened a revival, their hosts eased back ahead again.
There seemed to be little hope left when Paddy Lynam put Plunkett's six points ahead (2-10 to 0-10), for the second time, in the 53rd minute.
However, St. James' grabbed a lifeline when Graeme Molloy flicked Matthew O'Hanlon's long free to the net moments later.
Once again the next score would be critical and the Jimmies had a couple of chances to get it. Their best move of the match ended with Robbie Barron's shot being deflected behind.
Seconds later Conor Bracken did fantastically well, reacting quickly to save Jack O'Brien's re-directed flick from Graeme Molloy's searching ball into the edge of the square.
Lynam and Johnny Dooley hit two late points to send Plunkett's five clear in injury time. St. James' won a free in the 64th minute, O'Grady blazed it over the crossbar, and that proved to be the final puck of the year for the Ramsgrange side.
St. Oliver Plunkett's: Conor Bracken; Seán Kelly, Robbie Ryland, Mickey Harris; Aaron Craig (0-1), Noel Galvin, Colm O'Leary; Paddy Lynam (0-6 frees), Donal Liddy; Damien Kiernan (0-1), Ciarán Curley (1-2), Conor Lynch (0-1); Greg Gavin (1-0), Johnny Dooley (0-1), Ross Corroon. Subs. - Shane Donoher for Lynch (53), Mickey McKnight for O'Leary (60+2).
St. James': Luke Murphy; Brian Molloy, Jason Barron, David Doyle; Paul Barron, Matthew O'Hanlon, Liam Murphy; Mark Molloy (capt.), Robbie Barron (0-1); Daniel Keating (0-1), Kevin O'Grady (0-9, 6 frees, 1 '65), Graeme Molloy (1-0); Shane Murphy, Andy Walsh, Alan Walsh. Subs. - Jack O'Brien for Andy Walsh (41), Mark Myler for Keating (49), Tomás Walsh for Alan Walsh (53).
Referee: Shane Guinan (Offaly).