Rapps run riot
Rapparees 2-27 Ferns St. Aidan's 0-16
Rapparees knew that anything less than a victory simply wouldn't suffice as they approached Sunday's Pettitt's Senior hurling championship Group B clash with neighbours Ferns St. Aidan's in Innovate Wexford Park in dire need of their first set of points.
However, I doubt very much if anyone in the Bellefield camp would have anticipated their complete dominance of this local derby as they swept to a commanding and fully-deserved 17-point success.
It was clear that the Rapps were up for this game from the off, and it was undoubtedly their best performance at this level in a long time.
And to produce it when the chips were down says a lot about the resolve of the players, but it must be assessed against the backdrop of one of the most listless and disinterested displays from Ferns since they returned to Senior ranks for the 2008 campaign.
Only the always excellent Paul Morris could really hold his head up high after this shambolic show, contributing an admirable seven points from play on a day when so many of his colleagues simply weren't at the races.
A symbolic triple substitution from the losers with 20 minutes left said it all. It wasn't the fact that three changes were made at the same time, as we've seen that before, more so the identity of the men replaced as Tommy Dwyer, Benny Jordan and Ian Byrne would normally be regarded as leading lights on this team.
It was interesting to see Liam Ryan located at centre-forward for the winners and, though he grabbed a goal and won a penalty in the first-half, he wasn't the stand-out performer for the Rapps in that spell.
Instead that accolade fell to his county colleague Kevin Foley who was a vibrant ball of energy at midfield, constantly racing on to breaks and making clever use of possession.
The Rapps went with three physically strong ball-winners in their half-forward line and three smaller, lively attackers inside, and it worked a treat as Ferns had no answers.
And any fears that Ryan might be missed under the opposition's puck-outs were brushed aside in the second-half in particular as Ricky Fox read the play to perfection and was superb at number six.
The accuracy of both sides in the first quarter had to be admired. Indeed, after a Kevin Foley wide with just over one minute gone, an impressive 17 point-scoring attempts were successful as the Rapps established a 10-7 lead before Darragh Pepper had their second miss in the 17th minute.
The town team seized the initiative straight away and never let go, with Tomás Mahon pointing two frees, the second after a foul on Kevin Foley who then intercepted the puck-out and made it 3-0.
Jonny Dwyer hit one good point from the left wing for Ferns but they managed to stay in touch largely through the efforts of Paul Morris, with one of his three points whizzing over the bar when a goal was a possibility.
Creating space came a lot easier to the Rapps, with Darragh Pepper and Kevin Ryan joining Foley and Mahon on the list of marksmen, and they really cut loose in the second quarter when Ferns were outscored by 1-6 to 0-2.
Even a penalty miss didn't deter them, with Tomás Mahon blasting over the bar rather than under after Liam Ryan was fouled in the 24th minute.
That point made it 12-7, and Pepper added another before the Ferns net did ripple after the next Rapps attack. James Peare's line ball down the left flank found Mahon who handpassed inside to Liam Ryan, and the inter-county full-back with a penchant for scoring widened the gap to nine.
A barn-storming Richie Farrell run and subsequent Ryan Mahon handpass nearly led to a second goal moments later, but Pepper's shot was blocked for a '65 duly converted by Tomás Mahon.
It was 1-16 to 0-9 at the break, and the very least we expected was some sort of Ferns fightback.
However, it didn't materialise, with the Rapps adding another 1-3 inside six minutes and winning the first five Ferns puck-outs to leave neutrals rubbing their eyes with disbelief.
The goal came from a lovely move, with Pepper's handpass finding Ryan Mahon who flicked the ball to the side of the advancing Mick Walsh before tapping it into an empty net.
Walsh later made a fine save to deny Kevin Foley after a brilliant Tomás Mahon crossfield pass, and the fact that seven of the last 15 points were registered by Ferns did nothing to put a better gloss on the scoreline.
One other notable aspect of the game was the refereeing debut at Senior level of Shane Quinn, a young man not long out of Under-21 ranks who kept a clean sheet between the posts for Ballygarrett in their Intermediate win on the previous evening. He did a fine job, and hopefully it will be the first of many assignments for him in the top flight.
Rapparees: Eamonn Furlong; Ben Edwards, Dillon Redmond, Tom Wall; Jack Kelly (0-1), Ricky Fox, Anthony Roche; James Peare (0-1), Kevin Foley (capt., 0-3); Richie Farrell (0-1), Liam Ryan (1-2), Kevin Ryan (0-2); Darragh Pepper (0-5), Tomás Mahon (0-12, 8 frees, 2 '65s, 1 pen.), Ryan Mahon (1-0). Sub. - Ed Tobin for Roche (55).
Ferns St. Aidan's: Mick Walsh; Declan Byrne, John Breen, Patrick Breen; Pádraig Bolger, James Tonks, Ryan Nolan; Tommy Dwyer (0-4 frees), Benny Jordan (0-1); Gavin Bailey, Paul Morris (0-7), Ian Byrne; Jonny Dwyer (capt., 0-2), Christopher O'Connor (0-1), Chris Turner. Subs. - Eoin Murphy for Bolger (29), Brian O'Neill for Dwyer (40), Peter O'Toole for Jordan (40), Jeff Tobin (0-1) for I. Byrne (40).
Referee: Shane Quinn (Ballygarrett).