Rathnure produce extra edge to see off St. Pat's
Rathnure can thank the leadership qualities of some of their more Senior players as they eventually edged their way to a three-point extra-time victory over a gallant St. Patrick's outfit in this hugely exciting All-County Hurling League Division 3 final at St. Patrick's Park, Enniscorthy, on Saturday.
Rathnure 1-21 St. Patrick's 1-18 (AET)
Rathnure had the better start, edging into a 0-6 to 0-2 lead inside the opening 17 minutes, but once St. Patrick's settled into the challenge it became quickly evident that little was going to separate the sides for the remainder of the game.
From thereon in the hurling stepped up considerably with both sides enjoying their moments of dominance, but it when it came down to the decisive moments late on, Rathnure's experience eventually won out.
In a nerve-wracking second-half, Rathnure had some outstanding individual performances, most notably from the experienced Michael O'Leary on the fringe of the square and Nigel Higgins in attack, along with substitute Richie Flynn, who played a key role in his side's victory.
St. Patrick's, one of the most improved sides in the league, never gave up the battle with Dermot O'Leary leading by inspiration from centre-back while John Doyle, who had to work so hard for possession, emerged as the player of the match as he was simply outstanding.
Rathnure were on top through the opening exchanges as Syl Barron pointed two early '65s followed by a point from play, before Shane Finn opened his side's account with an eighth-minute point.
With Barron and Higgins really on fire in attack, the eventual winners still led by 0-7 to 0-4 after 22 minutes. Tommy Dunne and John Doyle were both on target, and just the minimum separated the sides at the interval, with Rathnure leading by 0-9 to 0-8.
After Syl Barron had extended his side's lead within two minutes of the re-start, St. Patrick's struck back for the opening goal.
John Doyle made a tremendous run through the defence and saw his effort for goal blocked into the path of half-time substitute Niall O'Brien who flashed a low shot to the net, giving his side a 1-8 to 0-10 lead.
St. Patrick's through fine points from both Dunne and Doyle still led by 1-11 to 0-11 with 13 minutes remaining, but Rathnure's response was as expected, bouncing back with three unanswered points through Barron (free), Trevor Hogan and Declan Foley to tie the sides (1-11 to 0-14) with ten minutes remaining.
With four minutes left, St. Patrick's were playing excellently in protecting a 1-14 to 0-15 lead, but then Rathnure rocked the game when a fine Trevor Hogan crossfield ball picked out Richie Flynn, who cut some ten metres through the centre before unleashing an unstoppable low shot to the net, putting his side 1-15 to 1-14 in front.
A John Doyle pointed free in additional time brought the sides level (1-15 each) forcing extra-time.
With the floodlights now on, a Doyle free put St. Pat's in front, but Rathnure responded with points from Jason Lawlor, Stephen Furlong and Richie Flynn (free) to lead by 1-18 to 1-16 at the break in extra-time.
A Doyle pointed free within one minute of the re-start left the minimum separating the sides. After Doyle and Trevor Hogan had exchanged points, Rathnure finished with points from Declan Foley and a Richie Flynn free, while at the end, John Doyle had a low 25-metre free for goal saved and cleared, and with it their last chance of salvaging a result disappeared.
Rathnure: Seán Nolan; James Flynn, Michael O'Leary, Brendan Flynn; Alan Ronan, Chris Redmond, Declan Foley (0-2); Francis Murphy, Paul Murphy (0-1); Syl Barron (0-7, 2 '65s, 1 free), Teddy O'Connor, Trevor Hogan (0-2); Colin Flynn, Nigel Higgins (0-4), Anthony Westnott. Subs. - Richie Flynn (1-2, 0-2 frees) for C. Flynn, Seánie Redmond for P. Murphy, Jason Lawlor (0-2) for Westnott, Aodhán Foley for Barron, Stephen Furlong (0-1) for O'Connor.
St. Patrick's: Stuart Quinn; Tynan Flynn, Michael O'Brien, James Cousins; Hughie Doyle, Dermot O'Leary, Daryl Murphy; Tommy Dunne (0-2), Richie Flood (0-1); Ashley Tully, John Doyle (0-14, 8 frees, 1 '65), Shane Finn (0-1); Andrew Doyle, John Cousins, Tomás Morris. Subs. - Paul McDonald for Cousins, Niall O'Brien (1-0) for Tully, Ger Gahan for A. Doyle.
Referee: Joe Kelly (Naomh Eanna).