Jubilant Rocks moving on up!
LONG HAS it been said that Tara Rocks had enough quality to compete at a higher level.
Now those assertions will be tested after the Gorey District men claimed the Junior 'A' hurling championship title with a dominant showing against Rathnure in St. Patrick's Park on Sunday last.
From start to finish the Rocks played like a team possessed, intent on closing every avenue, preventing every shot and shooting when the chance arose. It was almost the quintessential team performance.
From the steady as a stone Dean Redmond in goal, through the defence and playmaker Niall Breen, right into the deadly-accurate Declan Breen and opportunist Joe Bolger, a group of committed charges went out and achieved their goal. They were never prepared to allow any other outcome.
A sticky start shooting, in which Tara Rocks racked up nine wides in the first 13 minutes, was clearly attributable to nerves as they only fired three more in the rest of the game. Despite the miscues, two early Declan Breen scores and a kicked effort from Bolger gave the border club a 0-3 to nil lead.
Rathnure finally hit back with two points to close out the opening quarter, the second of which came from Alan Ronan after his initial effort on goal was blocked, but their fortunes worsened as the period went on.
Brendan Hobbs forced Sean Nolan into a full-length save in the 16th minute but he could do nothing to prevent seven second quarter points that helped Tara Rocks build up a sizeable interval lead (0-10 to 0-3).
Breen notched his eighth point just a minute into the second-half but the expected Rathnure fightback looked set to materialise when Aodhan Foley and Ciaran Morrissey combined to smack the post and Shane Furlong was on hand to lash home the rebound (0-11 to 1-3).
Rathnure, playing with the benefit of a slight breeze, continued to chip away at the Tara Rocks advantage and got within four points, including when Ronan grabbed his sixth with six minutes remaining.
That point came moments after Redmond tipped Martin Byrne's shot around the post and that was as close as the Blackstairs men would come to grabbing the vital goal that they needed to dent their opponents' momentum.
Tara Rocks continued to keep the scoreboard ticking over - vital when maintaining a lead - with Breen notching his eleventh point and substitute Gary Owley joining him on the scoresheet with a fine effort from a tight angle.
Paul Barron rounded off the scoring for Rathnure with a point in added time but it wasn't enough to prevent Tara Rocks claiming victory, and giving captain Niall Breen the opportunity to accept the cup on behalf of his side from Paddy Wickham, Central Council delegate.