Lawlor leads Rathnure to Juvenile joy
RATHNURE BUFFERS ALLEY
OWEN DEMPSEY'S ten-point haul wasn't enough to deny a Rathnure side inspired by Jason Lawlor as the Blackstairs lads claimed the Under-16 hurling Division 2 championship title in St. Patrick's Park.
Lawlor bludgeoned 1-9 with a scintillating array of scores to send his side to title glory in a superb advertisement for under-age hurling. The loss was tough on Buffers Alley who gave so much to this clash but there could only be one winner and Rathnure just about deserved it.
The sides matched each other point for point through the first 20 minutes. Doubles by the diminutive Rory Higgins, Lawlor and a point from Aodhán Foley cancelled out scores from John Lee Meyler, Ciarán Murphy and a Dempsey treble to leave the sides deadlocked (0-5 each).
Another brace by the deadlyaccurate Dempsey gave the Alley their first two-point lead of the contest but it would also be the last time they were ahead. That's because Lawlor caught them cold with a bullet low free that flew into the Gorey District side's net for the only goal of the game.
Lawlor out-freed Dempsey by two-to-one in what was left of the opening half, meaning Rathnure went into the interval with a lead they just about deserved on the balance of play (1-7 to 0-8).
James Tobin and Stephen Mitten exchanged points as the second period got off to a blistering start, but the game soon turned into a duel between the two sharpshooters as Lawlor and Dempsey shared the next eight points equally between them.
With the game moving into the last ten minutes Lawlor's ninth point made the score 1-13 to 0-13, however Buffers Alley almost got right back into the game with six minutes remaining.
The chance fell to Ciarán Murphy, who stole in behind an otherwise exemplary Rathnure full-back line, but there was no way past Liam Barron with his shot as the 'keeper saved well down low.
There was still three points between the sides deep into injury time when Ross Donohoe stood over a 20-metre free, but his effort flew just over the crossbar and Rathnure hung on to allow their captain, Eugene Buckley, to lift the trophy.
Just one Under-16 hurling final remains to be decided at this stage, with Cloughbawn set to face Oylegate-Glenbrien in the Division 3 decider in St. Patrick's Park on Saturday, October 27.
Rathnure are joined on the roll of honour already by St. Martin's (Division 1), St. James' (Division 4) and Ballyhogue (Division 5).
Rathnure: Liam Barron; Domhnall McGahan, Martin O'Connor, Denis Maher; Cathal O'Connor, Eugene Buckley (capt.), Eoghan Byrne; Eoin Higgins, Aodhán Foley (0-1); Ciarán O'Connor, Alan Lambert, Jason Lawlor (1-9, 1-4 frees, 0-1 '65); James Tobin (01), Seán Redmond, Rory Higgins (0-3). Subs. - Brian Quigley for Byrne, also Peter Farrell, Patrick Flynn, Niall Dillon, Michael Martin, David Kennedy.
Buffers Alley: Darragh Kehoe; Liam Cousins, Laurence Gahan, John Furlong; Gearóid O'Connor, John Farrell, David Ryan; Ross Donohoe (0-1), Leonard Leacy; Owen Dempsey (0-10, 8 frees), Lee Murphy, Ciarán Murphy (0-2); Liam Rath, John Lee Meyler (01), Stephen Mitten (0-1). Subs. - Robert Donnelly for Rath, also Michael McNulty, James Teal, Christopher McNulty, Conor Mangan, Seamus Stafford.
Referee: Justin Heffernan (Blackwater).