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Sunday 20 October 2019

First clash of neighbours since 1994

New Ross hosting two major games

Veteran defender Ollie Bolger is still going strong for Rathgarogue-Cushinstown
Veteran defender Ollie Bolger is still going strong for Rathgarogue-Cushinstown

Alan Aherne

Their respective club grounds are just over ten minutes apart by car, and they are among two of a mere ten clubs operating in New Ross District, but that hasn't translated into a regular rivalry between Clongeen and Rathgarogue-Cushinstown in recent years.

Quite remarkably, when the clubs clash in the Joyces Expert Intermediate 'A' football championship final in O'Kennedy Park on Saturday (5.15 p.m.), it will be the first competitive meeting of their two main adult teams in quarter of a century.

One has to go all the way back to 1994 when, after a 1-8 to 0-11 draw in New Ross, Clongeen won a replay in Grantstown by 3-7 to 1-9 to send Rathgarogue-Cushinstown back to the Intermediate ranks from where they had emerged with a title win over Fethard in 1991.

The sides had also clashed in 1993, with Clongeen emerging victorious by 2-7 to 0-9 from a quarter-final in O'Kennedy Park, but it's been a scarcely believable 25 years since they last locked horns.

Of course, the Geeners gradually fell away from their memorable Senior-winning year of 2007, with the majority of that fine panel retired at this stage.

Having said that, the likes of Collie Byrne, Páraic Curtis, Jim Bennett, Barry Foxe and Stephen Curtis are still part of their squad, while the fact that midfielder Páraic Cullen is fully fit this year is another significant boost.

Their progression to this final is all the more noteworthy given that recent county Senior Paul Curtis has been a long-term absentee owing to injury.

On the bonus side, the return of Emmet Kent from overseas was a major fillip, and he is likely to have a big influence on this game along with the Cahills, Shane and Paudie, plus durable defenders Enda Murphy and Shane Kilkenny.

Clongeen were relegated from Senior in 2012, and then from Intermediate in 2017, and they have already gone one better than last year when they bowed out in the semi-final to Naomh Eanna.

In contrast, Rathgarogue-Cushinstown have come to this particular decider from the opposite direction, gradually working their way up through the ranks.

It has been a tough, and at times frustrating, struggle, but their persistence has been richly rewarded in this campaign.

After losing the Junior finals of 2014 and 2017, to Crossabeg-Ballymurn in a replay and St. Martin's respectively, they finally got over the line when Monageer-Boolavogue were edged out in last year's decider.

They boast two members of this year's Wexford Senior squad in Eoin Porter and Daire Bolger, with the latter happily recovered from an illness that kept him out of some of the earlier rounds.

Tadhg Cody has been in excellent form for Rathgarogue-Cushinstown, while veteran Ollie Bolger is still going strong in defence despite being on the wrong side of 40.

The ball-winning of big men Daniel Martin Carroll and Bernard Furlong could be crucial, especially if it's a wet day, and this has the potential to go right down to the wire.

Indeed, I wouldn't be surprised if a second day is required to determine the outcome.

Rathgarogue-Cushinstown have prior experience of winning county football titles back-to-back, as they followed their Junior success of 1980 with a first-ever Intermediate title twelve months later.

After being relegated from Senior by Clongeen in 1994, they were frustrated to lose Intermediate deciders in 1997 (to Gusserane after a replay), 1999 (to St. Patrick's), and 2004 (to Ballyhogue also after a replay).

They dropped out of that grade at the end of 2005, so this attempt at a return has been effectively 14 years in the making.

FIVE-YEAR RECORDS - Clongeen: 2014, Intermediate did not qualify; 2015, Intermediate quarter-final; 2016, Intermediate did not qualify; 2017, relegated from Intermediate; 2018, Intermediate 'A' semi-final; Rathgarogue-Cushinstown: 2014, Junior runners-up; 2015, Junior quarter-final; 2016, Junior semi-final; 2017, Junior runners-up; 2018, Junior champions.

Wexford People

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