Harriers up in arms
Rapparees 2-20 Faythe Harriers 2-18
Controversy marred the conclusion in O'Kennedy Park, New Ross, on Saturday when Rapparees held on for a two-point win over Faythe Harriers in Group A of the Pettitt's Senior hurling championship.
The Enniscorthy side were leading by 2-20 to 2-18 three and a half minutes into added time when a long-range free from Jim Berry broke to substitute Pádraigh Farrell whose shot was blocked for a '65.
Harriers players were adamant afterwards that referee David O'Leary informed them before it was taken that the game would be over 'when the ball goes dead'.
Berry's '65 was batted out by netminder Eamonn Furlong, and I have since seen video footage that confirms O'Leary blew the first whistle to mark full-time a split second before the ball was forced into the net in a scramble, possibly by David Mooney.
Harriers players and mentors immediately surrounded the referee whose actions seemed to differ greatly from what he allegedly said before the '65, given that the ball was still in play when he ended the game.
And if the two points on offer turn out to be the difference between qualification and a relegation play-off in a few months' time, then this bizarre incident may have serious repercussions for the losers.
Rapparees will probably be wondering why they were in that position in the first place, given that they held a commanding ten-point lead (2-10 to 0-6) after 27 minutes.
Three aspects to their play stood out in that dominant period - the stylish play of left half-back Jack Kelly, the relentless workrate of midfielder Lenny Connolly, and the ball-winning ability inside of Alan Tobin.
Both goals were scored by centre-forward Ryan Mahon in similar circumstances in the sixth and 23rd minutes respectively, as two astute handpasses by the excellent Tobin put him in the clear as he stormed down the centre.
The Harriers had opened with plenty of energy and picked off the first two points from John Bridges and Jim Berry (free), but Rapparees responded with 1-3 on the trot and looked very sharp as they grew into the game.
The Wexford town team were thrown a lifeline in the 28th minute when a deft touch by Stephen Kearney close to goal turned a Bridges delivery into the net (2-10 to 1-6). And although they still trailed by 2-12 to 1-8 at half-time, at least there was hope.
They were fuming with referee O'Leary for the first time in the eleventh minute after no advantage was played as Lee Chin stormed through following an Eoin Roche pass, and the subsequent pointed free by Jim Berry served as poor consolation.
Rapparees - minus the injured Darragh Pepper - also had their issues with the man in the middle in the second-half in particular, notably when a blatant foul on Jack Kelly was ignored and Chin picked off a point.
The second-half was just two minutes old when the Harriers had the gap down to three, as a John Bridges point was followed by a well-taken goal by teenager Conall Clancy after an Eoin Roche delivery wasn't dealt with by the Rapps defence (2-12 to 2-9).
It was compelling stuff as the long-time pace-setters started to flounder, with some ill-advised short passing around their own half-back line, combined with aimless clearances under little or no pressure, playing into the opposition's hands.
Chin had an absorbing individual battle with county colleague Liam Ryan as the game neared a conclusion, and a John Bridges point left the Rapps just one ahead with nine minutes left (2-16 to 2-15).
The Harriers couldn't draw level despite their best efforts, with Tomás Mahon, substitute Anthony Roche, Mahon (free) and Kevin Foley scoring vital points for the leaders while Chin (free), a kicked effort by Wayne Mallon, and Ciarán Kirwan kept their rivals firmly in the hunt.
Harriers lost centre-back Richie Kehoe to a second yellow card in the 59th minute when they trailed by 2-19 to 2-17, but they kept battling and only that controversial call at the death denied them a last-gasp victory.
They had come close with a few more good chances in the third quarter too, with Liam Ryan advancing to block a Lee Chin shot with his body, while Conall Clancy flashed another shot across goal and wide.
Rapparees: Eamonn Furlong; Dillon Redmond, Liam Ryan, Tom Wall; James Peare (0-1), Ricky Fox, Jack Kelly (0-1); Lenny Connolly, Kevin Foley (capt., 0-2); Richie Farrell, Ryan Mahon (2-2, 0-1 free), Kevin Ryan; Alan Tobin (0-1), Tomás Mahon (0-11, 8 frees), Aaron Ronan (0-1). Subs. - Anthony Roche (0-1) for Farrell (25), Mel Doyle for Fox (57).
Faythe Harriers: James Henebery; Danny Walsh, Brendan Mulligan, Ciarán Kirwan (0-1); Colm Heffernan (0-1), Richie Kehoe, Wayne Mallon (0-1); Lee Chin (capt., 0-7, 2 frees, 1 '65), David Mooney; Michael Hanrahan, Jim Berry (0-3 frees), Eoin Roche; John Bridges (0-3), Stephen Kearney (1-1), Conall Clancy (1-1). Subs. - Conall O Crualaoich for Bridges, temp. (12-14), O Crualaoich for Roche (54), Pádraigh Farrell for Bridges (57).
Referee: David O'Leary (Rathnure).