Higgins trio in rampant form
Rathnure seconds on top
It was the Higgins hour in Bellefield on Saturday when Rathnure made it two wins out of two in the Top Oil Intermediate 'A' hurling championship Group B with a comfortable dismissal of a weakened Liam Mellows outfit.
Rathnure 4-18 Liam Melllows 1-13
Nigel has terrorised defenders in the Senior grade for more than a decade so it was no surprise to see him cutting loose with 2-3 from play as the black and ambers cruised home. And he was aided and abetted by his younger cousins, Eoin and Rory, who picked off 0-2 and 1-3 respectively as Rathnure led from start to finish.
Liam Mellows had only 18 players available due to a combination of exams, injuries and suspension, and included among them was veteran Eoin Cullen who came out of retirement to aid the cause at full-forward.
However, they had the worst possible start as Nigel Higgins was fouled for a penalty inside two minutes and the new one-on-one arrangement suited top scorer Jamie O'Connell as he dispatched his shot low to the right of netminder Seán Roche.
Rathnure had 1-3 on the board before the Coolgreany crew got off the mark in the seventh minute through free-taker Tommy Dixon, with the Blackstairs crew remaining comfortably ahead despite playing into the wind.
Liam Mellows did spark to life in the lead-up to half-time as they hit four points on the trot, with the scorers including Danny Gardiner whose brother, Stephen, had won an All-Ireland League rugby medal with Lansdowne earlier in the day.
Still, it was hard to see the north county side recovering from a 1-8 to 0-7 interval deficit, and the issue was wrapped up less than three minutes into the new half when Nigel Higgins latched on to a Teddy O'Connor free from long range and lashed it to the net.
The lively full-forward batted home the third goal after a lovely set-up by Rory Higgins - fresh from his All-Ireland Junior football-winning exploits with Good Counsel - in the 41st minute.
Rory finished off the fourth himself, a speculative effort from the right wing which netminder Seán Roche fumbled en route to the net midway through the closing quarter.
Tommy Dixon had crashed a 20-metre free to the net at the end of the third quarter to make it 3-12 to 1-8, but Liam Mellows are still seeking a first win and may struggle to qualify.
Rathnure: Liam Barron; Aodhán Foley, Shane Barron, Brendan Flynn; Matty Creane, Teddy O'Connor (0-1 free), Dermot Reddy; Eoin Higgins (0-2), James Tobin (0-1); Stephen Furlong, Fran Murphy (capt.), Rory Higgins (1-3); Patrick Flynn, Nigel Higgins (2-3), Jamie O'Connell (1-8, 0-4 frees, 1-0 pen.). Subs. - Anthony Westnott for P. Flynn (40), Seánie Redmond for Furlong (50), David Maher for Reddy (54), Martin O'Connor for O'Connell, inj. (56).
Liam Mellows: Seán Roche; Aaron Condren, Conor Cleary, Peter Fogarty; Stephen Maloney, Andy Merrigan, Joe Gardiner; Risteárd Kinsella (0-2), Danny Gardiner (0-1); Tommy Dixon (1-6, 1-4 frees, 0-1 '65), Brendan Halpin (0-3), Richard Farrell (capt., 0-1); Stephen O'Rafferty, Eoin Cullen, Donal Kavanagh. Subs. - Liam Condren for Fogarty (44), Daniel Kennedy for Kavanagh (52).
Referee: Paul Browne (Clonee).