James' stay on path to decider
Defeat for Rathnure seconds
Last season's beaten finalists St. James' are back in the last four of the Top Oil Intermediate 'A' hurling championship after seeing off Rathnure's game second string at Bellefield on Saturday.
St. James' 3-17 Rathnure 2-12
The men in black and amber were behind for most of the game but led briefly midway through the second-half, only to be reeled in and overtaken for good by their strong-finishing opponents who ended the day eight points to the good.
Rathnure signalled early that they would be no pushovers when corner-forward Colin Flynn notched the opening score of the match from a free awarded wide on the right.
However, his opposite number Shane Murphy replied in kind shortly afterwards to trigger a period of domination by the men from Ramsgrange, featuring a goal by Kevin O'Grady.
A good goal it was too, smacked past Seán Nolan and in off the 'keeper's right-hand post after an impressive surge into space by the pacy centre-forward.
With O'Grady running around with purpose, Matthew O'Hanlon fielding the catches in the half-forward line and Shane Murphy a more than merely useful target man on the edge of the square, St. James' looked a decent attacking force.
Though Nigel Higgins sprayed thoughtful passes around the pitch, Rathnure were struggling to keep up and only the free-taking of Colin Flynn could be depended upon for accuracy as the sides turned round with a 1-9 to 0-6 gap between them.
The mountainy men required a good start to the second-half and they had one, with John O'Connor collecting a high ball to claim a goal as their opponents failed to pick up where they had left off.
It was their turn to clock up the wides while Rathnure picked up the points that levelled the score on 45 minutes before a great run by Jason Lawlor ended in the point which put them ahead a minute later.
That turned out to be the high point of their afternoon as St. James' re-discovered their mojo in impressive manner with an unanswered run of 2-2 which emphatically turned the tide.
The first of the two goals came from Alan Walsh, gleefully cashing in as he was left unmarked while Shane Murphy drew the cover.
Then it was Murphy's turn to find the net, sending an explosive shot streaking past the blameless Seán Nolan.
Substitute Colm Byrne was on hand to bundle a rebound past Nolan's opposite number, John McDonald, shortly afterwards and Nigel Higgins also landed a point for Rathnure, but the gap was now too wide to bridge.
Instead the gulf grew as St. James' cantered to the finish line with the benefit of a brace from Murphy, along with points by the always influential midfielder Robbie Barron and the mercurial Alan Walsh.
The Ramsgrange side will now meet Duffry Rovers in the last four.
St. James': John McDonald; Brian Molloy, Jason Barron, Tomás Walsh; Paul Barron, Liam Murphy, David Doyle; Mark Molloy, Robbie Barron (0-1); Donie Barron, Kevin O'Grady (1-5), Matthew O'Hanlon; Alan Walsh (1-3), Shane Murphy (1-6, 0-3 frees), Mark Myler (0-2). Subs. - Graeme Molloy for D. Barron (37), Jack O'Brien for Myler (61).
Rathnure: Seán Nolan; Eoin Byrne, Richard Murphy, Teddy O'Connor; Eoin Higgins, Mick O'Leary, Alan Ronan; Chris Redmond, Stephen Furlong (0-1); Jason Lawlor (0-2, 1 free), Paul Murphy (0-1), Nigel Higgins (0-2); Colin Flynn (0-6 frees), John O'Connor (1-0), Trevor Hogan. Subs. - Billy Conran for P. Murphy (30), Colm Byrne (1-0) for O'Connor (51), Matty Creane for Byrne (57).
Referee: Niall McDonald (Crossabeg-Ballymurn).