Rapps look the part
Rapparees 1-25 Rathnure 2-15
The Rapparees are really a challenger. They proved that and more as they brushed aside Rathnure to book their semi-final spot in the Pettitt's Senior hurling championship in Innovate Wexford Park on Sunday.
This was quite some performance. One might expect a blood and guts, rip-roaring push to propel a perennial also-ran to greater glories. That's the incredible thing about this Rapparees showing, as it wasn't like that at all.
There was an incredible juxtaposition between the play of the rearguard and the darting attack of the Bellefield boys. In defence it was so confident, almost casual. Nothing seemed to faze the victors, it was remarkable.
The confidence to flick and tap 20-yard passes between flailing Rathnure forwards usually only comes from wins, big wins. Maybe that's what the victory over St. Martin's gave this side, as above everything else they played with great confidence.
That laid-back play spread through the team, infecting every member. Who was the most impressive Rapps man? It had to be Ricky Fox.
And where did the deft touches come from? RickyFox was the conductor of this dismantling from centre-back.
While the defence sauntered in and out of pressure like hovering ghosts, the attack played in nips and bursts. Five-yard dash, five-yard dash, five-yard dash; time after time that quick acceleration created the yard of space that was needed, and points followed, 25 of them.
The big question is how will this translate against Oulart-The Ballagh in the semi-final? They can probably play out from the back in the same way but will that space be consistently manufactured in the attacking third? Time will tell, but it will be fascinating.
Rathnure didn't look particularly good in this tie but they weren't allowed to play. After flying through the group stages this will be a massive disappointment but it's clear, after last weekend, that they aren't as complete a team as several others in the championship.
Against the slight breeze, Rapparees dominated from the early on. They built a 0-10 to 0-3 lead on the back of five Tomás Mahon points, but a brace from Jack Guiney, including one from his own '45, cut the deficit to five.
In the 25th minute the Rapps made a statement. Richie Farrell was the instigator, breaking from near midfield before splitting the Rathnure rearguard open. Under pressure he flipped the ball off to Mahon, loitering on his left, and the experienced full-forward whipped it to the net.
The last few minutes of the half gave a large but solemn crowd some hope for an interesting second-half. Brendan O'Leary, Cathal O'Connor and Michael Redmond all hit the target, meaning, despite Jack Kelly's late point, they trailed by five at the interval (1-11 to 0-9).
Rathnure needed the big start to the second-half but they came out a little flat. Rapparees, on the other hand, were intent on running up their advantage.
Kevin Foley flighted over a quality score in a spell of four in a row while Darragh Pepper gave an indication of what was to come with his first.
At least one goal was clearly going to be needed to get Rathnure back into the tie and they almost managed to get it in the 43rd minute. Rory Higgins did great work to get the ball to Shane Lawlor in prime position ten metres from goal but his two shots were blocked by defenders' limbs.
Pepper's fourth point in 17 minutes left his side 1-20 to 0-15 ahead with just seven left. Just over 60 seconds later, almost from nowhere, Rathnure pillaged a goal back when Ciarán O'Connor rattled the net after brother Cathal was blocked out in the build-up.
The reaction to conceded the goal might have been the most impressive thing Rapparees did all evening. They scored four points in three minutes, with Mahon (three) and Pepper on target to end any lingering Rathnure hope.
Deep into added-time Shane Lawlor did get away on the right of goal and drove a rasping shot past Eamonn Furlong in the Rapps goal, but there was no tarnishing a fine win for the Enniscorthy club as they advanced to face Oulart-The Ballagh.
Rapparees: Eamonn Furlong; Ben Edwards, Tom Wall, Dillon Redmond; James Peare, Ricky Fox, Jack Kelly (0-1); Kevin Foley (0-3), Anthony Roche (0-1); Richie Farrell (0-2), Liam Ryan, Kevin Ryan; Darragh Pepper (0-5), Tomás Mahon (1-10, 0-8 frees), Ryan Mahon (0-2). Subs. - Brendan Kearney for K. Ryan (59), Ed Tobin (0-1) for Farrell (60+2).
Rathnure: Dermot Flynn; Denis Maher, Brian Quigley, Declan Foley; Paddy Whiteley, Aidan Redmond, Antony O'Connell; Richie Flynn, Eoin Boggan; Shane Lawlor (1-1), James Tobin, Michael Redmond (0-2); Ciarán O'Connor (1-2), Jack Guiney (0-7, 4 frees, 2 '65s), Brendan O'Leary (0-1). Subs. - Cathal O'Connor (0-1) for Tobin (23), Podge Doyle for A. Redmond (31), Rory Higgins (0-1) for R. Flynn (37).
Referee: James Owens (Askamore).