Stafford stars as Martin's march on
WING-FORWARD Seán Stafford proved the key man for St. Martin's as he inspired his side's second-half recovery to an eventual two-point victory over Rathnure in this excellent Under-21 hurling Premier championship quarter-final at Piercestown on Bank Holiday Monday.
Very little separated the sides through the opening quarter (0-3 each), but a 19th-minute Jack Guiney goal from a 25-metre free gave his side a 1-3 to 0-3 lead. When Shane Lawlor added a second goal four minutes later the visitors were ahead by 2-4 to 0-3.
St. Martin's were making little headway through this opening spell into the wind, with only Seán Stafford points keeping them in the game. Rathnure were given a further boost four minutes before the break when Lawlor goaled from a Guiney pass which set them up for a 3-4 to 0-5 interval lead.
St. Martin's played with far more fluency on the resumption, with Seán Stafford pointing frees from a variety of angles, while he also made a major contribution in general play, no doubt giving a real nod to the county Minor selectors, as it's quite amazing that a player of this skill and calibre is unable to even make the squad.
At the end of the third quarter Rathnure still led by 3-4 to 0-11. Two minutes later an accurate Stafford free to the fringe of the square was flicked to the net by Philip Waters, giving his side 1-12 to 3-4 lead.
Stafford struck three further pointed frees before Jack Guiney worked his way through for a goal, leaving it 1-15 to 4-4, but St. Martin's went on to secure an impressive victory.
St. Martin's: Luke White; Kevin Meyler, Paddy O'Connor, Evan Dunbar; Alan Murphy, Jack O'Connor (0-3 frees), David Higgins; Jake Firman (0-1), Philip Waters (1-0); Donal Kelly (0-1), Paddy Curran, Seán Stafford (0-11, 9 frees); Mark Hayes, Eoin Rackard (0-1), Tony Kelly. Sub. - Eoin Ennis for Rackard.
Rathnure: Kiall Byrne; Harry Quigley, David Maher, Gary O'Leary; Paudge Doyle, Syl Barron, Matthew Creane; Michael Redmond, Shane Lawlor (2-0); Barry O'Connor, Declan Foley (0-3), Pádraic Westnott; Jason Lawlor, Jack Guiney (2-3, 1-1 frees), Michael Ryan. Subs. - Liam Barron for Ryan, Aodhán Foley for Westnott.
Referee: Brian O'Leary (Crossabeg-Ballymurn).