Monday 22 January 2018

Wexford links to Rathnure loss

Boss Carley and defender Travers beat familiar foes

Alan Aherne in Portlaoise

The Rathnure squad prior to Saturday's Leinster League final defeat in Portlaoise
The Rathnure squad prior to Saturday's Leinster League final defeat in Portlaoise
A disappointed James Flynn after the final whistle
Nineteen-month-old Emmie O'Leary, whose father, Brendan, lined out at full-back for Rathnure, in playful mood before the game
Robbie Codd comes under pressure from Mike Clifford

A strong Wexford presence on the winning side will serve as scant consolation to Rathnure after they were comprehensively defeated by Ballyboden St. Enda's in the Leinster Club hurling league Division 1 final in O'Moore Park, Portlaoise, on Saturday.

Leinster Club Hurling League Division 1 Final B'Boden St. Enda's 2-18 Rathnure 1-11

Paul Carley of Glynn-Barntown managed the Dubliners to a merited victory, while one of his team-mates from our last provincial championship success in 2004, Malachy Travers, is still going strong at left corner-back.

Indeed, it was akin to a reunion from those glory days of twelve years ago as the then Wexford manager, John Conran, was a mentor for Rathnure along with Mick O'Leary who was a member of that squad along with two of the losers' full-back line on Saturday, Mick's brother Brendan and Antony O'Connell.

The black and ambers have started their season on a promising note with a brace of championship wins, but they went into battle on this occasion without their top scorers, Jack Guiney and Ciarán O'Connor. Regular goalkeeper Dermot Flynn plus corner-back Denis Maher were other notable absentees, but it must be remembered that Ballyboden were denied the services of a half dozen performers who were on the Dublin squad for the second game of this double-header.

This league served its purpose for both clubs in providing additional preparatory games early in the season, and there won't be any tears shed over Rathnure's failure to collect the title for the second time after their 2007 triumph over keen rivals Buffers Alley.

All the outcome underlines is the fact that Ballyboden - previous victors of this league in 2010 and 2013 - have greater strength in depth than the Blackstairs men at this point in time.

Rathnure had qualified for the final after a group draw with Mount Leinster Rangers (1-14 to 0-17) was followed by a 1-18 to 0-17 victory over Bennettsbridge. A walkover eased their passage in the quarter-final before they pipped Borris-in-Ossory/Kilcotton by 1-20 to 2-16 in the penultimate round.

Buffers Alley were among Ballyboden's four victims (1-24 to 2-12) along with Kilkenny trio Tullaroan, St. Patrick's and Clara, with a group loss to Camross of Laois also thrown into the mix.

Opposing centre-forwards Conor McCormack and Rory Higgins exchanged early points before Simon Lambert (free) and team captain Dean Curren pushed the city side into a 0-3 to 0-1 lead after six minutes.

And while the contest remained tight for a long stretch of the first-half, the final wides count will tell readers everything they need to know about this encounter. Rathnure ended with 18, including ten before the break, while the corresponding Ballyboden figures were two and six for a total of eight.

A good long-range point from centre-back Brian Quigley was one of the few scoring highlights for his side before former Dublin Senior reserve goalkeeper Finn McGarry made it 0-4 to 0-2 from his midfield berth for the blue and whites in the eighth minute.

Rathnure had a chance to take the lead for the first time when Robbie Codd was held as he tried to latch on to an Alan Ronan delivery, but Richie Flynn directed his penalty straight at netminder Keith Robinson and it was easily saved.

That miss arrived in the eleventh minute and it was followed by two instances of a Ballyboden point drawing a swift response, with a Finn McGarry effort cancelled out by Paddy Whiteley before substitute Matty Weldon saw his strike matched by Robbie Codd with a one-handed swing after catching a Michael Redmond centre (0-6 to 0-4).

Ronan Cleary widened the gap to three before Rathnure drew level with a goal in the 19th minute. Brian Quigley's probing ball saw Codd just beat familiar foe Malachy Travers to the chase, and his pulled cross was met on the ground by Richie Flynn who fired it first-time into the corner of the net (1-4 to 0-7).

Points followed from Quigley ('65) and Flynn (free) as Rathnure eased ahead for the first time, but it was shortlived. Simon Lambert pulled one back from a placed ball before he linked up with former Dublin colleague Conor McCormack to equalise.

A Lambert '65 then restored the Ballyboden lead before they pounced for a vital goal in the 29th minute. David O'Connor seemed to have run out of space and ideas as he met a brick wall of defenders after a threatening run, but he managed to pick out McCormack who fired across Seán Nolan into the far corner of the net.

Richie Flynn pulled a point back from a '65 before the break, but those mounting wides ensured that Rathnure went in at half-time trailing by 1-10 to 1-7. Various moves had been tried to improve the accuracy, with the Redmonds swapping wings, Shane Lawlor going out to the '40 with Rory Higgins moving inside, and Antony O'Connell spending some time at midfield after switching with Alan Ronan.

However, seven different Rathnure players posted wides before the break, and the shooting didn't improve to any major degree when the action resumed.

Ballyboden outscored their rivals by 0-5 to 0-2 in the third quarter and generally looked quite comfortable. Early efforts from Simon Lambert and David O'Connor drew immediate responses, first from Shane Lawlor and then from free-taker Richie Flynn.

Brendan O'Leary made a good block to deny O'Connor a shot at goal before Lawlor saw a weak effort saved comfortably at the other end less than 20 seconds later.

Corner-back James Flynn played a large part in denying substitute Cian Hiney a green flag, but the replacement scored the last of three unanswered points to stretch the gap to six (1-15 to 1-9), with Matty Weldon and Simon Lambert (free) also on target.

Rathnure briefly threatened a revival when Richie Flynn (free) and Antony O'Connell split the posts in the 47th and 48th minutes respectively (1-15 to 1-11).

They didn't score again though, with the outcome put to bed just over 30 seconds after the latter score when a Ronan Cleary pass found Simon Lambert who showed his years of previous inter-county experience with a neat finish to the net from a tight angle in the right corner.

Lambert (free), Cian Hiney and Finn McGarry added late points for the winners as the game petered out to a quiet conclusion, with both sides making late double substitutions.

Now it will be back to the more important matter of getting at least one additional win which ought to secure a quarter-final spot for Rathnure whenever the domestic championship resumes.

Rathnure: Seán Nolan; James Flynn, Brendan O'Leary, Antony O'Connell (0-1); Pádraig Doyle, Brian Quigley (0-2, 1 '65), Seán O'Neill; Paddy Whiteley (0-1), Alan Ronan; Aidan Redmond, Rory Higgins (0-1), Michael Redmond (capt.); Richie Flynn (1-4, 0-3 frees, 0-1 '65), Robbie Codd (0-1), Shane Lawlor (0-1). Subs. - Fran Murphy for A. Redmond (44), Trevor Hogan for Ronan (44), Chris Redmond for R. Flynn (54), Colin Flynn for Codd (54).

Ballyboden St. Enda's: Keith Robinson; Eoin Small, Mike Clifford, Malachy Travers; Dean Curren (capt., 0-1), David Curtin, Conor Robinson; Finn McGarry (0-3), Adam Jermyn; Niall Ryan, Conor McCormack (1-1), Ronan Cleary (0-1); Austen Lynch, Simon Lambert (1-7, 0-4 frees, 0-1 '65), David O'Connor (0-1). Subs. - Matty Weldon (0-2) for Ryan, inj. (7), Cian Hiney (0-2) for Lynch (41), Ronan Dooley for Jermyn (57), John O'Driscoll for Travers (57).

Referee: Michael O'Sullivan (Kilkenny).

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