Rampant Rapps retain title
RAPPAREES NAOMH EANNA
NAOMH EANNA felt the full force of a strong Rapparees backlash in Wexford Park on Sunday last as the Enniscorthy lads cruised to an impressive second successive Minor hurling Division 1 championship title.
Seven days earlier the Starlights had flopped at the same venue in the corresponding football decider, and this was probably the worst thing that could have happened from a Gorey point of view as they came up against a fired-up group of players hell-bent on a better result.
From early on it was clear that Rapparees were the superior force, always shaping up as likely winners before a 42nd-minute goal from wing-forward Kevin Ryan stretched their lead to eight points and ensured that there would be no need for a repeat of last year's final heroics against Faythe Harriers when a late comeback sealed success for the Cathedral town outfit.
While Naomh Eanna had impressive performers in David Kennedy, Eoin Conroy, Fionn Doyle and Ben Egan in particular, they lacked the overall balance of their rivals who had a particularly dangerous full-forward line and a stronger midfield pairing. In addition, Liam Ryan was quietly effective early on when pitted against dangerman Conor McDonald on the edge of the square, while Dale Galway gave the Gorey number 14 little scope either when he moved to centre-forward.
Kevin Foley posed a constant threat on the edge of the square for the holders, and he tapped over a free after 48 seconds before setting up the lively Neil McCrea for the first of his three points from play.
While Conor McDonald got Naomh Eanna off the mark in the eighth minute, the Rapps responded with three scores on the trot from Darragh Pepper, Kevin Foley and the latter again from a free (0-5 to 0-1).
Ben Egan, who moved out from corner-forward to create more space inside, pulled back a point before Conor McDonald sent two difficult frees, one from either side of the field, wide.
An off the ball foul on Kevin Foley yielded the sixth Rapps point and also prompted the Gorey mentors to switch central defenders Seán Doyle and Eoin Conroy, with Neil McCrea stretching the gap to five before the talented David Kennedy knocked over a brace of frees at the other end (0-7 to 0-4).
However, the Rapps had the last two points of the half courtesy of a Kevin Ryan '65 and Fionn Carty, and they hammered home that advantage on the re-start when Anthony Roche ensured that all six forwards had got on the scoresheet after a mere 38 seconds.
A Seánie O'Gorman free increased the lead to seven points before Gorey had their last bright spell, hitting three points in less than six minutes from Fergal Bolger, David Kennedy (free) and Conor McDonald with just one response from a Kevin Foley placed ball (0-12 to 0-7).
The decisive first Rapps goal arrived in the 42nd minute when Kevin Foley found Seánie O'Gorman with a lovely crossfield ball and the team captain offloaded to Kevin Ryan, making a strong run off his shoulder, with Darragh Hughes having no chance of stopping the number ten's shot (1-12 to 0-7).
Points from Foley (free) and a superb effort from Kevin Ryan off the sideline really knocked the stuffing out of the north county side, although David Kennedy (free) and substitute Aodhán Doyle did manage points in reply before Fionn Carty's welltaken goal in the 52nd minute left the Rapps coasting and in a position to empty their bench (2-14 to 0-9).
Neil McCrea and Kevin Foley (free) added points before the end, with Brian Sunderland raising a white flag for the outclassed losers while Conor McDonald somehow managed to beat the nine players on the line to grab a consolation goal from a free with the last puck of the game.
Seánie O'Gorman, the Rapparees captain, was presented with the cup by Martin Storey, the county Minor hurling manager, in the company of Des O'Neill, Coiste na nOg Loch Garman Chairman.