St Patrick’s 1-8
Barrow Rangers 1-6
SAINT Patrick’s were left signing in the rain as they landed their first ever Northern under-21 hurling title on Sunday.
Fresh from their Leinster junior club success the boys from Ballyragget were celebrating again as they edged out Barrow Rangers (Paulstown) at a rain-soaked Canon Kearns Park, Castlecomer in a tense and exciting game.
The biting cold and pelting rain made hurling difficult, but the two sides served up a match that ensured no-one was going for the gate early.
The opening score came in the second minute, when a mis-hit clearance by Richie Doyle was picked up by the ever-alert Kevin Kelly, who slotted over for his first of the game.
Ten minutes of ferocious tackling and slippery conditions passed before Kelly fired over his second point of the game, this time from a free.
Joe Brennan pointed his first shot of the match after a lay-off from Conor Foley saw him free to tap over after 15 minutes. Brennan had started well and was really causing problems for the Paulstown side, never more so than when he danced through the Rangers defence only to be brought down on the 20 yard line, giving Kelly the chance to add an simple score - which he duly obliged.
Kelly shot over his second free a minute later and Patrick’s were suddenly four up and seemingly cruising.
Cathal Kenny responded for Rangers though after 17 minutes when quick passing from Jason Holden allowed him to point. Both their midfielders were on the scoresheet a minute later when Martin Bambrick intercepted a Ballyragget ball and converted it into a point over on the right hand sideline.
Straight from the puck-out, Rangers were on the attack again. A Richie Doyle free found the outstretched hand of target man Thomas Brennan, who stuck the ball over with ease.
Cathal English drew the sides level for the first time after 24 minutes when he shot over a brilliant point on the left hand sideline, using his pace to burn the Ballyragget defence.
With the teams level, St Patrick’s upped the intensity again and grabbed what would prove to be the decisive score two minutes from half-time.
Bill Staunton, now switched to full-forward, created the chance when he played the ball to the inrushing Conor Foley. His shot skimmed over the sodden goal-line. The run continued when Joe Brennan shot his second point after picking up the break from a long Staunton line ball to leave Ballyragget comfortably ahead at the break (1-5 to 0-4).
The Barrow Rangers midfield had dominated over Ballyragget for much of the opening half, but when the Patrick’s delivery line skipped the dynamic duo of Kenny and Bambrick they found scores easier to come by, with Kevin Kelly and Joe Brennan providing most of the finishing.
Rangers started the second half well, grabbing the opening point with a Cathal Kenny free after a foul on Declan Thompson. However, Ballyragget hit back when perfect pass by hawk-eyed Kelly ended with an unmarked Staunton splitting the posts from in front of the target.
Rangers captain Bambrick tacked on his second score of the game from midfield in the 35th minute, but just when it seemed they would gain a foothold in the game they were pegged back by Kevin Kelly’s accurate play. Another Kelly pass found a Pat’s man free to shoot over, this time Joe Brennan who slotted over his third score from play.
The rain was really coming down in sheets but it had no impact of the ferocity of the game. Ciaran Doyle, who was named at right half-back in the starting team but missed out through a hamstring injury, was introduced in the 41st minute but his appearance couldn’t halt the Ballyragget machine. A Bill Staunton pass set corner-forward Conor Bolger up for his first point.
Ciaran Doyle began to work his way into the game and cause problems for St Patrick’s at full forward. While Rangers held the upper hand in attack all their efforts seemed to trail wide.
Rangers were desperately searching for the goal they craved to give them hope. It came in the 57th minute when Richie Doyle dropped in a free from far out. The sliotar squirmed its way through the Ballyragget defence before finding Michael Whitely, who flicked the travelling ball into the net.
Just two points down with three minutes left, Barrow Rangers tried hard to force a winner but Ballyragget refused to yield. Doyle again hit in another long free three minutes into injury-time but his efforts proved fruitless as Michael Brennan caught the ball and was fouled, giving his team time to clear their lines and get their hands on the trophy.
St Patrick’s will have little time to savour their win as they now face reigning Southern and county champions Mooncoin in the county final this weekend in Nowlan Park. The only cause for worry is their habit of conceding late goals in matches. Conceding a goal in the last five minutes of every match on their path to the final may be something that they have to address, but with forwards such as Joe Brennan, Kevin Kelly and Bill Staunton they look a strong bet to topple the reigning champs.
SCORERS: St Patrick’s - Conor Foley (1-0); Joe Brennan (0-3); Kevin Kelly (0-3, 0-2 frees); Bill Staunton, Conor Bolger (0-1 each). Barrow Rangers - Martin Bambrick (0-2); Cathal Kenny (0-2, 0-1 free); Cathal English, Thomas Brennan (0-1 each).
St Patrick’s - Liam Lacey, John Mooney, Steven Staunton, Paddy McEvoy, Brian Mulhall, Geoff Brennan, Robert Healy, James Gannon, James Morrissey, Conor Foley, Bill Staunton, Kevin Kelly, Michael Brennan, Joe Brennan, Conor Bolger.
Barrow Rangers - Damien Barcoe, John Brennan, Kevin Brennan, Sean McDonald, Edward Prendergast, Richie Doyle, Tom Brennan, Cathal Kenny, Martin Bambrick, Michael Whitely, Thomas Whitely, Cathal English, Jason Holden, Thomas Brennan, Declan Thompson. Sub: Ciaran Doyle.
Referee - Ger Rafter (Threecastles).