THEY would be regarded as one of Kilkenny’s most respected clubs, and one with a huge and fascinating history, yet the Rower-Inistioge will be contesting their first county intermediate hurling championship final in two weeks time.
The Rower earned their place in the final, and the chance to regain the senior status they lost in 1987, when they got the better of St Lachtain’s (Freshford) in a thrilling semi-final at rain soaked Nowlan Park on Saturday.
Bearing in mind the huge amount of rain that had cascaded on to the pitch over the previous 24 hours, Nowlan Park was in brilliant condition. The wet and soggy conditions, however, made the game no less entertaining for the large number of supporters who packed the stands because the two teams gave everything they had in pursuit of victory.
Corner-forward Paul Sheehan got the Rower off to a flying start when he pointed following a foul on Kieran Joyce. Michael Grace then shot his first of five when he pointed after a mazy run left him free to slot over. Grace got his second a minute later when his quick feet allowed him to stay inside the boundaries before pointing.
Ruari Galavan got his first point after good support play by the Inistioge forwards. Mark Moore, named at full-back but playing at midfield, took the Rower’s fifth point in-a-row to extend the lead to five points.
John Fitzpatrick registered the Freshford side’s first point when his shot nearly ended up in the Inistioge goal, but instead skinned the top of the bar after ’keeper Liam Tierney rushed his effort. Tierney again was called into action a minute later when he made a great double save from Bill Beckett and then Fitzpatrick before Noel McGree shot over the resulting break over the bar.
Beckett pointed his first free before Tierney was yet again forced to step in and save Inistioge, again against a John Fitzpatrick attempt. Beckett pointed the resulting 65 before James Cashin broke through the middle and shot straight over the bar.
Beckett pointed again before Michael Grace got his third of the game, making use of his lightning pace to make space before shooting over. Beckett and Sheehan traded frees to leave the half-time score in the Rowers favour, 0-8 to 0-7.
Beckett and Grace were both looking dangerous for their respective teams, while both centre-backs, Brian Kennedy and Joe Lyng were dominating their areas.
Eoin Guinan pointed a 20-metre free before Michael Farrell pointed to put St Lachtain’s into the lead for the first time. Mark Moore quickly scrubbed that lead when he drilled over his second point a minute later.
Kept their nerve
Galavan and Grace both pointed again to push the Rower ahead by two before Bill Beckett converted his fourth free to reduce the deficit to the minimum. Sheehan pointed from a placed effort before Eoin Guinan burst through the heart of the Rower defence to shoot an easy point for the Freshford man.
The Rower kept their nerve. Michael Grace tapped over his fifth point from play before full-forward Conor Joyce pointed after winning a high dropping ball against full-back Seamus Hayes. Beckett shot over two more points as the drama unfolded. The gap was down to the narrowest of margins with 60 minutes showing on the clock.
Eoin Guinan broke through the Rower defence again, but his rocket of a shot at goal was saved by dependable ’keeper Tierney. Paul Sheehan then shot over his fourth point to leave the final score with two to the advantage of the Rower.
The action throughout was skilful and gripping, and the conclusion was nail-biting as St Lachtain’s threw everything and everyone forward in a bid to save the day. The Rower celebrated wildly. They know the pain of losing semi-finals, have been beaten three times in recent times.
Now they have the chance to do the double, having won the League title a few weeks ago.
Scorers: Rower-Inistioge - Michael Grace (0-5); Paul Sheehan (0-4, frees); Mark Moore, Ruari Galavan (0-2 each); James Cashin, Conor Joyce (0-1 each). St Lachtain’s - Bill Beckett (0-8, five frees, two 65s’); Eoin Guinan (0-2, one free); John Fitzpatrick, Michael Farrell, Noel McGree (0-1 each).
Rower-Inistioge - Liam Tierney, Eoin Doyle, Mark Moore, James Doyle, Tadgh Leahy, Sean Cummins, David Lyng, Joe Lyng, Kieran Joyce, Sean Grace, James Cashin, Ruari Galavan, Michael Grace, Conor Joyce, Paul Sheehan.
St Lachtain’s - James Meagher, Michael Kavanagh, Seamus Hayes, Tomas Flynn, Michael Cormack, Brian Kennedy, Paul Mullan, Noel McGree, Noel Hickey, Bill Beckett, Davy Brennan, Michael Farrell, John Fitzpatrick, Eoin Guinan, Barry Hughes. Subs - Robbie Dowling, Steven Farrell, Paul Guinan.