A STRONG finish, built on an impressive start, proved to be the trick as the junior hurlers of Barrow Rangers (Paulstown) got their hands on the Paddy Cahill Cup, writes Trevor Spillane.
That said, they were pressed hard for the silverware as John Lockes (Callan) came from out of nowhere and went within a whisker of taking charge of a topsy-turvy game at sunny Palmerstown on Sunday evening.
Having trailed by nine points at half-time (1-10 to 0-4), it looked like being one of those nights for Callan when Cathal English rattled their net within seconds of the restart, pushing the gap out to a dozen.
At that stage the odds were against the ’Lockes but they gamely rallied. Shane Bergin hit the perfect riposte to the English goal, drilling a first-time strike to the net following a bustling solo run from sub Ger Shelley. Two points from John O’Neill, the first a mammoth effort from inside his own half, cancelled out two Dermot Maher frees for Rangers, before Bergin plundered another goal on 48 minutes.
There was a touch of good fortune about this one, as goalkeeper Ian Holden came out to no man’s land to collect a dropping ball and came away with nothing. Bergin pounced, rifling the sliotar to an unguarded net.
While Rangers were stuck in neutral the ’Lockes stepped up another gear minutes later. Ger Shelley profited from some more indecisiveness, latching on to a half-cleared ball on the edge of the square. His first shot was saved, but Shelley’s perseverance paid off when he swatted home at the second attempt.
That goal was followed by a point from Shane Bergin. All of a sudden, Callan were left facing a two-point hill rather than a 12-point mountain to climb (2-12 to 3-7).
The first half was a different matter for Rangers, who took a grip on the game and didn’t want to let go. By the 20th minute they had flown into a 10-point lead, thanks to Dermot Maher’s accuracy from placed balls (three frees and a 65), some bustling play from Cathal Kenny (0-2) and the busy Martin Bambrick in midfield.
They were no slouches in the full-forward line either. Billy Hanlon and Cathal English combined strong fielding with swift running. Hanlon showed both when he picked off Cathal Kenny’s 17th minute pass and worked it across for English to pick his spot in the back of the Callan net.
A depleted ’Lockes side struggled to find their rhythm in the opening 30 minutes. Urged on by John O’Neill (0-2) and Brian McCann (0-1) they managed a charge before the break, but looked to be chasing a lost cause (1-10 to 0-4).
It was all change in the second half as the Callan game kicked into action. Rangers were in danger of being overtaken as, heading into the final seven minutes, their lead had been cut to two points. Sensing the nerves Cathal English helped settle his side, splitting the road end posts with a fine point struck on the run.
The game was still in the balance, but the Barrow boys were about to take a big step towards the title. Catching Cathal Kenny’s lofted ball, Sean Murphy threaded a clever hand-pass to Billy Hanlon, who made no mistake from close range.
The goal all but ended Callan’s resistance, but top scorer Maher posted two late points to make sure of victory.
Barrow Rangers - Ian Holden, Tom Brennan, John Kealy, Ciaran Breen, Ciaran Brennan, Eddie Prendergast, Ciaran Doyle, Martin Bambrick, Tomas Brennan, James Holden (0-1), Cathal Kenny (0-3), Dermot Maher (0-10, 0-7 frees, 0-1 65), Billy Hanlon (1-0), Cathal English (2-1), Sean Murphy.
John Lockes - David McCormack, Keith Doheny, Jack McDowell, Liam Kennedy, Eoghan Fahey, Paddy Kennedy, Mark Nolan, Bill McDowell, Jim Power, Josh Haines, John O’Neill (0-4, 0-3 frees), Rory Kennedy, Brian McCann (0-1), Shane Bergin (2-1), Bill McCormack (0-1). Subs: Ryan Bergin, Ger Shelley (1-0), Tony Delaney.
Referee - Pat Hayes (Graigue-Ballycallan).