Carlsberg don’t do comebacks - but even if they did they’d find it hard to top the Rower-Inistioge’s efforts!
The 2013 intermediate county champions made it two wins from two in the senior hurling league, putting together an incredible rally to catch and overtake James Stephens at a gusty Gowran on Sunday evening.
“There’s great resilience in that team,” said Rower selector Robbie Hennessy. “They might have looked in trouble early on, but they stuck to their task.
“They’ve done that for us all year,” he added. “The team deserved that win.”
Having trailed at one stage by nine points (1-14 to 1-5), the Rower hit back with an unanswered 1-8 in the last 20 minutes to shock their opponents and charge to the top of the table.
Little by little they ate into the deficit, Michael Grace (0-2 frees, 65) and the busy Tom Murphy snapping up points, but it was after the game ticked into the final quarter that the Rower really stepped up the pace.
Having hunted for goals earlier on - netminder Gavin Costigan denied Sean Grace, while a Luke Hickey block did the same to Michael Grace’s shot - they hit the jackpot with seven minutes to play.
Launching a free from his own half, Michael Grace dropped the sliotar into the Village danger zone. A sea of hurleys challenged for the dropping ball, Sean Grace and Tom Murphy among them, but it was Conor Joyce who got the final touch.
If the Village were reeling then, they were left rocking when a Grace free was followed by a fine point from the left by Ciaran Ryan, levelling the game with three to play (2-11 to 1-14).
The game was anything but this close in the opening half as James Stephens exploded from the blocks. Backed by a strong wind, blowing downfield from the dressing-room end, they could do little wrong in the opening half.
Ben Lahart gave them a dream start, picking off Jack McGrath’s booming free and rifling the sliotar past Liam Tierney with just 40 seconds on the clock.
They quickly built on that goal, Eoin Larkin (3), Ger Flood (2), David Walton and Conor Browne all hitting the mark to leave their side nine points to the good after just 13 minutes (1-7 to 0-1).
It was a stiff challenge for the Rower to reply to, but Conor Lyng led the charge. He sent one free whistling over the crossbar, making amends when he drilled another close-range effort past six Village men stationed on the goal line in the 22nd minute.
That was a lifeline, but with more Larkin points it was ’Stephens who had the comfort of a six-point lead at the break (1-9 to 1-3).
Although the Rower had the breeze in the second half, the Village grabbed the points. In a neat burst Walton (3) and Larkin (2) rattled off a series of points that stretched the gap to nine again, but the Rower revival soon flattened their efforts.
The wind was in the Rower’s sails in that last quarter, and they finished with a flourish. Michael Grace capped a fine performance by converting a 58th minute free from his own half.
That was enough to give the Rower the lead for the first time. Ciaran Ryan made sure they held on to it, harrying his man to retrieve a long Darragh Joyce clearance and shooting the insurance score to cap a memorable win.
SCORERS: Rower-Inistioge - Conor Joyce (2-1, 1-1 frees), Michael Grace (0-7, 0-5 frees, 0-1 65), Ciaran Ryan (0-3), Tom Murphy (0-2). James Stephens - Eoin Larkin (0-7, 0-6 frees); David Walton (0-4), Ben Lahart (1-0), Ger Flood (0-2).
Rower-Inistioge - Liam Tierney, Eoin Doyle, Sean Cummins, James Doyle, Ruairi Galavan, Kieran Joyce, Tommy Grace, Sean Lyster, Joe Lyng, Michael Grace, Sean Grace, Ciaran Ryan, Conor Joyce, Tom Murphy, Padraig Tierney. Sub: Darragh Joyce for P. Tierney, 40 mins.
James Stephens - Gavin Costigan, John Comerford, Tomas Keogh, Luke Hickey, Harry Wallace, Jackie Tyrrell, Jack McGrath, David Hennessy, Eamon Sheehy, David Walton, Ger Flood, Eoin Larkin, Conor Browne, Diarmuid Cody, Ben Lahart. Subs: Richie Hayes for Cody, 40 mins; Niall McQuillan for Wallace, 55 mins.
Referee - Ray Byrne (Glenmore).