Having an attacking force in your team and knowing when to use them are very different, but the Rower-Inistioge have it all under control.
The South Kilkenny side picked the perfect time to step on the gas and did just that as they raced their way into the intermediate hurling county final.
One of the front-runners for the championship, Inistioge rattled off a burst of 2-6 around the half-time break to burst the bubble of St Patrick’s (Ballyragget) at Nowlan Park on Sunday.
“We ground out a very good second half,” said a happy Rower manager Ger Morrissey after the final whistle.
“Both teams know each other very well - we went to a replay this time last year and came out on the wrong side of it (St Patrick’s won 2-11 to 0-14) so lads felt they owed themselves a little more than that.
“We got the break in the second half,” he added. “Getting a goal is fine, but to build a point on it gave us breathing space and forced their hand, but up to that stage it could have gone either way.
“Ballyragget have been like a bogey team to us for the last while,” he continued. “They are a very good team, a side you’d aspire to be like in terms of their skill level, but I felt we wanted it more this time.”
The desire to get into the final bubbled to the surface at a time when the Rower’s resolve was tested.
While both sides took their time to settle, it looked like Ballyragget would take control of the game five minutes from the interval when Michael Brennan cleaned the ball from a cluster of players and dashed in to drill the sliotar into the top right corner of the City End net.
That pushed the Saints three clear (1-4 to 0-4), but their charge was halted almost as quickly as it began. The Rower took the sting out of that goal, sub Padraig Tierney firing a snappy point. They went one better with their next attack, David Lyng jabbing the sliotar on for Cathal Bolger to collect and rattle the net with 29 minutes on the clock.
Spurred on by that goal, Inistioge made it a two-point game in injury-time thanks to Michael Grace’s free (1-6 to 1-4) but better was to follow.
Led by their captain Grace (0-2) Inistioge picked off three speedy points in a matter of minutes, a burst which was copper-fastened when Conor Joyce latched on to a high ball in the 36th minute and teed up David Lyng to blast the sliotar past Michael Gannon.
Ballyragget were reeling, but the Rower weren’t finished. Grace helped himself to another point within a matter of seconds, ending a nine-minute spell which yielded 2-6 - it was awesome!
Although billed as a battle of two championship favourites, this semi-final was a something of a slow-burner. The Rower took 13 minutes to open their account; St Patrick’s only fared a little better, picking up two points thanks to Kevin Kelly (free) and Joe Brennan.
The game gathered pace after that, importantly so for the Rower once Ciaran Ryan landed that opening point from midfield. Although they mined a few more via Sean Grace and Cathal Bolger St Patrick’s managed to keep their noses in front thanks to Joe Brennan (2), who was beginning to find room to make a nuisance of himself.
The game seemed to take a good turn for Ballyragget once Michael Brennan found the net but they were rocked when the Rower embarked on that devastating scoring run. Although they had gone three points up with that goal, within 10 minutes the Saints were on the wrong side of a 12-point swing (2-10 to 1-4).
To their credit Ballyragget fought hard to get back into the game after that. Even though they were left facing into a nine-point deficit the Saints had time on their side and made good use of it, scrapping their way back into the reckoning.
Kevin Kelly led the charge, raising his side’s spirits with two quick points to take some of the sting out of Rower’s scoring burst. Michael Brennan followed suit, keeping his side ticking over when he raised another white flag in the 40th minute, while Kelly’s second free meant Pat’s had helped themselves to four points on the trot.
That left five between the sides with a quarter of the game to play (2-10 to 1-8), but any hopes St Patrick’s had of getting back into the game were quashed when the Rower slammed the door shut.
Cathal Bolger ended the one-way traffic when he helped himself to another point. That put the Rower back on the front-foot, but they had to rely on their defence to help keep them there. Netminder Liam Tierney earned his keep with a fine stop to deny the marauding sub Conor Delaney a 47th minute goal.
Kieran Joyce also came to his side’s rescue from the second wave of attack, blocking Eoghan Bergin’s follow-up shot. The save became doubly important as Inistioge stormed their way downfield, Bolger working play on to sub Padraig Tierney to split the posts.
The Rower were close to booking their second final appearance in three years, closer still when Michael Grace helped himself to two more points as the closing stages loomed. To their credit Ballyragget refused to buckle; led by Kevin Kelly they sniped a further 1-1 off the deficit, Kelly hammering home a 58th minute penalty, but it was too little too late.
SCORERS: Rower-Inistioge - Cathal Bolger (1-4); Michael Grace (0-6, 0-3 frees); David Lyng (1-0); Padraig Tierney (0-2); Sean Grace, Ciaran Ryan (0-1 each). St Patrick’s - Kevin Kelly (1-5, 1-0 pen, 0-2 frees), Michael Brennan (1-1), Joe Brennan (0-3).
Rower-Inistioge - Liam Tierney, Eoin Doyle, Sean Cummins, James Doyle, Ruairi Galavan, Kieran Joyce, Sean Lyster, Sean Grace, Ciaran Ryan, Michael Grace, David Lyng, James Cassin, Cathal Bolger, Tom Murphy, Conor Joyce. Subs: Padraig Tierney for Cassin, 18 mins; Paul Sheehan for Murphy, 56 mins.
St Patrick’s - Michael Gannon, Paddy Cahill, Stephen Staunton, John Mooney, James Gannon, Kieran Delaney, Bill Staunton, Brian ‘Brooky’ Phelan, Geoffrey Brennan, Barry Staunton, Seoirse Kenny, Kevin Kelly, Joe Brennan, Eoghan Bergin, Michael Brennan. Subs: Robbie Healy for Cahill, 28 mins; Conor Delaney for Kenny, 43 mins; Jody Phelan for Bill Staunton, 53 mins; Sean Mooney for J. Gannon, 60 mins.
Referee - Pat Dunphy (Carrigeen).