Good times for the Rower-Inistioge. Three matches; three wins; a place on top of the table and senior status confirmed for another season.
We haven’t yet reached the end of May and the Rower, the All-Ireland club intermediate champions, have already achieved a lot on their return to the senior division after an absence of over a quarter of a century.
Their latest win in the senior hurling league was attained at wet and miserable Thomastown on Sunday.
Like the day, the hurling wasn’t always pretty, but the Rower showed smashing spirit against great hearted Danesfort, who ultimately paid the penalty for making too many unforced errors during the closing half.
The point that got the Rower over the line was landed in the 56th minute by their top scorer, Michael Grace, who earned a free on the ‘50’ shooting into the town end after being hit awkwardly in a tackle.
That score left the ’Fort 2-9 to 2-11 down, and while Richie Hogan popped over a point subsequently after inventive play by Jim Phelan, the county star missed the chance of an equaliser from a 55 metre free in a central position with time almost up.
Such was the luck with the teams on the day. The Rower worked that bit harder, and with a slightly better balance to their team, they just about deserved to scrape over the line ahead.
Things looked really promising for the winners at the start. The game wasn’t even four minutes old when they were already 1-2 to no score ahead. Michael Grace galloped up the right wing before shooting a lovely opening point. Ciaran Ryan placed Conor Joyce for the second one before full-forward, Tom Murphy, fielded a mis-hit shot by the aforementioned Ryan before drilling home a goal from close range.
Wind assisted Danesfort were slow to get any sort of a worthwhile rhythm going. The first quarter brought them a mere three points. The second quarter was better. The returns were just a point better, but they succeeded in putting more pressure on the opposition.
The scores from Richie Hogan (3) and Cathal O’Neill left them a mere 0-7 to 1-5 down at the break, which wasn’t bad going bearing in mind their slow start and the fact they ran up six wides - four decent chances were included.
Within three minutes of the restart the roles were reversed. A quick delivery out of defence by Paul Murphy was missed by a defender at the other end. David Forristal latched on to the loose ball and popped a quick pass forward. Oisin Daly got a metre of space on the last line of defence, and he raced through for a goal.
With the addition of a quick point from David Forristal, the losers suddenly found themselves 1-8 to 1-5 ahead.
Credit to the Rower, they didn’t panic. They simply dug in, and the hugely influential Kieran Joyce, Ruairi Galavan, Tommy Grace, Michael Grace and Tom Murphy all produced their best form of the game to lift the others around them.
After Michael Grace missed a handy enough free from 35 metres in front of the posts, he landed a more dificult one from the left wing to kick start the recovery. A foul on Murphy earned the same player another minor. And in the 42nd minute the Rower plundered a goal, the towering Conor Joyce doubling over head on a delivery from Kieran Joyce to send the ball into the net from the edge of the square (2-7 to 1-8).
The gap went out to four points before a lovely individual goal from Richie Hogan (2-10 to 2-9) set up a nail biting closing five minutes. The Rower hung on, with luck on their side.
Scorers: Rower-Inistioge - Michael Grace (0-8, four points frees); Conor Joyce (1-1); Tom Murphy (1-0); Joe Lyng, Sean Lyster (0-1 each). Danesfort - Richie Hogan (1-4, point free, point 65); Oisin Daly (1-0); Robert Walsh (0-2); Paddy Hogan, Philip Walsh, David Forristal, Cathal O’Neill (0-1 each).
Rower-Inistioge - Liam Tierney, Eoin Doyle, Sean Cummins, James Doyle, Ruairi Galavan, Kieran Joyce, Tommy Grace, Darragh Joyce, Joe Lyng, Michael Grace, Sean Grace, Sean Lyster, Conor Joyce, Tom Murphy, Ciaran Ryan.
Danesfort - Paddy Hickey, Gavin O’Keeffe, Liam Forristal, Michael Cunningham, Tony Woodcock, Paul Murphy, Philip Walsh, Jim Phelan, Darragh Sheehan, David Forristal, Cathal O’Neill, Richie Hogan, Paddy Hogan, Robert Walsh, Oisin Daly. Sub - Cillian Treacy.
Referee - Michael O’Sullivan (Ballyhale Shamrocks).