STRENGTH in attack and defence - at very different times - provided Danesfort with the power to make the promised land of senior hurling.
The ’Fort showed both qualities in equal measure as they overturned the Rower-Inistioge to end an 80-year wait for the intermediate hurling championship spoils.
Labelled as strong in attack, Danesfort really showed their firepower when they rattled off two goals in as many minutes to take a big lead.
They also had to show good work at the back when forced to play the final quarter with 14 men. Despite the additional pressure exerted by the Rower, Danesfort’s steel at the back saw them hold firm.
While county finals are often tense at the start, it was Danesfort’s blistering early attack which saw them gain a foothold (which they would never relinquish) in Nowlan Park on Sunday.
Started on their way by a Richie Hogan 65, Hogan’s next move helped his team into pole position. Picking off Tony Woodcock’s sixth minute crossfield ball, the Danesfort captain left his marker for dead as he sped towards the O’Loughlin End posts, pausing only to rattle a low shot across Liam Tierney and inside the keeper’s left post.
A point from brother Paddy, a booming score from inside his own 65m line, pushed the advantage out to four points within a matter of seconds.
Then, in the seventh minute, they had the green flag flying high again.
Their second major strike was a scrappier affair, but the ’Fort didn’t care about that. Working well to fight for a loose ball, Robbie Walsh emerged from a cluster of players with possession, then dashed in to fire home a low drive.
Seven points down after as many minutes, it wouldn’t have been a big shock had Rower heads been left spinning by that swift salvo. They did stage a comeback, with three Paul Sheehan frees in succession bringing them a little closer to the leaders, but a Richie Hogan 65 left five between the sides at the end of the opening quarter (2-3 to 0-4).
The Rower needed a big score to really force their way back into the reckoning, but found it to be just beyond their reach. They had a great chance when, on 16 minutes, full-forward Conor Joyce drew his marker Ciaran Treacy out and created space in front of the target.
Paul Sheehan saw the gap and delivered a cross which was inch-perfect for Sean Grace, but his batted attempt scorched past the outside of the left post when a goal seemed certain.
A relieved Danesfort went back on the offensive after that, pushing further ahead thanks to two lengthy Paddy Hogan frees - both were converted from well inside his own 65m line - before a like score from closer range by captain Richie made it a seven-point game with normal time running out.
Again the Rower battled back, but that early two-goal blitz would prove costly. Although Sean Grace grabbed a point from play - an inspirational score, picked off while off-balance - even with the big target of Conor Joyce at full-forward the Rower they found Danesfort tough to break down.
Despite the best efforts of midfielder Kieran Joyce they got just one more score before the interval. Paul Sheehan sniped his fifth free of the half, just enough to leave his side chasing a five-point gap (2-6 to 0-7).
Although backed by the breeze it took the Rower some time to find their scoring form in the second half.
Admittedly, they tried to use the towering presence of Conor Joyce to their effect, but with his new marker Paul Murphy - resited after original full-back Ciaran Treacy was replaced after picking up a yellow card in the first half - shackling him well scoring chances proved hard to come by.
While the Rower did shave a point off the deficit (a Paul Sheehan free), they couldn’t close the gap even further as their forwards struggled to make an impact against the likes of Tony Woodcock and Oisin Daly, both of whom toiled hard for the leaders.
There were still five points between the teams when Danesfort were reduced to 14 men after Paddy Hogan saw red for an off the ball altercation with Paul Sheehan.
The dismissal centred on a stormy period for the ’Fort, who looked like they were losing their momentum. An injury to Richie Hogan didn’t help, but even though they now had the extra man the Rower failed to make their numerical advantage count.
They were almost knocked out of the running when goalkeeper Liam Tierney conceded a penalty after upending Oisin Daly in the square with seven minutes left on the clock, but the netminder redeemed himself when he stepped out and pushed Hogan’s stinging drive over bar.
That score proved to be the breaking point as far as the Rower were concerned. Two late Robbie Walsh minor scores tipped a fired-up Danesfort towards the Hanrahan Cup and senior status for 2012.
SCORERS: Danesfort - Richie Hogan (1-5, 0-2 frees, 0-2 65s, 0-1 pen); Robbie Walsh (1-2); Paddy Hogan (0-3, 0-2 frees); Oisin Daly (0-1). Rower-Inistioge - Paul Sheehan (8, frees); Sean Grace (0-2); Conor Joyce (0-1).
Danesfort - F. Manogue, P. Walsh, Ciaran Treacy, M. Cunningham, T. Woodcock, P. Hogan, P. Murphy, G. O’Keeffe, B. O’Connor, D. Forristal, S. Duncan, O. Daly, Cillian Treacy, R. Hogan, R. Walsh. Subs: M. McMahon for Ciaran Treacy, 31 mins; P. Forristal for Cillian Treacy, 50 mins.
Rower-Inistioge - L. Tierney, E. Doyle, S. Cummins, J. Doyle, T. Leahy, J. Lyng, D. Lyng, M. Moore, K. Joyce, S. Grace, J. Cashin, R. Galavan, M. Grace, C. Joyce, P. Sheehan. Subs: P. Grace for Galavan, 49 mins; P. Tierney for Moore, 56 mins.
Referee - G. Quilty (Slieverue).