This high scoring intermediate hurling league final in Palmerstown on Saturday was a most interesting exercise, writes Barrie Henriques.
In was made so because at times I could not fathom which team wanted to win most. The first half was full of solid determination and good work by a Rower team short of the likes of Sean Cummins, Kieran Joyce and Sean Grace. They felt the loss.
The second half saw the Rower determination being totally dissipated by a lively St Patrick’s (Ballyraggett) outfit that suddenly seemed to realise that they were in a Kilkenny final that was worth winning, and its winning was a distinct possibility for them if they had a mind to do so.
These guys have been made nice progress since winning the Kilkenny and All-Ireland junior titles, and winning the league crown won’t do them any harm.
In the early exchanges, there were an inordinate number of petty fouls committed by both sides. The main beneficiaries of gains from this area were the Rower lads whose first-half take of eight points included six from placed balls.
Three of the five Ballyraggett points total in the same time frame came from placed balls. Free takers were busy, and they made good gains. Both teams know how to find the posts. St Patrick’s found the challenge of breaking down the Rower defence, in particular their full-back line, a more than onerous exercise. It was hard, very hard.
Ruari Galavan and Neil Lyng in particular were most conspicuous in their efforts in stemming the frequency of trouble that came into their manor in the opening 30 minutes or so. James Doyle and Sean Lyster were no less effective as they sought to make the Ballyraggett attackers work very hard for purchase on balls won.
It was not easy for the Rower defenders. It was far less easy for the Ballyraggett attackers. Mind you the St Patrick’s defenders were no slouches either when it came to resistance.
Time and again James Gannon, Kieran Delaney, Geoffrey Brennan and Stephan Staunton stood in the gap as the Rower forwards marauded with venom in their hearts.
At half time the score read: Rower-Inistioge 1-8, St Patrick’s 1-5.
The Rower goal was a smashing - in every sense - solo effort by the powerful David Lyng, who furrowed outfield to collect a ball some 50 yards from the Ballyraggett goal. With head bent, ball on hurley and chest swelling he ripped towards enemy territory.
Smashing through the briars and thickets of the St Patrick’s defence he then hit clear ground shot some 20 metres from Michael Gannon’s goal. His arrow of a shot was not seen by anyone until the ball rebounded from the netting.
It afforded the Rower a 1-7 to 0-4 lead with eight minutes of the first half remaining. However, a shot by Joe Brennan was brilliantly saved by Liam Tierney in the Rower goal, but the ball was slapped home by the superbly brave and alert Steven Roberts on the 28 minute mark.
The second half was dominated by the more determined winners. The Rower Inistioge couldn’t buy a ball in the middle third of the field.
Kevin Kelly fired over three successive points between the 39th and 49th minutes to narrow the advantage to two points. He clattered home a goal in the 53rd minute to grab a lead for the busy, busy winners.
James Cassin doubled a David Lyng free to the net in the 55th minute to restore the Rower advantage, but the Rower cheers had barely tailed off when Joe Brennan slammed home a third St Patrick’s goal.
Two points by Geoff Brennan and a Kevin Kelly free saw the North Kilkenny lads home and hosed.
It was a most interesting game from two sides who have shown most encouraging form during the league campaign. We haven’t seen the last of them in the big arena. There could be more in the season for them.
Scorers: St Patrick’s - Kevin Kelly (1-6, six points frees); Joe Brennan (1-2); Stephen Roberts (1-1); Geoffrey Brennan (0-1). Rower-Inistioge - David Lyng, James Cassin (1-2 each); Paul Sheehan (0-5, frees); Conor Joyce (0-1).
St Patrick’s - Michael Gannon, Paddy Cahill, Stephen Staunton, James Gannon, Robbie Healy, Kieran Delaney, Geoffrey Brennan, Brain ‘Brookie’ Phelan, Bill Staunton, Michael Brennan, Kevin Kelly, Joe Brennan, Stephen Roberts, Eoghan Bergin, Barry Staunton, Subs - Jody Phelan, Seoirse Kenny, John Mooney.
Rower Inistioge - Liam Tierney, Eoin Doyle, James Doyle, Neil Lyng, Richie Ryan, Ruari Galavan, Sean Lyster, Michael Grace, Joe Lyng, Padraig Tierney, David Lyng, James Cassin, Conor Joyce, Tom Murphy, Paul Sheehan. Subs - David Dunphy, Michael Doyle.
Referee - M.O’Sullivan (Shamrocks)