It took extra-time to separate these well matched sides in a hard fought Leinster vocational schools junior hurling final that went right down to the wire in Nowlan Park on Saturday.
Colaiste Mhuire, Johnstown were facing Laois’s best in St Fergal’s of Rathdowney, and a point from Sean Power in the final minutes of normal play earned the Cats a reprieve and forced the game into extra-time.
It was Mark Kavanagh of Fergal’s who got the scoring underway, shooting over two frees to send his side into an early lead. Niall O’Gorman forced Darren Brennan into a smart save, the ’keeper parrying away his shot. Kavanagh
picked up the rebound and fired over his first from play.
Darren Brennan was instrumental in his side’s next attack, however, launching a free from his own half. The ball dropped dangerously in the Rathdowney goal area. Andrew Morgan was on hand to whip the ball into the net to level the scores.
Mark Kavanagh pointed impressively in response. Lee Cleere added another a minute later to keep Rathdowney ahead by two. Eoin Fitzpatrick tore through the Johnstown defence to send over the score of the game from the shadow of the old stand and Rathdowney were well in control.
Centre-back Liam O’Connell was pulling all the strings, but for all their good hurling they found themselves level once more when Shane Madden let fly on a loose ball to bury it in the net for Johnstown’s second goal. Mark Kavanagh shot over a brace of points before the break, sandwiching an effort from Brian Kavanagh.
Rathdowney were ahead by a single score at half time, leading by 0-8 to 2-1.
Johnstown were much more impressive in the second half. Niall O’Gorman shot over a double early on. Fergal’s were always steady, however. Mark Kavanagh and Colm Fitzpatrick never let their side fall behind.
Nerves of steel
With time up, Sean Power showed nerves of steel when he shot over a point for Johnstown to draw the teams level.
Mark Kavanagh pushed Fergal’s into the lead in the opening minutes of extra-time, but the Rathdowney legs seemed to get tired thereafter.
Johnstown flashed over three unanswered points to clinch the game and title, another honour for another Kilkenny school. This final was a wholly entertaining affair in which some excellent individual displays lit up what was a bitterly cold February day.
The names of Liam O’Connell and Mark Kavanagh are two which will surely be heard about again across the Laois border.
Scorers: Colaiste Mhuire - Sean Power (0-5, 0-3 frees); Niall O’Gorman (0-3); Shane Madden, Andrew Morgan (1-0 each); Brian Kavanagh (0-1). St Fergal’s - Mark Kavanagh (0-8, 0-5 frees); Lee Cleere, Colm Fitzpatrick, Eoin Fitzpatrick, Shane Bowe all (0-1).
Colaiste Mhuire - Darren Brennan, Aaron O’Neill, Darragh Quinn, Cillian Hughes, Paul Coss, Jamie Moriarty, Dean McCann, Jack Saunders, Shane Fitzpatrick, Sean Power, Niall O’Gorman, Liam Dunphy, Shane Madden, Andrew Morgan, Brian Kavanagh. Subs - Justin Cleere, Ciaran Costigan.
St Fergal’s - Philip Bergin, Pat Phelan, Robbie Phelan, Jake Creagh, Jack Kelly, Liam O’Connell, Padraig Fortune, Eoin Fitzpatrick, Colm Fitzpatrick, Finbar Conway, Stephen Phelan, Lee Cleere, Conor Meagher, Shane Bowe, Mark Kavanagh. Subs - Kevin O’Dea, Richard Corrigan, Mark Whelan.