Dunnamaggin captain, Willie Phelan, shows off the winners trophy Picture: Pat Moore
Kilkenny champions, Dunnamaggin, didn’t play particularly well for long stages, but they found their true touch and best form in the dying stages to roar to victory over defiant Castleblayney (Monaghan) in the All-Ireland club junior hurling final in Croke Park today.
Heading towards the final quarter Castleblayney were going well and looking threatening as they showed 1-12 to 0-8 after their ace striker, Fergal Rafter converted a long range free.
Dunna’ were chasing, both the game and their true form. Things came together for them slowly. Man of the match John and Darren Fitzpatrick snatched points to help fuel the growing Kilkenny effort.
Rafter interrupted the flow of scores to shoot Castleblayney’s last score in the 47th minute (1-13 to 1-10), but it didn’t quell the rising Dunnamaggin drive.
From there to the finish the Noreside champions dominated, in a scoring sense, and seven points without reply earned them the title to make them the eight Kilkenny club to win the championship.
It was a hard-earned victory for Dunnamaggin. Brave Castleblayney pushed them all the way, but once they lost control late in the match the opposition powered through them.
Dunnamaggin didn’t play well during the opening half. They never looked settled, and with their shooting off - they had eight wides during the half - and touch poor also against a team with a real target hitter in free taker, Fergal Rafter, they left themselves open for a big hit.
Things looked promising enough for the Cats when they grabbed a goal in the 11th minute. The Castleblayney goalie shot a short puck-out to full-back, Jim McHugh, on the 20 metre line, but under pressure from Ray Cody the latter lost possession.
John Fitzpatrick picked up the ball and drilled it into the net, and his team into a lead of 1-2 to 0-2. Because of their poor shooting, Dunna’ were unable to extend the advantage.
As the half wore on, Castleblayney grew in confidence and back to back points from Rafter and Hugh Byrne were followed by the equaliser from the free taker in the 28th minute, 1-5 to 0-8.
Within a minute Castleblayney had the ball in the net, Brian McGuigan finishing a lovely move involving Mark Treanor and Hugh Byrne. Before the whistle Dunna’ had a point from a free by Thomas Maher to leave them 1-6 to 1-8 down at half-time.
Dunnamaggin had the opening point of the new half from Ray Cody after only 18 seconds. The opposition hit back through Rafter, and during the following 10 minutes or so the loseers refused to give ground.
Slowly Dunnamaggin got their game flowing, and during the closing 10 minutes or so they looked like the team that had stormed Leinster and performed excellently in the recent All-Ireland semi-final.
SCORERS: Dunnamaggin - Thomas Maher (0-7); John Fitzpatrick (1-3); Ronan Coffey, Ray Cody (0-2 each); Darren Fitzpatrick, Darragh O’Keeffe, Eoghan Kearney (0-1 each). Castleblayney - Fergal Rafter (0-9); Brian McGuigan (1-1); Hugh Byrne (0-2); Cormac McNally (0-1).
Dunnamaggin - Seaghan O’Neill; Mark Heffernan, Noel Hickey, Victor Costello; Michael Cody, William Phelan, Andrew Fitzpatrick; Darren Fitzpatrick, Eoghan Kearney; Thomas Maher, John Fitzpatrick, Darren O’Keeffe; Ronan Coffey, Ray Cody, Adam Fitzpatrick. Subs - Jack Brett for M. Heffernan 35th min; Ian Walsh for A. Fitzpatrick 44th min.
Castleblayney - Paddy Collins; Eoin Leonard, Jim McHugh, Colin Merrick; Aaron Kenny, Peter Treanor, Cormac McNally; Brian Flanagan, Paddy Finnegan; Hugh Byrne, Mark Treanor, Brian McGuigan; Fergal Rafter, Craig Callan, Pauric Malone. Sub - Fintan Finnegan for P. Malone 54th min.
Referee - Liam Gordon (Galway).
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