House shut the door on Rovers' title bid
HUNTERSTOWN Rovers played their part in a hugely entertaining Leinster Junior Club final at St Conleth's Park in Newbridge on Sunday, but ultimately came up short against a very good Two Mile House team.
The Louth junior title winners were left to rue a slow start that saw them concede 1-3 before opening their account, but they battled back and actually took the lead in the second half.
However, Two Mile House's second goal in the 44th minute was a game changer and anything other than a win for the Kildare team looked unlikely after that.
Full forward Ryan Burns was at the heart of most of Hunterstown's best work and there were times in the first half that Two Mile House found him very difficult to handle. The 'House had an ace up their sleeve however in the form of 2010 All-Star Peter Kelly and once he was moved from centre back to full back to look after Burns he wasn't as influential on the game.
While Hunterstown were slow out of the blocks, credit has to go to Two Mile House for the manner in which they started this game, especially for their superb third minute goal. Shane Darcy caught a great ball and linked up with Kildare minor captain Mark Sherry before sending the ball into Chris Healy, another member of the Leinster winning Kildare minor team, and absolutely leathered the ball into the top corner of Alan Fedigan's net.
Burns' opened Hunterstown 's account in the ninth minute but Aidan Casey continued the 'House's good start with a 45 metre free to leave the scores at 1-4 to 0-1.
Over the next ten minutes, Hunterstown hit three points in a row as they got to grips with the game and although a Chris Julian free broke that run of scores, Tony Finn's team were right back in the game with a goal two minutes before half time.
Hunterstown had already shown a scoring threat earlier in the half when Burns was only denied by a stunning save from John Goff but the goalkeeper was powerless to keep out Richie Taafe's shot after he arrived with perfect timing at the back post following a pass from Brendan Lennon. Taafe had only been introduced in the 20th minute after captain Padraig Matthews had picked up an injury but he had a huge impact on the game.
Matthews' injury - which later urhned out to be a broken collarbone - did not go down well with the travelling support, who felt Matt Kelly's shoulder was illegal and dangerous.
Having been on the backfoot for the previous ten minutes, Taafe's goal appeared to reawaken Two Mile House and they finished out the half with points from Julian and Casey to lead 1-7 to 1-4 as the teams headed for their half time chats.
On a surprisingly mild Decemeber 1st day, Hunterstown elected to remain on the pitch for their half time chat and as soon as the ball was thrown in to start the second half they tore into their opponents. With midfielders Tony McKenna and Conor Matthews getting to grips with the game, Hunterstown scored five of the first six points in the second half to go ahead for the first time in the game in the 38th minute.
Casey and Healy put Two Mile House ahead once more but as the game swung from one end of the pitch to the other, Taafe just about found enough space in the defence to be able to squeeze a shot over the bar to level the scores.
Tight games like this can be decided by the finest of margins and so it proved here again. The Hunterstown defence just switched off for a second as Aidan Casey's shot drifted wide of the post but Two Mile House midfielder Derren Casey hadn't given up on it and managed to keep the ball in play by fisting it down to Healy. With the confidence of one goal to his name already, Healy once again gave Alan Fedigan no chance with his powerful shot.
However, Fedigan and a few of his defenders were adament the ball had drifted wide from Casey's initial shot and were furious that Niall Ward opted to allow the goal.
From then on, it was just a matter of Two Mile House seeing the game out and the only black mark for the Kildare side came in the last minute when Healy spurned the opportunity to score a hat trick after Fedigan made a fine from a penalty awarded for a foul on Adam Burke.
Hunterstown were left despondent at the final whistle but there is no doubt that if they can produce performances like this on a consistent basis then there are big things in the future for this team.
Two Mile House: John Goff; Matt Kelly, Willie Burke, Brian Byrne, Nathan Sherry, Peter Kelly, Niall McLoughlin; Derren Casey 0-1, Niall Browne 0-1; Chris Healy 2-2, Mark Sherry 0-2, Adam Burke, Chris Julian 0-3f, Shane Darcy, Aidan Casey 0-6 (4f). Subs: Donal Browne for Byrne (38), Ben Merrins for D Casey (49), Tadhg O'Neill for A Burke (60).
Hunterstown Rovers: Alan Fedigan; Brian Matthews, Ciaran Carrie, Patrick Matthews, Martin Lennon, Keith Brennan, David Finn 0-1; Tony McKenna, Conor Matthews; Muiris O'Sullivan, Paul Carrie 0-1, Brendan Lennon 0-1, Alan Landy 0-1, Ryan Burns 0-7 (5f, 1'45), Padraig Matthews. Subs: Richie Taafe 1-1 for Padraig Matthews (20); David Fedigan for Patrick Matthews (60).
Referee: Niall Ward (Westmeath).