WHILE THEIR prospects of making the Cup final were remote, HWH-Bunclody challenged Rapparees with plenty of relish to complete the Division 1 qualifying stages on a high in the Panda Under-19 hurling championship in Bellefield on Wednesday.
Rapparees were already certain of a spot in the Cup decider – where they face Blackwater – while the visitors had to settle for the Shield final.
But HWH-Bunclody bore no scars from their 19-point defeat to Blackwater a week earlier as they out-hurled a previously one hundred per cent home side for long stages, with midfielders Conor Burke and Páraic Doyle setting the standard while the attack fizzed. In fact, but for some erratic finishing – with HWH-Bunclody accounting for all but six of the game’s 24 wides – and exemplary goalkeeping from Rapparees’ Regan Treacy, the visitors could have been handsome winners as they head to the Shield final against Ferns St. Aidan’s.
HWH-Bunclody were minus Intermediate player Darragh Farrell, while Rapparees felt the absence of such figures as Bill Peare in defence along with Jack Byrne and Billy Redmond around the centre, and Jamie Pepper up front.
An entertaining affair was tied on 0-8 apiece after 21 minutes – the fourth time they were deadlocked – before two Larry Connors points on the trot helped HWH-Bunclody claw out a 0-10 to 0-9 interval lead while already hitting ten wides.
Although Desmond O’Connor and Conor Burke made that a three-point gap inside a minute of the restart, Rapparees threatened to shake things up as Oisín Pepper pegged back his sixth point from a long-range free, before a sweet Niall Kehoe delivery from the left was latched upon by Jordan ‘Soda’ Murphy to pop home for a 1-10 to 0-12 lead after 35 minutes.
HWH-Bunclody’s response was laced with composure and belief, and although an Oisín Pepper ’65 edged the locals back in front by 1-13 to 0-15 after the sides had tied three more times, the winners soon regained a lead they wouldn’t lose.
Centre-back Derry Mahon’s long delivery was controlled inside by Jimmy Connors, who took a second before lashing to the scoreboard-end net in the 43rd minute (1-15 to 1-13).
The home ’keeper, Treacy, distinguished himself with three outstanding interventions subsequently, although there was little he could do when Jimmy Connors claimed his second goal on 58 minutes when flicking on a delivery from Larry Connors which trickled over the goal-line (2-17 to 1-15) on the way to a confidence-enriching first victory of the campaign.
HWH-Bunclody: Aaron Whiting; Seán Dunbar, Ciarán Whiting, Thomas Cowman; Faoláin Ó Ceallaigh, Derry Mahon (capt., 0-1), Matthew Tully; Conor Burke (0-1), Páraic Doyle; Larry Connors (0-2), Rory Raleigh, Eoin McDonnell (0-1); Jimmy Connors (2-3), Paddy Connors (0-1), Desmond O’Connor (0-7, 4 frees, 1 ’65). Subs. – Sam Black (0-2) for Cowman (13), Mylie Connors (0-1) for P. Connors (57), Ryan Kavanagh for J. Connors (60+2).
Rapparees: Regan Treacy (0-1 free); Dylan O’Brien, Ronan Kervick, Adam Shiggins; Jack Whitely, Tom Cashe, Conor Redmond; Brian Cronin (0-1), Tommy McVeigh (0-1); Cian O’Connor, Oisín Pepper (0-10, 7 frees, 1 ’65), Niall Kehoe (0-1); Jamie Dugdale (0-1), Jamie Donnelly, Jordan Murphy (1-0). Subs. – Darren Murphy for McVeigh, inj. (30), Danny Kervick for Shiggins, inj. (44), McVeigh for Dugdale (54), Fionn O’Reilly for O’Brien, Charlie Fortune for O’Connor (60), Jack Dugdale for Kehoe (60+1).
Referee: David O’Leary (Rathnure).