Ferns St. Aidan’s 2-16 Rapparees 1-16
FERNS ST. Aidan’s announced themselves as live contenders for the Pettitt’s Senior hurling championship when they defeated Rapparees by 2-16 to 1-16 in Sunday’s keenly-contested second round Group B tussle at a packed Páirc Uí Shíochaín, Gorey.
They looked in considerable peril at half-time, trailing by 1-10 to 0-5 after Kevin Foley pulled home the rebound from Ryan Mahon’s penalty a minute into injury time.
But it’s no exaggeration to say that Ferns dominated proceedings thereafter, with the central spine of Niall and Eoin Murphy thundering into the game along with influential substitute James Tonks.
And special mention must go to wing-back Ciarán Roberts who, despite giving a few inches to Nick Doyle in height, completely nullified him from general play.
The second-half performance must be of some concern to the defending champions. They will need to produce the goods over the hour if they want to defend their crown, and they must be disappointed with the overall return from their forwards, with Foley and Ricky Fox the only two from the starting sextet to find the target.
Fox only needed 15 seconds to open the scoring, with Ryan Mahon adding two frees as Rapparees quietly built a 0-3 to nil lead after eight minutes.
Ian Byrne was a rock-steady presence over frees for Ferns all evening, and he knocked over his first after eleven minutes, only for Mahon to respond with a similar score after a questionable steps call against Ferns.
Jack Kelly struck over a wonderful point soon after to make it 0-5 to 0-1, and that was the first of four points from Rapparees’ half-back line in the first-half alone.
His defensive colleagues James Peare and Ben Edwards followed suit, with Foley also driving over from a tight angle as their lead stretched to 0-8 to 0-2.
Kelly and Fox traded points with Byrne and Chris Turner before Foley was fouled in the square for a penalty. Mahon had his attempt well saved by James Lawlor, but Foley was on hand to sweep the loose ball to the net.
Ferns responded with the first three points after the break, including one from Tonks after some good work from Niall Murphy.
Ryan Mahon struck back with a free to make it 1-11 to 0-8, but change was in the air as Byrne followed with two frees after a foul on Diarmuid Doyle and a throw from Nick Doyle.
Mahon found himself in an ocean of space to float over his first from play, but goalkeeper James Lawlor soon got his name on the scoresheet with an effort from distance.
Mahon hit his second point to make it 1-13 to 0-12, but momentum shifted towards Ferns when Byrne fetched a hopeful ball and was fouled in the square.
He buried the subsequent penalty and also followed up with a point to level proceedings with nine minutes to go.
Foley gave the Rapps the lead one last time, but Ferns finished in style as Roberts and Byrne (free) found the range before substitute Christopher ‘Bitzy’ O’Connor beat goalkeeper Anthony Larkin to the dropping ball for the game-clinching goal.
They faced almost six minutes of injury time to hang on, with Mahon knocking over another free, only for county star Paul Morris to seal the contest with his sole score.
Up next for Rapparees is a tough game versus Shelmaliers on Friday, while Ferns take on win-less Rathnure.
Ferns St. Aidan’s: James Lawlor (0-1); Declan Byrne (capt.), Niall Murphy, Ryan Nolan; Patrick Breen, Eoin Murphy, Ciarán Roberts (0-1); Tommy Dwyer, Rory Scallan; Corey Byrne-Dunbar, Chris Turner (0-1), Jonny Dwyer; Paul Morris (0-1), Diarmuid Doyle, Ian Byrne (1-11, 0-8 frees, 1-0 pen.). Subs. - Christopher O’Connor (1-0) for J. Dwyer (HT), James Tonks (0-1) for Nolan (HT), Benny Jordan for T. Dwyer (50).
Rapparees: Anthony Larkin; Anthony Roche, Liam Ryan, Dillon Redmond; James Peare (0-1), Ben Edwards (0-1), Jack Kelly (0-2); Ryan Mahon (0-8, 6 frees), Alan Tobin; Ricky Fox (0-2), Kevin Foley (capt., 1-2), Nick Doyle; Lenny Connolly, Oisín Pepper, Tommy Foley. Subs. - Darragh Pepper for O. Pepper (45), Dylan McVeigh for Tobin (45), Óran Carty for Fox (57).
Referee: Niall McDonald (Crossabeg-Ballymurn).