Rapparees 1-19 Rathnure 1-11
Rathnure certainly tested them in the second-half, but a virtuoso display from Kevin Foley got defending champions Rapparees off to the perfect start in Group B of the Pettitt’s Senior hurling championship at sunny but blustery O’Kennedy Park, New Ross on Tuesday.
Team captain Foley made light of a difficult inter-county campaign personally by lighting the way for Declan Ruth’s men, shooting 0-9 in grand total, 0-5 of which was registered during a first-half when the Enniscorthy town men made the most of a series of turnovers to generate a solid 1-11 to 0-5 interval lead.
And when Rathnure caused their District rivals some bother in the second-half, it was Foley who always managed to pop up with the key points to keep the black and ambers at arm’s length.
Rapparees stuck with their title-winning 15 as Tommy ‘Tucker’ Foley was retained as a nominal corner-forward, although continuing in the sweeper role. The management opted to keep Darragh Pepper in reserve after the elder brother of new Wexford star Oisín missed last season through injury.
But the older Pepper emerged from the bench on the restart to instantly make his mark with a point, while chipping in with another later on.
Oisín though had a quiet evening as firstly Stephen Martin policed him to good effect before Ciarán Doyle-Maher assumed those responsibilities when Pepper moved outfield to try to catch fire.
And Eoin Boggan, on his Senior championship return after an injury-troubled 2021, was left to watch Lenny Connolly as the latter and Pepper formed a two-man inside line for the winners.
Rapparees ‘keeper Anthony Larkin had an unusually shaky game, and he can consider himself fortunate that Rathnure didn’t mine at least a couple of goals off breaks during the first-half.
The challengers did succeed in making the first couple of incisions as Jack Redmond posted a ‘65 and a free inside five minutes.
But Kevin Foley then began to whip up a personal storm for Rapparees, tying matters on 0-2 apiece after eight minutes, before Ricky Fox edged the town team into a lead on ten minutes that they wouldn’t lose.
They simply preyed upon Rathnure shortcomings from puck-outs to force several turnovers when forging a comfortable 0-9 to 0-2 divide after 20 minutes.
Ryan Mahon supplied three scores during that spell – two from frees – while Kevin Foley continued to excel with three sweet strikes, including Rapparees’ seventh when cutting over a line-ball from the right on 16 minutes.
But his best was the one that made it a seven-point gap when Mahon intercepted a Rathnure puck-out and fed Foley, who didn’t put flesh to ball as he controlled with precision before bisecting the dressing-room end uprights.
Seán O’Connor pegged back a couple from play to help Rathnure get to within 0-10 to 0-5 after 27 minutes.
But another Mahon free – after an advantage on Lenny Connolly – preceded the number eight consolidating Rapparees’ strong opening-half showing with a sublime goal two minutes into added-time.
It stemmed from them turning over another puck-out before Nick Doyle fed Kevin Foley, who handpassed to Mahon at the back post, and he controlled on his hurl and dummied to shoot before flicking home to carve open a 1-11 to 0-5 interval advantage.
Darragh Pepper immediately extended it to ten points when shooting over from the extreme right some 30 seconds into the new half from a Kevin Foley cross.
But Rathnure created lots of bother for Rapparees in the second-half, especially with the half-back line getting on top, and Seán O’Connor shaved it to 1-13 to 1-10 after 44 minutes when he goaled before immediately adding a point.
The goal came after a free from his own half by wing-back A.J. Redmond saw O’Connor seemingly lose control before gathering again and cutting back inside to ram home.
Kevin Foley, Darragh Pepper and substitute Kevin Ryan (free) succeeded in regaining some sense of comfort for Rapparees after 54 minutes (1-16 to 1-11), and they dealt with a couple of Rathnure efforts to work goals before two more Foley gems and another Ryan free sealed a successful opening defence of the Dr. R.J. Bowe Cup.
Rapparees: Anthony Larkin; Anthony Roche, Liam Ryan, Dillon Redmond; James Peare, Ben Edwards, Jack Kelly; Ryan Mahon (1-5, 0-4 frees), Alan Tobin; Ricky Fox (0-1), Kevin Foley (capt., 0-9, 1 line ball), Nick Doyle; Lenny Connolly, Oisín Pepper, Tommy Foley. Subs. - Darragh Pepper (0-2) for Mahon (HT), Kevin Courtney for T. Foley (45), Kevin Ryan (0-2 frees) for Fox (46), Dylan McVeigh for O. Pepper (51), Orán Carty for K. Foley (60+3).
Rathnure: Dermot Flynn; Stephen Martin, Eoin Boggan, Ciarán Doyle-Maher; Micheál O’Connor, Pádraig Doyle, A.J. Redmond (0-2 frees); Paddy Whiteley, Eoin Higgins; Shane Lawlor, Aidan Redmond (capt.), Michael Redmond; Owen Lennon, Seán O’Connor (1-4), Jack Redmond (0-5, 4 frees, 1 ‘65). Subs. - Eamon Wickham for Doyle, inj. (30+2), Conor Somers for Higgins (48), Ciarán O’Connor for M. Redmond (58).
Referee: Justin Heffernan (Blackwater).