Rathangan retain main Rackard League title
Strong last quarter sees off wasteful close neighbours
Rathangan 3-11 Piercestown-Murrintown 1-6
A DOMINANT final quarter made all the difference for Rathangan on their way to retaining the Allianz Rackard League Roinn ‘A’ hurling title at the expense of near neighbours Piercestown-Murrintown in Chadwicks Wexford Park.
The holders were ahead by 1-10 to 1-5 midway through the second-half, and the key score that gave them a little bit of breathing space arrived when towering full-forward Bryan Kennedy grabbed a delivery from midfielder Cormac Cunningham and stitched it in Rory O’Connell’s net.
Cunningham turned from provider to scorer with nine minutes left, accepting a pass from centre-back Liam Murphy and soloing through before applying a clinical finish.
There was no denying the overall superiority of Rathangan, but by the same token it must be noted that Piercestown-Murrintown – winners of the ‘B’ title last June – would have been a lot closer were it not for some wayward finishing.
Indeed, they chalked up a dozen second-half wides while only managing to pick off two points, from Sam Lambert and Alfie Canning.
They ended with double the number of misses of their rivals (14-7), so the general exchanges most definitely weren’t as skewed in favour of Rathangan as that final scoreline might suggest.
Rackard League finals night is always a special occasion for families, none more so than one very proud grandfather who had a foot in both camps.
Willie Murphy, an All-Ireland hero from 1968, looked on as two of his grandchildren, Liam Murphy and Harry Murphy, filled the number 6 jerseys and shone for their respective teams.
With Piercestown-Murrintown mindful of the attacking threat posed by Rathangan, they deployed Harry as a sweeper and brought Darragh Pettitt back from his attacking role to further augment their defensive effort.
And while that damage limitation exercise worked to a certain extent, ultimately the Rathangan big guns flourished, with Bryan Kennedy, Cormac Cunningham, Liam Murphy and Tadgh Clifford leading the way.
And the links between past and present were plentiful, with very familiar surnames such as O’Connor, Barry and Fogarty among those featuring for the double winners – who had beaten Blackwater by 2-9 to 2-5 in the corresponding final last June.
The first three points came from frees – a brace for Piercestown-Murrintown’s Harry Murphy on either side of an opener for the influential Bryan Kennedy, who finished with a fine 2-6 tally.
A Kennedy goalbound shot was well saved by Rory O’Connell, but the chief score-getter levelled from another placed ball before picking off the first point from play in the eleventh minute.
Rathangan never looked back after taking the lead, as they went from being 0-2 to 0-1 in arrears to moving 1-6 to 0-2 clear in the space of 17 minutes.
Their big breakthrough came in the form of a well-taken goal by Bryan Kennedy after latching on to a Liam Murphy delivery, but Piercestown-Murrintown came up with a very strong response just before the interval.
Fionn Wilson sent in a low drive 30 seconds into additional time, and it seemed to take a deflection off a defender on the way to the net.
Piercestown-Murrintown would have taken heart from that goal, as it left them trailing by a more manageable 1-7 to 1-4 at half-time, and points were swapped by Cormac Cunningham and Sam Lambert on the restart.
Unfortunately for the losers – who beat Rathgarogue-Cushinstown by 4-9 to 0-4 in last year’s ‘B’ final – their inaccuracy cost them dearly thereafter as eleven wides and just one point followed that Lambert score.
Bryan Kennedy (free) and Cormac Cunningham had widened the margin to five points, but Rathangan still needed the cushion of that goal from the former with ten minutes left to steer them home.
Rathangan: Seán O’Connor; Kayden Roche, Tadhg Doyle, Max Bolger; Noah Levingstone, Liam Murphy (0-1 free), Isaac Barry (joint-capt.); Cormac Cunningham (1-3), Tadgh Clifford (0-1); Patrick Martin, Marc Byrne, Charlie Fogarty; M.J. Keary, Bryan Kennedy (joint-capt., 2-6, 0-5 frees), Henry Fogarty. Subs. – Evan O’Connor and Ollie Parle (both used), also T.J. Walsh, Jack Jones, Alex Feehan, Aaron Sinnott, Kyle Sinnott, Callum Kennedy, Dean Cahill, Lucas Harpur, Clayton Byrne, Noah Doyle, Tadhg Drumm. Coaches: Kevin Murphy and John Ormonde.
Piercestown-Murrintown: Rory O’Connell; Jimmy Kennedy, Luke Kelly (joint-capt.), John Kenny; Harry Murphy (0-3 frees); Michael Sinnott, Darragh Pettitt, Shane Ryan; Alfie Canning (joint-capt., 0-2), Tommy Codd; Charlie Tenanty, Fionn Wilson (1-0), Ruairí Fowler; Sam Lambert (0-1), Andrew Dodd. Subs. – Philip Sugrue (used), also Jack Connick, Oran Waters, Séamus Shinkwin, Rory Davis, Roan McGee, Kelan Crosbie, Seán Power, Oliver Frayne, Jack Whelan, Cathal McCleane. Coaches: Johnny Murphy, Brian Murphy and Fintan Whyte.
Referee: Stephen Burke (Na Fianna Clonard).