St Joseph’s College Borrisoleigh 3-19
Colaiste na Trocaire Rathkeale 3-17
Our senior hurlers had to perform heroics last Tuesday to book their place in the Munster final after a nail biting, “come from behind”, extra time thriller.
Having enjoyed a relatively easy passage to date, this was the test that really showed what this team is truly made of.
The games started at a frenetic pace with the Limerick side primed and ready to go from the off, hitting the opening three scores before Nicky Cooney opened his account on what would prove to be an amazing day for the young forward.
Soon after, Rathkeale carved open the Borrisoleigh team and fired a blistering shot to the net. Indeed it was during the midpoint of the half that they exerted their dominance most and if not for some poor wides and some last gasp defending, the score might have proved too much to overcome but as it turned out, a trio of Robert Delaney scores and a fine Nicky Cooney score left five points in at the half.
It was clear to all that changes would need to be made and unless everyone raised their game that defeat would surely follow. Only Oran Bergin, Michael Lavery and Nicky Cooney could claim to be on top in their individual duels. To be fair, a few were carrying injuries and the physically stronger opponents were more aggressive than any other team to date so team manager Ray McLoughney switched up the lineup to try and bridge the five point gap.
Cooney’s third point of the game brought some hope to the side but the side was quickly rocked by a second Rathkeale goal. 7 points down, things were not looking great but this was the point that Borrisoleigh finally got its act together and started to hurl to their full ability.
Led by captain Richard O’Donoghue the fight back began with two Delaney pointed frees. With each score hard to come by it took a massive effort by all to get the ball up the field. Anthony Ryan, Patrick O’Connell and Aaron Reid began to exert a greater influence at the back with Seamus O’Farrell now at the centre back shutting down the central area to great effect.
Kevin Maher who had been quiet to date adopted a defensive midfield role and began supplying quality ball to the forward line. Tim McCutcheon added extra physical presence up front and it was he and Alvis Danko who won a much needed penalty that was blasted to the net by Robert Delaney to put three between the sides.
Just when it appeared that the tide was turning, Rathkeale struck two quick fire points to bring the score out to five points and all once again the game seemed lost, but it was clear Rathkeale were dropping deeper and deeper to hold on for the win. Cathail Ryan, Matthew Ryan and Richard O’Donoghue never stopped running at the defence and fouling was the only way of stopping them and Delaney was unerring in punishing each foul.
As time ran out for Borrisoleigh it looked like all the effort would count for nothing but one final ball dropped in the full forward line and fell into the hands of Nicky Cooney who danced his way around the back line and fired an unstoppable ball to the net from 21 metres out. This equaliser proved to be the final action of the half and the game moved onto extra time.
Both teams had clearly given their all in an epic 60 minutes, so an additional 20 minutes was always going to be a tough ask for both sides. If Borrisoleigh had any thoughts that momentum would carry through to overtime then a rapid attack and Rathkeale goal once again had them behind on the score board. This time though, the response was decisive. Two more Delaney points and then the game’s key moment: a massive grab from the skies by Conor Looby, who took on the defence who were all drawn to him, then a quick pass to the free Alvis Danko resulted in a great goal.
This was the first time in over 70 minutes of hurling that the lead changed hands and it was the spur to drive Borrisoleigh onto victory. Rathkeale to their credit never gave up, but it was almost impossible to break up the defensive wall set up by St Joseph’s.
Niall Slattery, Aaron Reid and Oran Bergin were now completely on top and with Patrick O’Connell, Michael Lavery and Seamus O’Farrell playing brilliantly in front of them, only a couple of long range frees were allowed.
The game finished up with a flurry of long range frees floated into the Borrisoleigh goal, but the rock solid goalkeeper Pauraic Stapleton stood tall and engineered two massive clearances by Patrick O’Connell and Seamus O’Farrell and with that the referee sounded his full time whistle to bring this epic encounter to a close with a score line of 3-19 to 3-17.