Rathdowney breeze into Laois Senior Hurling Championship final

Rathdowney-Errill cruised into their fourth final in seven years on Sunday afternoon, as they were far too strong for The Harps in a disappointing semi-final in O’Moore Park.

Rathdowney-Errill cruised into their fourth final in seven years on Sunday afternoon, as they were far too strong for The Harps in a disappointing semi-final in O’Moore Park.

Rathdowney-Errill 1-18

The Harps 0-13

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Played in a subdued atmosphere, the lack of fire in the crowd was echoed on the field, where most of the game was pedestrian at best. Rathdowney sprinted out to a 1-4 to 0-1 lead after ten minutes and The Harps never looked like they were going to cause them a lot of trouble.

Frank McGrath’s charges were in control all over the field, and any time The Harps strung a few scores together, Rathdowney-Errill came back with a run of two or three points of their own to keep well ahead. They were full value for the eight point margin at the final whistle too, and in truth, if The Harps had found themselves further behind they couldn’t have much cause for complaint.

The problems for the Durrow based side was in attack, where they struggled from the outset. They scored just six points in the first half and responded by taking out half of their forward line at half time, as Michael Lanigan, Niall Brophy and Shane Donohue all made way at half time. It didn’t seem to matter who played where though, because Rathdowney-Errill just dominated everywhere.

Brian Campion, Lar Mahon and Alan Delaney made up an impressive full-back line which comfortably dealt with everything which was thrown at them, their half back line were on top, while John Purcell was lively up at centre forward, with Enda Meagher and Patrick Purcell either side of him doing their share too. Between the three of them, they scored eight points from play, which is an impressive return for a half-forward line.

The focus now turns to the final for them, where they meet local rivals Clough-Ballacolla in a game that has the potential to be an absolute barnstormer. It is a month away yet though, but it will at least give Ross King time to recover after he was withdrawn in the first half with a thigh injury.

For The Harps, it is another semi-final defeat, as they seem unable to make that next step and get to a final. They still seem to be missing one or two players, as they tried moving players into different positions to try and kick start their challenge here, but nothing seemed to work. The work will go on for them, but they still have an awful lot to do to become championship contenders.

They were on the back foot early too, as Ross King and Alan Delaney hit four free between them in the first eight minutes to give Rathdowney-Errill a 0-4 to 0-1 lead early on. The champions of two years ago were looking good early on, but even when Liam Tynan’s mis hit effort dropped short in the tenth minute, it didn’t look like there was a lot on. Some indecision in The Harps defence followed though, and by the time Tynan had followed his shot into the penalty area, the ball popped out from a pack of players and sat up perfectly for him to sweep it home.

That left the score at 1-4 to 0-1, and The Harps actually had their most productive spell of the game after that, as John Brophy and Sean Bourke hit a brace of points each to bring the scores back to 1-5 to 0-5. They didn’t realise it at the time, but that would be as good as it would get.

John Purcell pushed Rathdowney-Errill clear with a neat point after winning a break on the half-forward line, and Enda Meagher and Jason Phelan also chipped in to help open up a healthy half time lead of 1-8 to 0-6.

If The Harps were planning a second half onslaught, it never appeared on the field, as Alan Delaney started the half with a long range point from a free for the leaders. John Brophy responded with a couple of frees for The Harps, but another free from Delaney was followed by efforts from Patrick Purcell and Enda Meagher to syphon away what little fuel was left in The Harps’ tank.

Now with a seven point lead, Rathdowney-Errill only had to do enough in the closing stages to prevent The Harps from getting a run of scores to give themselves hope, and they did that admirably. Any time John Taylor’s men looked like they might seriously threaten Rathdowney’s lead, they were hit with a couple of points to knock them back again.

It was like that all the way to the end, with John Purcell’s late free the final score in a disappointing game.

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SCORERS – Rathdowney-Errill: Ross King (all frees), John Purcell (one free) 0-4 each, Liam Tynan 1-1, Alan Delaney (all frees), Enda Meagher 0-3 each, Patrick Purcell 0-2, Jason Phelan 0-1; The Harps: John Brophy 0-7 (four frees), Michael Lanigan (both frees), Sean Bourke 0-2 each, Paul Dunne, Brian Galvin (65) 0-1 each

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RATHDOWNEY-ERRILL: Noel Brennan; Brian Campion, Lar Mahon, Alan Delaney; Joe Fitzpatrick, Pat Mahon, Jimmy Corrigan; Shane Dollard, James Ryan; Enda Meagher, John Purcell, Patrick Purcell; Ross King, Liam Tynan, Owen Houlihan. Subs: Jason Phelan for R King (23 mins – inj), Darren King for Houlihan (54 mins)

THE HARPS: Kevin Galvin; Shane Phelan, Brian Galvin, Barry Dunne; John Prior, Fintan Deegan, Paul Dunne; Brian Dunne, David Freeman; Michael Lanigan, Conor Dunne, John Brophy; Sean Bourke, Shane Donohue, Niall Brophy. Subs: Aidan Galvin for Lanigan (half time), Eoin Clancy for N Brophy (half time), Pakie Flynn for Donohue (half time), Pat Walshe for B Dunne (44 mins)

Referee: Pat Moran (Graiguecullen)