Leinster joy for St Fergal’s after thrilling final victory

St Fergal’s senior hurlers completed a remarkable Leinster double as they followed in the path of the Junior side to win the Leinster crown in a magnificent final at Carlow’s Dr Cullen Park on Saturday.

St Fergal’s senior hurlers completed a remarkable Leinster double as they followed in the path of the Junior side to win the Leinster crown in a magnificent final at Carlow’s Dr Cullen Park on Saturday.

St Fergal’s 2-8

Borris VS 0-12

St Fergal’s senior hurlers completed a remarkable Leinster double as they followed in the path of the Junior side to win the Leinster crown in a magnificent final at Carlow’s Dr Cullen Park on Saturday.

In a contest that made for a fitting final, Borris VS of Carlow looked to have the measure of the South Laois men early on, but John Clancy’s side fought their way back into contention and nicked the win to recapture the title last won by the school in 2006.

The Carlow men had never appeared in a Senior A final but they showed little signs of that in the opening fifteen minutes as they raced into a healthy lead. Rising star Martin ‘Mouse’ Kavanagh converted a free after Colm Stapleton hauled Ciaran Canavan to the ground, and the Mouse was proving a real pest to the St. Fergal’s defence again a minute later when he fed a sublime hand-pass into Michael Malone who doubled their lead from close range. Another Borris man to enjoy a fine start was midfielder Craig Wall, and when he fielded a high ball and blasted straight between the posts, things were looking grim for the fancied Rathdowney men. 

Martin Daly finally got the Laois side on the scoreboard after nine minutes when he held off the attentions of his marker and fired over a fine score, but Borris weren’t to be quelled that easily and they hit three more on the bounce to hand them an ideal opening quarter lead. The scorers of the first three Borris points all doubled their tallies in quick succession with a Martin Kavanagh free being followed by neat scores from both Craig Wall and Michael Malone, but just when it seemed that St. Fergal’s were in bother, they responded with consummate style.

Tadgh Dowling has been in fine form for his school all year and he notched his first score with an easy free before repeating the dose from much further out a minute later. Buoyed on by Dowling’s accuracy, Rathdowney rallied and they were back on terms with ten minutes of the first half remaining thanks to Aidan Corby’s close-range goal. Paddy Bergin drove a high ball in and Corby was first to react to fire past Dion Wall from a few yards out.

They weren’t finished there and two minutes later they went in front for the first time. Diarmuid Byrne was adjudged by Dickie Murphy to have pushed Tadgh Dowling in the back and he brushed himself off to convert the free. Borris were reeling but to their credit they proved that they too could respond. Martin Kavanagh’s free again restored parity, and in the final five minutes of the half, the sides traded scores once more to leave it all square at the break on a scoreline of 1-5 to 0-8.

It was a fantastic opening half hour played at a relentless pace, and although the second half didn’t quite live up to it’s scoring standards, there was still plenty in the way of drama and excitement to keep everyone in attendance enthralled right up to the final whistle. St. Fergal’s were again a bit slow to start off with, and Borris retook the lead when a huge Thomas Joyce free sailed over Eoin Fleming’s crossbar, but the crucial score came just three minutes later and it was Rathdowney who got it. There seemed little danger as the outstanding Paddy Bergin launched a huge ball into the danger area but as a number of players looked to get a touch in either direction, the ball sailed past everyone and nestled in the right hand side of the Borris net.

That put St. Fergal’s two points to the good, a lead that was quickly halved by yet another free from Martin Kavanagh soon after, but Tadgh Dowling was just as accurate at the other end and with twenty minutes left he restored that two point cushion. It didn’t seem like it given the entertaining nature of the game’s conclusion, but a further eighteen minutes would go by before either side registered another score. In the mean time there was plenty in the way of action but the game sprang back into action with just over two minutes left.

A superb score from the right hand side of the field from Shane Cleere put a goal between the sides, but The Mouse again hit back from a free to cut that lead to two. As the game entered injury time, Borris poured forward in search of that winning goal. Craig Wall was given a brief sight at that target but elected to fire over the bar instead to leave just a point between them.

Tempers started to flare on the sidelines as both sets of players and management clashed over a contentious decision from the referee who awarded a drop-ball when Borris were in possession, but it was St. Fergal’s who gathered the ball and when they were given a free, Tadgh Dowling swatted it over to seal the win for his side. St. Fergal’s celebrated as the Borris men fell to their knees, but in games like these the real winner is hurling. What a year it has been for St. Fergal’s who are now reigning Leinster champions at both Junior and Senior grades.

SCORERS - St Fergal’s: Tadgh Dowling 0-6 (six frees), Aidan Corby and Paddy Bergin 1-0, Martin Daly and Shane Cleere 0-1 each; Borris VS: Martin Kavanagh 0-5 (five frees), Craig Wall 0-4, Michael Malone 0-2, Diarmuid Byme 0-1 (free)

ST FERGAL’S RATHDOWNEY: Eoin Fleming; Conor Quinlan, Eoin Doyle, Colm Stapleton; Bill Meade, Paddy Bergin, Stephen Finan; Darragh Fitzpatrick, Damian Hogan; Aidan Corby, Sean Corby, Tadgh Dowling; Martin Daly, Shane Cleere, Willie Whelan. Subs: Stephen Bergin for W Whelan (36 mins), Darragh Quinlan for D Hogan (56 mins)

BORRIS VS: Dion Wall; Seanie Whelan, Joe Kelly, Barry Nolan; Brian Barcoe, Thomas Joyce, Diarmuid Byme; Darren Dalton, Craig Wall; Michael Walsh, Martin Kavanagh, Michael Malone; Jack Kavanagh, Emmet Foley, Ciaran Canavan. Subs: Jamie Byrne for Canavan (39 mins), Martin Kelly for Foley (50 mins)

Referee: Dickie Murphy (Wexford)