After two hours of outstanding hurling, Rathdowney-Errill eventually overcame the determined challenge of Abbeyleix to reach their fifth county final since 2006.
Hurling Laois Shopping Centre SHC Semi-Final Replay
A brace of goals late in the first-half from Tadgh Dowling and two more in the second from super sub Damien Bowe eventually broke the resistance of an Abbeyleix side who were right in the game up to the final quarter
At that stage there were just two points between the sides but Rathdowney-Errill made the decisive break with Bowe scoring 1-2 in three minutes. Those scores put daylight between the sides for the first time over the course of the two games and Rathdowney-Errill saw out the game with relative ease from that point.
In the end it was the greater experience of Rathdowney-Errill and how they tightened up at the back in the second-half that was the difference between the two sides. Despite conceding two goals inside the opening ten minutes, they kept their composure and more importantly kept the scoreboard ticking over with points. When Abbeyleix struck for a third goal after 24 minutes, Rathdowney-Errill hit back with interest with Tadgh Dowling hitting two goals in a minute for an instant momentum swing.
After conceding 3-5 in the opening half, Rathdowney-Errill allowed just five points in the second as they forced Abbeyleix to shoot from more difficult positions which caused eight wides. For their part, Rathdowney-Errill were far more accurate after the interval hitting just two further wides after posting seven in the first 30.
Despite the final margin between the sides, Abbeyleix had the chances to force this game to the wire. Had Ryan Peacock managed to flick a loose ball to the back of the net instead of inches over the bar after 43 minutes, he would have levelled the scores and given his side a major boost. On such small margins can games turn and when Rathdowney-Errill followed up with 1-2, Abbeyleix’ chance was gone.
While they did cut through their opponents defence for three goals, they only managed two points from play over the hour and that was not going to be enough to overcome a free scoring Rathdowney-Errill side.
Rathdowney-Errill have been dependant on Ross King for scores this year but in the opening ten minutes, they had six different scorers for their seven points in response to goals from Joe Bergin and Eoghan Fennelly.
Bergin’s goal came after just 40 seconds after Steven Reilly split the defence with a powerful run while Fennelly reacted quickest to sweep the ball to the back of the net with ten minutes on the clock.
Rathdowney-Errill should have had a goal with just four minutes elapsed but Enda Rowland pulled off an unbelievable save to somehow deflect a powerful, low shot from Ross King over the bar.
After the sides exchanged three points apiece between the 13th and 23rd minute, Abbeyleix jumped back into the lead when Rory McEvoy struck for their third goal.
The momentum was with Abbeyleix at this stage but Rathdowney-Errill responded emphatically with two goals in a minute from Tadgh Dowling. The first came after a surging run from Joe Fitpatrick and he batted home the second from close range after Ross King played the ball across the square.
A brace of points from Eoin Reilly from placed balls got Abbeyleix back within two but Enda Meagher restored a three point lead for Rathdowney-Errill with the final point of the half leaving the score at the break at 2-11 to 3-5.
Scores were much harder to come by in the second-half but Abbeyleix were back within one after 37 minutes thanks to two more Reilly frees.
It took Rathdowney-Errill nine minutes to add to their total but two in quick succession from Darren and Ross King restored their lead to three.
Ryan Peacock came within inches of levelling the scores when he latched on to a loose ball close to the Rathdowney-Errill goal but his instinctive effort went inches over the bar.
With the game in the balance, substitute Damien Bowe took control and after he knocked over two points, he combined with Ross King and lashed the ball to the back of the net to suddenly put seven between the sides.
That score finally seemed to break Abbeyleix’ resolve and Rathdowney-Errill pulled away with points from Ross King (3), Shane Dollard and a second goal from Bowe.
Abbeyleix managed just two points in the closing minutes, both from Reilly frees, but at the final whistle they were deservedly clapped off by their supporters who were rightly proud of their side’s efforts.
For Rathdowney-Errill, the attention switches immediately to next Sunday as they advance to face Camross in what will be an intriguing county final.
Scorers: Damien Bowe 2-2; Ross King 0-8 (0-7f); Tadgh Dowling 2-1; Darren King 0-3; Patrick Purcell 0-1; Brian Campion 0-1f; Mark Kavanagh 0-1; Enda Meagher 0-1; Shane Dollard 0-1
Team: Andrew Kavanagh; Alan Delaney, Brian Campion, James Corrigan; Joe Fitzpatrick, Pat Mahon, Liam O’Connell; Shane Dollard, Patrick Purcell; Tadgh Dowling, Darren King, Enda Meagher; Mark Kavanagh, John Purcell, Ross King. Subs: Damien Bowe for Mark Kavanagh (41mins); James Ryan for John Purcell (49mins); Paddy Bergin for Alan Delaney (50mins); Noel Brennan for Andrew Kavanagh (55mins); Eoin Burke for Darren King (56mins)
Scorers: Eoin Reilly 0-8 (0-7f, 0-1 ‘65); Rory McEvoy 1-1; Joe Bergin 1-0; Eoghan Fennelly 1-0; Ryan Peacock 0-1.
Team: Enda Rowland; Tom Doyle, Oisin Carroll, Mark Cahill; PJ Corby, Declan Phelan, Tom Moore; Steven Reilly, Rory McEvoy; Ryan Peacock, Dayne Peacock, Eoin Reilly; Eoghan Fennelly, Joe Bergin, Eugene Hearns. Subs: Conor Bergin for Dayne Peacock (52mins); Cathal Fitzpatrick for Joe Bergin (56mins); Dan Coffey for Steven Reilly (59mins); Aaron Carroll for Rory McEvoy (59mins)
Referee: Brochan Reilly