Rathdowney-Errill put Portlaoise to the sword last Saturday afternoon in the final of this year’s U-16 A championship final, collecting the Fr Matt Welsh trophy with a 14 point victory in O’Moore Park.
That final score line doesn’t do justice to how impressive Portlaoise were in their own right on the day. Rathdowney-Errill did lead the game from the seventh minute until the last blow of the whistle, but this physical Portlaoise outfit made sure every Rathdowney-Errill score was hard earned, and they were fiercely competitive in the early stages of the game.
With 36 minutes on the clock just two points separated the sides. In those final 20 minutes however, things unravelled for Portlaoise. Rathdowney-Errill upped their hurling to a level the Town just couldn’t live with, outscoring them 1-10 to 0-1. The first half was a far closer affair, with both sets of defenders winning the majority of battles with their markers. As the Rathdowney-Errill forwards weren’t afforded a great deal of space to work with in the opening thirty minutes, half back Jack Kelly’s meanders into the opposition half proved to be the early difference.
Along with clearing a lot of ball, Kelly strayed forward to grab two magnificent first half scores, which gave his side the edge when frees from Mark Kavanagh and Shane Smyth seemed to cancel one another out. Centre forward Shane Bowe worked tirelessly in the first half for Rathdowney-Errill, doing a great deal of the dirty work to set up attacks, while Alan Murphy at full back for Portlaoise played smartly to nullify the threat of high balls.
Play opened up dramatically for Rathdowney-Errill in the second half, and a lot of this was down to the performance of Liam O’Connell. There was an injury concern for O’Connell leading up to the match, but he showed no signs for of that suspected foot injury as he lorded the midfield in the second half.
His strength and aerial ability are always noted, but it was the delivery of ball into his forwards that set him apart in the final and unlocked the Portlaoise defence. This gave the likes of forwards Shane Madden and Mark Kavanagh especially, both very pacey, the chance to cause damage.
Kavanagh made all jaws in attendance drop in disbelief on 49 minutes, when from underneath the stand on the 45 yard line, the 15 year old pointed an incredible sideline cut to give his side a nine point lead.
The only goal of the game came 4 minutes later. Shane Bowe floated a dangerous ball into the full forward line, which wasn’t dealt with properly and bounced into the path of half forward Darragh Carroll who gratefully accepted the simple finish.
SCORERS - Rathdowney-Errill: Mark Kavanagh 0-6 (0-3 frees, 0-1 sideline), Darragh Carroll 1-1, Shane Madden and Jack Kelly 0-3 each, Shane Bowe 0-2, Philip Bergin and Conor Meagher 0-1 each; Portlaoise: Shane Smyth 0-4 (all frees), Conor Ryan and Brendan Carroll 0-1 each
RATHDOWNEY-ERRILL: Jack Daly; Jake Creagh, Padraig Fortune, Christy Carroll; Jack Kelly, Mark Keyes, Jordon Kavanagh; Liam O’Connell, Brendan Kelly; Shane Madden, Shane Bowe, Darragh Carroll; Mark Kavanagh, Philip Bergin, Kevin O’Dea. Subs Conor Meagher for Kevin O Dea (36mins), Alan Doyle for Philip Bergin (56mins), Brian Brophy for Jack Kelly (60mins), Dylan O Neill for Jake Creagh (60mins).
PORTLAOISE: Craig Haslam; Frank Flanagan, Alan Murpy, Darragh Phelan; Eoghan Nealon, Caolan Murphy, Raymond Nerny; Conor Ryan (cpt), Pauric O Neill; Brendan Carroll, Aaron Collins, Shane Smyth; Aaron Bergin, Shane Whelan, Tristen Tobin Brennan. SUBS- Kieran Flynn for Pauric O Neill (20mins), Ethan O ‘Reilly for Aaron Collins (33mins), Craig Martley for Tristen Tobin Brennan (40mins), Mark Cashen for Aaron Bergin (55mins).