St Fergal’s Rathdowney were cruelly denied a Leinster Vocational Schools Junior ‘A’ hurling title on Saturday afternoon in Nowlan Park, as Johnstown dramatically took them to extra time before claiming a narrow two-point win.
It was a heart-breaking defeat for St Fergal’s young hurlers, as they had been the better side for much of the game, but were caught with an equaliser five minutes into injury time. When extra-time came around, they couldn’t find an extra gear as Johnstown ground out the points they needed to get the win.
St Fergal’s had some of the standout performers on the day too, with Liam O’Connell and jack Kelly superb in defence, Colm and Eoin Fitzpatrick playing well in midfield and Mark Kavanagh providing a killer touch in attack. It was just a shame they couldn’t take advantage of some of their dominance, as they scored just four points in the second half. The last of those four points came from a free by Mark Kavanagh just over two minutes into injury time, but referee Patrick Murphy allowed Johnstown time to find an equaliser, which they duly did.
The scoring touch almost completely eluded them in extra time, as they managed just one more score as Johnstown timed their run to victory perfectly. The attention for St Fergal’s now turns to the senior hurlers, who will have to go one further than their junior counterparts when they play their final in the coming weeks.
St Fergal’s had started the game the better of the two teams, and it came as no surprise when Mark Kavanagh opened the scoring in the fifth minute with a free. All of the early action was taking place in the Johnstown half, and Shane Bowe was almost in for a goal soon after, as Kavanagh set him up only for his shot to be blocked by a scrambling Johnstown defence.
By the tenth minute though, Rathdowney were motoring well and had opened up a three point lead, with Kavanagh pointing twice more. The first came from a free, before his shot for a goal was superbly saved by Johnstown ‘keeper Darren Brennan and deflected over for a point. Then, from nowhere, Johnstown equalised.
Goalkeeper Brennan launched a long-range free into the penalty area, and as a group of players all swung on the dropping ball simultaneously, it flew into the top corner, giving Philip Bergin no chance. Andrew Morgan appeared to get the final touch for Johnstown. Undeterred, St Fergal’s fought back and went back in front within in a minute with a point from Mark Kavanagh.
A nice move then resulted in Lee Cleere firing over for the Laois school from 45 yards out, before a swashbuckling run down the right wing by Eoin Fitzpatrick resulted in the Borris-Kilcotton man splitting the post with a fantastic effort from close to the sideline. That put them three in front again, and history would soon repeat itself.
The St Fergal’s defence were scrambling to deal with a ball into the area, when it popped out from a group of players and sat up perfectly for Shane Madden, a Rathdowney man himself, to lash a first-time effort to the back of the net. It was harsh in the extreme on St Fergal’s, but again they composed themselves and outscored Johnstown by two point to one in the last few minutes before half time to lead 0-8 to 2-1 at the break.
The Kilkenny school were back level within 30 seconds of the restart thanks to Niall O’Gorman, but a wonderful point from Mark Kavanagh put Fergal’s back in front. Johnstown were upping their game now though and were back level thanks to a point from Brian Kavanagh in the eighth minute, but the game then went into something of a lull, with neither side scoring for the next 15 minutes.
It was worse for Rathdowney, as they lost Lee Cleere to injury in that time as well. When the scoring started again, the teams went score for score to the end of normal time, until Mark Kavanagh’s free two minutes into added time looked to have won it. There was still time for a Johnstown equaliser though, and when the game went to extra time, St Fergal’s would manage just one more point, again from Kavanagh, as Johnstown ran out two point winners.
SCORERS – St Fergal’s Rathdowney: Mark Kavanagh 0-9 (0-6 frees), Eoin Fitzpatrick, Colm Fitzpatrick, Lee Cleere, Shane Bowe 0-1 each; Colaiste Mhuire Johnstown: Sean Power 0-5 (0-4 frees), Shane Madden, Andrew Morgan 1-0 each, Niall O’Gorman 0-3, Brian Kavanagh 0-1 each
ST FERGAL’S RATHDOWNEY: Philip Bergin (Rathdowney-Errill); Pat Phelan (Clough-Ballacolla), Robbie Phelan (Clough-Ballacolla), Jake Creagh (Rathdowney-Errill); Jack Kelly (Rathdowney-Errill), Liam O’Connell (Rathdowney-Errill), Padraig Fortune (Rathdowney-Errill); Eoin Fitzpatrick (Borris-Kilcotton), Colm Fitzpatrick (Borris-Kilcotton); Finbar Conway (Clough-Ballacolla), Stephen Phelan (Borris-Kilcotton), Lee Cleere (Clough-Ballacolla); Conor Meagher (Rathdowney-Errill), Shane Bowe (Rathdowney-Errill), Mark Kavanagh (Rathdowney-Errill). Subs: Kevin O’Dea (Rathdowney-Errill) for Cleere (49 mins – inj), Jordan Walshe (Clough-Ballacolla) for Meagher (51 mins)
COLAISTE MHUIRE JOHNSTOWN: Darren Brennan; Aaron O’Neill, Darragh Quinn, Cillian Hughes; Paul Coss, Jamie Moriarty, Dean McCann; Jack Dunphy, Shane Fitzpatrick; Sean Power, Niall O’Gorman, Liam Dunphy; Shane Madden, Andrew Morgan, Brian Kavanagh. Subs: Justin Cleere for L Dunphy (16 mins), David Doheny for Moriarty (59 mins), Shane Curran for Morgan (68 mins), Kieran Phelan for Kavanagh (75 mins)
Referee: Patrick Murphy (Carlow)