RATHNURE tried hard but were unable to stop Oulart-the-Ballagh completing a three-in-a-row in a dour Wexford SHC final at Wexford Park yesterday.
This game failed to revive memories of past clashes between these sides. There was lots of hard graft, but little fluent hurling, but when the champions scored that goal after just nine minutes, it turned into the most important score of the game.
Defences stood tall, with Rathnure limiting the threat of the highly rated Oulart attack as the champions had first use of the strong wind. However, on the resumption it was the turn of Oulart’s defence to come to the forefront, with Keith Rossiter and Paul Roche, excelling.
In a remarkable statistic, Rathnure had their only score from play, a Robbie Codd free after just 60 seconds, the only time they led.
Given the strength of the wind, few could have anticipated the Oulart defence holding their opponents scoreless throughout the second-half and it was left to veteran Paul Codd to strike 10 points from placed balls.
Oulart-the-Ballagh tightened their grip on the game, particularly through the closing quarter, as Rathnure, never more than a puck away, strived for an all-important goal.
It was close and tense all through, after Robbie Codd had pointed Rathnure in front inside 60 seconds. The champions were finding it tough up front and had to wait until the ninth minute for their opening score, a Shaun Murphy point.
A minute later Nicky Kirwan picked out Frank Cullen in front of goal and the Oulart full-forward powered a rising shot to the net to give his side a 1-1 to 0-1 lead.
Paul Codd reeled off three pointed frees for the challengers coming up to the break, while Rory Jacob, Stephen Doyle, David Redmond and Cullen were on target for Oulart who led 1-5 to 0-4 at the interval.
Despite the magnificent play of Anthony O’Connell, Michael O’Leary, Teddy O’Connor and John O’Connor in defence, Rathnure forwards continued to rely on Paul Codd from frees.
Codd landed the opening second half point from a free, but Oulart responded with a point from man-of-the-match, Shaun Murphy, after 38 minutes.
With eight minutes remaining, Rathnure were within reach of a dramatic victory, with Codd showing unerring accuracy.
Nicky Kirwan landed a free with five minutes remaining, while two minutes from the end Codd who responded with a pointed free of his own, leaving it 1-9 to 0-11.
On 60 minutes Codd was just wide with a huge 100 metre free, before Oulart shut out the opposition with a fine Garrett Sinnott point in additional time.
OULART-THE-BALLAGH: B O’Connor; P Roche, K Rossiter, B Kehoe; S Murphy (0-2), D Stamp, L Prendergast; M Jacob, D Redmond (0-1); S Doyle (0-1), G Sinnott (0-1), P Murphy; R Jacob (0-2), F Cullen (1-1), N Kirwan (0-2 frees).
Subs: E Moore for Murphy (30); D Nolan for Doyle (55); D Mythen for Kirwan (59); A Kavanagh for Moore (60).
RATHNURE: J Morrissey; C Redmond, M O’Leary, A O’Connell; T O’Connor, J O’Connor, S O’Neill; P Codd (0-10 0-9f, 0-1 ‘65), P Whiteley; T Hogan, B O’Leary, D Flynn; J Guiney, R Codd (0-1), N. Higgins.
Subs: A Redmond for O’Neill (inj. 32); F Murphy for Hogan (47); R Flynn for D Flynn (51).
Referee: J Flood.
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