St Fergal’s Rathdowney 1-16 St Declan’s CBS 1-9
Top Oil Leinster Schools Senior Hurling ‘C’ Championship Final
St Fergal’s Rathdowney were crowned Leinster ‘C’ hurling champions following an incredible victory over Dublin outfit St Declan’s CBS in Hawkfield this afternoon
The team, managed by Seán Conroy, Joe Dollard and Andrew Kavanagh, played for 36 minutes of this encounter with 14 men after wing forward Michael Shortt was shown a straight red card in the first half.
St Fergal’s trailed by seven points at that stage but they managed to hold their opponents to just a solitary point in the time that remained to pull off a remarkable victory.
There were heroes all over the pitch for St Fergal’s. Keeper Cathal Dunne pulled off a number of fine saves while, Dylan Doyle, Thep Fitzpatrick and Niall Coss excelled in defence.
Diarmuid Conway was tenacious in midfield while man of the match Kevin Mulhall covered every blade of grass alongside him over the course of the hour.
While in attack, Chris Rafter was deadly from frees with Cillian Maher, Mark Hennessy and Gavin Delaney sparkling into life in the second half.
St Fergal’s played against a stiff breeze in the first half but actually took the lead in the fifth minute through Diarmuid Conway.
St Declan’s had three players on the North Dublin Schools team that won the Leinster A final last Thursday and one of them, Kevin Burke, drew them level.
Tom Cullen and Ian Sherry moved the Dublin side further clear but Chris Rafter, who ended the game with nine points, made it a one score game by the midpoint of the half with a brace.
Rafter got another but St Declan’s reeled off 1-3 without reply to take a commanding eight point lead after 24 minutes.
Kevin Burke converted two frees while Seán Clerkin also raised a white flag before full forward John Gudson barreled his way through for a goal.
And St Fergal’s received another blow a minute later when the linesman spotted that Michael Shortt had done something off the ball and called referee Pat Kehoe who issued a straight red card.
The Rathdowney side needed to do something before half time to give themselves a chance and Chris Rafter duly converted two long range frees to leave it 1-8 to 0-6 at the break – but they still had a mountain to climb.
It was important that St Fergal’s started the second half well with their numerical disadvantage and they did when Thep Fitzpatrick sent over a long range free before setting up full forward Cillian Maher for his first of the day.
Rafter then slotted two more frees either side of a Cillian Maher point to level the game at 0-11 to 1-8 after 40 minutes.
St Fergal’s were relentless now and with St Declan’s struggling to find the target against the wind, the Laois school pushed on with Diarmuid Conway and Mark Hennessy edging them ahead as we entered the final quarter.
Chris Rafter then put three between them but a St Declan’s free from Seán Clerkin, their first score in 24 minutes, cut the gap to two points once more.
But St Fergal’s continued on the front foot with Ragfter and the impressive Cillian Maher making it a four point game as we entered the closing ten minutes.
St Declan’s went in search of a goal to bring them back into the tie but they twice found keeper Cathal Dunne in their way.
Then, with virtually the final puck of the game, Thep Fitzpatrick and Dylan Doyle combined to break out of defence and find Evan Hawkes who raced clear before dinking the sliotar over the keeper and into the net.
This left seven between them and Rathdowney had to just endure one more minute before being crowned champions.
St Fergal’s will now launch a bid for All-Ireland glory as they are now in the semi final of that competition against Seamount of Kinvara from Galway.
SCORERS – St Fergal’s Rathdowney: Chris Rafter 0-9 (seven frees), Evan Hawkes 1-0, Cillian Maher 0-3, Diarmuid Conway 0-2, Thep Fitzpatrick (free) and Mark Hennessy 0-1 each St Declan’s CBS: Kevin Burke 0-5 (three frees), John Gudson 1-0. Sean Clerkin 0-2 (one free), Ian Sherry, Tom Cullen 0-1 each
ST FERGAL’S RATHDOWNEY: Cathal Dunne (Clough-Ballacolla); Niall Coss (Borris-Kilcotton), Dylan Delaney (Rathdowney-Errill), Oisin Campion (Rathdowney-Errill); Ben Delaney (Clough-Ballacolla), Thep Fitzpatrick (Rathdowney-Errill), Dylan Doyle (Rathdowney-Errill); Diarmuid Conway (Clough-Ballacolla), Kevin Mulhall (Clough-Ballacolla); Michael Shortt (Rathdowney-Errill), Chris Rafter (Clough-Ballacolla), Evan Hawkes (Clough-Ballacolla); Gavin Delaney (Rathdowney-Errill), Cillian Maher (Rathdowney-Errill), Mark Hennessy (Clough-Ballacolla)
ST DECLAN’S CBS: Ben McSweeney; Conor Foley, Mark O’Neill, Rory Howe; Jack O’Shea, David Phelan, Irinel Popa; Tom Cullen, Seán Clerkin; Pablo Silva, Kevin Burke, Adam O’Connor; Neil Clerkin, John Gudson, Ian Sherry. Subs: Oisin O’Maolagain for Gudson (half time), Luke Walsh for O’Connor (37mins), Gerard Ryan for Clerkin (45mins)