Rathdowney-Errill 1-16 Clough-Ballacolla 2-13
Laois Shopping Centre SHC
A late free from Picky Maher ensured a share of the spoils in this pulsating Laois SHC Round 1 game in O’Moore Park on Friday night, as Clough-Ballacolla and Rathdowney-Errill ended all square.
In a game that had the real cut and thrust of a championship encounter, despite the long layoff for both teams, a draw was just about a fair result. Clough-Ballacolla will probably feel harder done by though, having been in front for most of the game. However a few missed chances late in the game left them needing Maher’s free with the last puck of the game to get the draw.
For the reigning champions, they didn’t manage a score from play until the 45th minute, and were almost totally reliant on Ross King’s brilliance from placed balls. Suffice to say, they have plenty to work on in the weeks ahead.
Aidan Corby raised the first white flag of the game with less than twenty seconds on the clock, but it was Rathdowney-Errill who would enjoy the better start to the game.
Ross King quickly drew them level with a free, and he repeated the trick from another placed ball moments later to edge them in front. It would be a recurring theme for the reigning champions, as all of their first-half scores came from placed balls, all scored by King.
He registered his third soon after before Clough-Ballacolla burst to life. It started with a free from Picky Maher, and moments later he set up Mark Hennessy for a goal chance. Before he could get his shot away John Purcell had hauled him to the ground inside the area, and Alan Doheny correctly called for the penalty. Picky stepped up and blasted the ball to the bottom corner.
To compound matters for Rathdowney-Errill, Damian Madden’s short puck out allowed Clough-Ballacolla to win back possession and seconds later Willie Dunphy had the ball nestling in the back of the net once more. Picky then added a point from play and a long-range free, and in the space of five minutes Ballacolla had gone from being two points down to leading by seven.
Rathdowney-Errill were seeing plenty of possession but most of their shots at goal from play were from distance, and their accuracy was way off target. When they didn’t manage to get a shot away they usually earned a free, and it was King’s accuracy which kept them in touch. He rattled off three frees on the trot before a superb point from the left wing by Picky Maher.
King (free) and Aidan Corby traded scores before Rathdowney-Errill fashioned their best goal chance of the half when King set Paddy Purcell up on the left side of the penalty area, but Cathal Dunne made a brilliant point-blank save. Ross King pointed the resulting 65.
He added two more frees before the interval to get his side back to within two, and apart from a brief bit of handbags, that capped off the first half as Clough-Ballacolla lead 2-6 to 0-10 at the turnaround.
The handbags returned early in the second half after a late hit on Paddy Purcell by Willie Hyland, with Hyland earning a yellow and a few other players booked for the afters which followed. When played resumed, Ross King’s free got Rathdowney-Errill back within one.
Clough-Ballacolla responded well though, with Hyland landing one from range and then Picky hitting two points in the space of a minute to push them three clear.
King again landed a free but Clough-Ballacolla were more threatening across the pitch, and Hyland, Maher and Willie Dunphy all hit the target as they started to build up a head of steam.
It was up to Rathdowney-Errill to curtail it and they duly did, as Paddy McCane cut in from the left wing and fired a shot to the bottom corner for their first score from play. It came just before the water break and Clough-Ballacolla were now just two ahead.
Rathdowney-Errill came roaring back after that, as King hit two more frees to draw them level. Then, seconds after Robbie Phelan saw a shot for goal saved, King got his first from play and they were in the lead for the first time since the opening minutes.
It didn’t last long though, as Picky Maher quickly hit back with a free to leave the teams level heading into the last five minutes.
From that point on Clough-Ballacolla probably should have won it, but they hit five wides and looked like they would be left to rue it. Rathdowney-Errill worked the ball down the left wing and eventually got it into the hands of James Ryan, who evaded a whole host of challenges to point from 21 yards out.
Credit to Clough-Ballacolla though, they fashioned one last chance, from a free, and Picky Maher held his nerve to earn his side a draw.
SCORERS – Rathdowney-Errill: Ross King 0-15 (0-13 frees, 0-1 65), Paddy McCane 1-0, James Ryan 0-1.
Clough-Ballacolla: Picky Maher 1-8 (1-0 pen, 0-5 frees), Willie Dunphy 1-1, Aidan Corby, Willie Hyland 0-2 each.
RATHDOWNEY-ERRILL: Damian Madden; Jimmy Corrigan, Jack Kelly, John Purcell; John Keane, Joe Fitzpatrick, Thep Fitzpatrick; Shane Dollard, Paddy Purcell; James Ryan, Brandon McGinley, David Poynton; Mark Kavanagh, Ross King, Paddy McCane. Subs: Dylan Carroll for Dollard (45 mins), Damian Bowe for Poynton (54 mins)
CLOUGH-BALLACOLLA: Cathal Dunne; Brian Corby, Darren Maher, Diarmuid Conway; Ronan Broderick, Michael McEvoy, Lee Cleere; Willie Hyland, Aidan Corby; Robbie Phelan, Mark Hennessy, Jordan Walshe; Stephen Bergin, Stephen Maher, Willie Dunphy. Subs: John Dwyer for Walshe (50 mins)
REFEREE: Alan Doheny (Castletown)