By Denis J. Croke
THERE will be no Leinster final for Rosenallis junior hurlers, but they can take pride from a wonderful display against Ratoath on Saturday in a game that went to extra time. This was a cracking game of hurling that had supporters from both sides on edge right up to the final whistle.
There can be no doubt the exertions of recent weeks, which saw many of the Rosenallis players lining out with both their hurling and football teams, played a big part in this defeat. For over 70 minutes there was nothing to choose between the sides but in the second half of extra time it became obvious Rosenallis legs were tiring and Ratoath took advantage.
This was proven when the score that saw the Meath champions advance and finally killed of the Laois champions, four minutes from full time from substitute Paddy Coady, who was had been introduced less than a minute earlier.
The opening minutes saw the sides go score for score. Ronan Murray popped over a point after just 30 seconds but it was cancelled out a minute later by a Padraig O’Hanrahan free.
Rosenallis were back in front in the fourth minute thanks to a converted 65 from goalkeeper Stephen Kelly. But again Ratoath replied via Ben McGowan.
But Rosenallis were the more commanding side at this stage and went on a scoring spree over the next six minutes and open up a six point lead.
Kelly was again on target, this time with a massive free from close to his own 45 metre line. Further points from Joe Keating and Walter Murphy opened up a three point gap after eight minutes.
Three minutes later John Lennon drove a long ball into the Ratoath goalmouth where Murphy was alert to drive the sliotar to the net.
Rosenallis were fully deserving of their lead. While possession was evenly shared, their defensive play was superb. Out the field their players hassled and harried their opponents while their full back line, in particular Marcus Redmond was superb.
However, Ratoath began to find a bit of space and their accuracy from distance was spot on. The captain, Gavin McGowan shot the first of a number of superb points in the 12th minute, adding a second five minutes later. Ciaran O’Hanrahan then split the posts from distance.
The home side were then thrown a life line when referee Kevin Brady from Louth decided Jack Conroy had fouled Padraig O’Hanrahan and signalled a penalty.
After some debate, O’Hanrahan stood over the sliotar and let fly, but Kelly bought off an amazing saving, stretching low to his right to deflect the sliotar out for a 65, which O’Hanrahan converted.
Paddy Keating’s 24th minute free opened the gap back to the goal but the home side were to finish the half with a flurry of points.
McGowan landed another superb point, while O’Hanrahan was on target with another two, one from a free. In between these Ronan Murray was desperately unlucky to see a rasping shot graze the wrong side of the upright.
With the sides level at half time it looked like we were in for an exciting second half, and we were not disappointed.
Dara Kelly’s 65 gave Ratoath the lead for the first time two minutes after the restart, but once again Rosenallis took control of proceedings. They piled on the pressure, forcing Ratoath into conceding frees which Pat Keating capitalised on converting three in the space of three minutes to leave Rosenallis leading by three after 36 minutes.
A minute later the Laois champions got a lucky break. Ratoath’s Bryan McMahon delivered the sliotar, from distance, into the Rosenallis goalmouth where Bobby O’Brien got a touch and the sliotar nestled in the back of he net. However, after discussions with his umpires, the referee disallowed the score.
With both defences on top at this stage scores were at a premium but there were whoops of joy from the large Rosenallis support when Pat Keating split the posts to open up a three point gap with ten minutes remaining. And what a ten minutes they were to be.
The home side rattled off the next four points, Padraig O’Hanrahan, Dara Kelly (2) and Gavin McGowan on target to edge their side ahead again in the 23rd minute.
The industrious Brian Fitzpatrick levelled affairs a minute later while four minutes later A super effort from John Lennon put Rosenallis back in front with three minutes of normal time remaining.
Another superb effort from Gavin McGowan restored parity in the 28th minute but Rosenallis looked to be heading into the final when Walter Murphy found the target from a very narrow angle on the hour mark.
But there was to be another twist, Padraig O’Hanrahan convert a free in the 61st minute to send the game to extra time.
Rosenallis got their noses ahead early after the restart thanks to a point from substitute Simon Smith. Ratoath hit back with a brace from their ace marksmen, O’Hanrahan and McGowan, but Rosenallis were not going to lie down.
Cathal C. Fennell levelled and Lennon edged them ahead yet again. But Sean Keogh’s point ensured the sides were together again at the break in extra time.
However, there were signs that the Rosenallis legs were tiring. Ratoath won a 65 which Dara Kelly converted at the mid-point of this period, but still Rosenallis battled.
However, with four minutes remaining, their fate was sealed. When a long ball was delivered into the danger area, the Rosenallis defence were slow to react and Coady pounced to send the sliotar to the net.
Rosenallis battled on gallantly but there was to be no way back and so their dream year came to an end.
RATOATH: Gearoid Crowley; Turlough O’Neill, Brian Murphy, Neil O’Dowd; Paddy Dowd, Dara O’Kelly (0-4, 0-2f), Conor Ward; Ciaran O’Hanrahan (0-1), Bryan McMahon; Ben McGowan (0-1), Sean O’Hanrahan, Gavin McGowan (0-6); Kevin Laffey, Bobby O’Brien, Padraig O’Hanrahan (0-7, 0-4f, 0-1 ’65).
Subs: Niall Murphy for O’Dowd (17m), Sean Keogh (0-1) for Laffey (h/t), Paddy Coady (1-0) for S. O’Hanrahan (85m), N. O’Dowd for Ward (87m)
ROSENALLIS: Stephen Kelly (0-2, 0-1f, 0-1 ’65); Marcus Redmond, Enda McEvoy, Jack Conroy; Cormac White, Joe Keating, Fiachra C Fennell; Brian Fitzpatrick (0-1), Cillian Callaly; Walter Murphy (1-2), Joe Dooley, John Lennon (0-3); Cathal C. Fennell (0-1), Ronan Murray (0-1), Pat Keating (0-5, 0-4).
Subs: Simon Smith (0-1) for Dooley (51m), Ruaidhri C Fennell for Fitzpatrick (77m, inj)
Referee: Kevin Brady (Louth)