THIRTEEN years ago he was the minor hurler of the year and with a name like Gray he looked to have a great future in front of him. However, some times it does not work out that way but on Saturday last Peter Gray delivered a match winning performance that saw the Junior C championship title go to Rathdowney/Errill for the second time in four years.
Peter may not have been the most influential player but in the opening half when his side were struggling he contributed half of their total. The sides met in the league final and it took a great second half display to give the title to Rosenallis but on Saturday it was Rathdowney/Errill who produced a good second half performance to run out comfortable winners.
Rosenallis were dealt a bad blow before the game when they had to make two changes in their full back line and had to find a replacement for the experienced Richie McEvoy in attack who was holidaying. Despite this they started very well when Joe Keating scored a good point. Rathdowney/Errill responded with a brace of points by Gray and Anthony Costigan. Long serving Declan Conroy added a Rosenallis point from play after 10 minutes but a minute later Gray posted his second.
Entering the second quarter Rosenallis took the lead when Keating got inside the defence to score a fine goal and Colm Walsh opened his account with a point. Costigan and Gray added points for Rathdowney/Errill.
Rosenallis finished strongly with points by Colm Walsh but Barry Bowe ensured an exciting finish with a well struck point and at the interval the teams were separated by Keating’s goal 1-6 to 0-6.
Whatever was said in the Rathdowney/Errill dressing room it had the desired effect and from the throw in Anthony Costigan ran towards goal and beat the Rosenallis keeper from close range. Shane Madden struck for a point while Colm Walsh replied for Rosenallis but they would not score again until ten minutes from time.
In the meantime Rathdowney/Errill added points from the young Madden brothers and then came the turning point. As Rosenallis tried to halt the slide they were hit with a second goal by the talented Shane Madden.
Walsh responded with points but Rathdowney/Errill were now completely on top adding points by Costigan and Gray to add another title to their sideboard.
Rosenallis never gave up but tired near the finish and Joe Keating closed the scoring with a point three minutes into injury time.
For the Browne brothers it was a special day. Thirty years ago Niall lined out in CrokePark and helped Laois win the Leinster under-21 championship. On St Patrick’s Day this year he celebrated his 50th birthday and on Saturday was replaced in attack by his brother, Christy who was returning after suspension. Thirty-two years ago he won his first minor medal but on Saturday he announced he is calling time on a wonderful career. He played at all levels for Rathdowney and Laois.
After the game Gerry Kavanagh presented the cup to the winning captain Lar Deegan and although there was no official man of the match award Rathdowney/Errill presented their man of the match trophy to goal keeper Jack Daly.
RATHDOWNEY/ERRILL: Jack Daly; Lar Deegan, Kieran Carroll, Aiden Donovan; Padraig Fortune, Mark Hayes, John Geoghan; Francis Carroll, Colm Campion; Shane Madden (1-2), Peter Gray (0-7), Anthony Costigan (1-2); Damian Madden (0-2), Barry Bowe (0-1), Niall Browne. Subs: Christy Browne for N. Browne (45m), Enda Meehan for Madden (47m), Ian Martin for Bowe (51m).
ROSENALLIS: Paul Friel; Cormac White, John Gorman, John Hartnett; Eoin Kelly, Cathal Fennell, Tom Shelly; Damien Gorman, Cillian Callally; Dean Mahon, Declan Conroy (0-1), Colm Walsh (0-6); Patrick J. Fitzpatrick, Paul Lynch, Joe Keating (1-3). Subs: James Jackson for Mahon (h/t), Barry Farrell for Lynch (45m), Tom Hyland for White (48m), Shaun McCormack for Callallaly (55m), Gary Kelly for Fitzpatrick (55m).
Referee: Dan Guidera (Borris/Kilcotton)