Laois Shopping Centre Senior Hurling Championship Group B Rd 1
By Pat Delaney
THESE two never surprise or disappoint and last Thursday evening was no different. Not for the first time they could not be separated but the main talking point among followers after 64 minutes was the referee.
John O’Brien does things differently and both teams were unhappy but probably relieved that neither of them lost, and of course under the new system they do not have to meet again. But you would not bet against them meeting later on.
Clough/Ballacolla hit three early points but Mark Kavanagh, who would go on to be a big player for Rathdowney/Errill, opened his side’s account from a placed ball.
Clough/Ballacolla were winning a lot of ball but squandered opportunities. However, they kept their noses in front and when Stephen Bergin weaved his way down under the stand he drew Noel Brennan, then sent a perfect ball to the roof of the net.
Four points separated the sides for most of the half but Rathdowney/Errill narrowed the gap with some great points from Mark Kavanagh, Brandon McGinley and Pat McCane.
Willie Hyland and Stephen Maher kept Clough/Ballacolla just in front and at the interval Rathdowney/Errill trailed 0-10 to 1-9.
Indeed Rathdowney/Errill had hardly tested Danny Hanlon but would have been pleased with their half hour performance.
Shane Hanlon replaced Sean Corby at the interval but Mark Kavanagh cut the deficit in half when converting a 65.
From the puck out Clough/Ballacolla hit back. John Dwyer fetched a high ball, picked out the well placed Stephen Maher and he made no mistake with a rasping shot.
Mark Kavanagh kept his side in touch with another point before Robbie Phelan got his name on the score sheet.
Aiden Corby put his side five clear but Rathdowney/Errill had hauled on the walking wounded and one Tadgh Dowling fired over a point from the wing.
Willie Hyland and Mark Kavanagh traded points and after looking comfortable Clough/Ballacolla began to struggle. Another sub, Joe Fitzpatrick struck a great point.
Rathdowney/Errill should have had a goal but a brilliant intervention by Eoin Doyle resulted in a 65 which was converted by Mark Kavanagh. In the 53rd minute the same player landed the equaliser from another free.
Danny Hanlon then delivered to Picky Maher, he was fouled and Willie Hyland edged his team back in front again and the see saw began. Rathdowney/Errill hit two wides and another Willie Hyland point edged his side two clear with four minutes remaining.
Then came the first real controversy. The long serving Canice Coonan was surrounded as he cleared his lines and Pat Purcell was thinking of nothing only a goal. The referee allowed play to continue and from close range Purcell lifted the net to edge his side in front for the first time.
Clough/Ballacolla were incensed but from the puck out Picky Maher restored parity again and the clock heading for 62 minutes.
Then a long puck out reached Pat McKane and he sped past the defence on the end line before billowing the net behind Danny Hanlon and three points separated the neighbours.
Another twist unfolded when Clough/Ballacolla, in a final throw of the dice, gave Jordan Walsh his senior debut. As he reached for his first touch he was hauled down and the referee, although well out field, had a good view of proceedings and signalled for a penalty for Clough/Ballacolla.
Again protests but eventually Picky Maher stood over the ball and lashed home his second goal, all square and no body counting the minutes.
Surely no more drama, but there was still another chapter.
Tadgh Dowling caught the puck out and split the posts at the Town end and the ‘Colla trailed by one.
From the puck out a free was awarded and, after more protests, the referee moved the ball into a more favourable position. Willie Hyland had been down this road many times and the cheer from the blue end of the stand signalled another equaliser.
The perfect start to another championship.
CLOUGH/BALLACOLLA: Dan Hanlon; Eoin Doyle, Ronan Broderick (0-1) Canice Coonan; John A Delaney, Michael McEvoy, Lee Cleere (0-1); Aiden Corby (0-1), John O’Dwyer (0-1); Robbie Phelan(0-1), Stephen Maher (2-3, 1-0 pen), Willie Hyland (0-6, 0-4f); Willie Dunphy (0-1), Sean Corby, Stephen Bergin(1-1).
Subs: Tim Delaney for A Corby (53m), Jordan Walsh for O’Dwyer (56m)
RATHDOWNEY/ERRILL: Noel Brennan; Brian Campion, Jack Kelly, John Keane; Eric Killeen, Jimmy Corrigan, Alan Delaney; James Ryan, Shane Dollard; Mark Kavanagh (0-11, 0-10f), Daithí Poynton, John Purcell; Pat Mc Kane (1-3), Pat Purcell (1-0), Brandon McGinley (0-1).
Subs: Joe Fitzpatrick (0-1) for McGinley (37m), Tadgh Dowling (0-3) for J Purcell (37m)
Referee: John O’Brien (Portlaoise)