Laois Shopping Centre ACHL Division 1A Final
By Pat Delaney
A WEEK earlier Thep Fitzpatrick scored 11 points but ended up on the losing side. On Saturday evening at Mountrath 11 from their marksman was enough to see Rathdowney/Errill claim their first adult title since their seniors saw off Castletown in Division 1 at the same venue three years ago.
These two met in the league stages at Ballacolla and the visitors went home with the spoils and went on to top the league table going directly to the final. Clough/Ballacolla took the scenic route ousting both Mountrath and Portlaoise to secure their place in the decider.
The two played out a high scoring thriller in the final three years ago with the honours also resting across the river. Last weekend Clough/Ballacolla continued their rich vein of form with a landslide victory over Mountmellick but Rathdowney/Errill suffered a narrow defeat to Borris/Kilcotton.
On Saturday Rathdowney fell behind early on but once Thep Fitzpatrick levelled matters from a free and defender Vinny Cleere edged them in front they looked like the team with the greater desire. Clough/Ballacolla were dependent on free taker Damien Bergin and he put them two points in front after ten minutes.
Rathdowney/Errill replied with two from Thep and an excellent strike by Enda Meagher from play after 15 minutes. Then came a great goal chance for Clough/Ballacolla but Damien Madden denied them at the expense of a 65 which was converted by Damien Bergin.
Rathdowney/Errill replied with two great scores from play, first defender Kevin O’Dea and from the puck out the ball reached full forward Shane Bowe who might have gone for goal but was content with a point with 20 minutes played.
Brian Corby struck a great point from play to narrow the gap but after defender Jim Doyle landed a great score from distance it was Thep Fitzpatrick who punished Clough/Ballacolla with three frees to leave Rathdowney/Errill in front 0-11 to 0-8 at half time.
After both sides struck bad wides Chris Rafter sent over a good point from play but the next three scores all came from Thep Fitzpatrick putting his side four clear.
Damien Bergin broke the sequence but only briefly because after a few changes by Rathdowney/Errill it was Thep who landed three more points to leave his side six clear with five minutes remaining.
Clough/Ballacolla then launched an attack that almost yielded a goal by Jordan Walsh but again Damien Madden made an excellent save and that more or less ended the Clough/Ballacolla challenge. Damien Bergin and Chris Rafter did throw Clough/Ballacolla a lifeline with two great points but veteran Enda Meagher offset this with a great score from play. Eoin Bourke sealed the title with a well struck effort from play.
Damien Bergin converted a free to close the scoring but after playing some great hurling with both Division 1 and Division 1A these Clough/Ballacolla players will be disappointed going away empty handed. Rathdowney/Errill will take positives from this result with two big championship games this weekend.
After the game Tom Clear on behalf of Laois County Board complimented the two neighbours on a very sporting contest and wished both well ahead of the championship. He then presented the trophy to Alan Delaney captain of Rathdowney/Errill and he paid tribute to their backroom team in ensuring no stone was left unturned in bring a title back to the club.
RATHDOWNEY/ERRILL: Damien Madden; Mark Tracey, Alan Delaney, Vinny Cleere (0-1); David Poynton, Darragh Carroll, Kevin O’Dea (0-1); Shane Dollard (0-2), John Keane; Thep Fitzpatrick (0-11, 0-9fs), Eoin Bourke (0-1), Enda Meagher (0-2); Cillian Meagher, Shane Bowe (0-1), Jordi Kavanagh.
Subs: Paddy Meehan for J. Keane (45m), Brian Bowe for Meagher (53m)
CLOUGH/BALLACOLLA: Cathal Dunne; Finbar Conway, Eoin Doyle, Matt Bergin; Johnny Finane, Brendan McEvoy, Jim Doyle (0-2); Brian Corby (0-2), Damien Bergin (0-6, 0-5fs); Aiden Doyle, Ciaran Finane, Chris Rafter (0-3); Jordan Walsh (0-1), Robbie Phelan, Mark Hennessey.
Sub: Ben Delaney for J. Finane (25m), Ray Cummins for A. Doyle (45m)
Referee: Ronan Devaney (Camross)