Mt Leinster Rangers 3-10
Bagenalstown Gaels 0-12
By Kieran Murphy
THEY may be poles apart. A continent apart for sure but after the events of the weekend Bagenalstown Gaels have something in common with the English rugby team.
It would be fair to say that on Saturday the two teams faced the biggest games of their respective sporting lives. They were looking forward to producing big performances but also knew anything less would not be enough.
Yet despite this knowledge nothing went right for England and exactly six hours later Bagenalstown Gaels were similarly afflicted in the Minor Hurling Championship final replay at Netwatch Cullen Park. It was one of those days where nothing went right for the Barrowsiders.
Rangers posted their intentions early. Conditions were far from ideal and the clammy rain made life difficult for the players. This contributed to Bagenalstown hesitancy in the opening minute when a long delivery into their small square was not dealt with. Joe Dundon just needed to poke the ball across the line and Rangers were up and running.
The goal-scorer then put in Evan Kealy for a nice point and Donagh Murphy raised another white flag. Jake Doyle replied with a sixth minute free for Bagenalstown but it was clear they were not firing properly.
The next Rangers goal was exceptional as Dundon and James Bible combined to put in Murphy for a three-pointer. With Kealy and Dundon adding further points, Rangers had one hand on the cup and they hadn’t even played fifteen minutes. It could have been worse as Murphy was denied a second goal by a good save from Steven Lillis.
Bagenalstown lived on scraps from the sweet striking of Doyle who scored all his side’s points in the first half. Any attempted comeback was made harder when Bible put in Murphy for a third goal on 31 minutes. At 3-7 to 0-4 in favour of the eventual winners it was going to need a miracle for Bagenalstown to save the game.
Their cause wasn’t helped just before the break when Jason Wall was given a straight red card when a number of players from each side tangled with each other underneath the stand just inside the half-way line at the O’Hanrahan end of the ground.
It looked an innocuous coming together of bodies so it will be interesting to see what the referee’s report will say regarding the incident.
Bagenalstown were a much improved side after the interval. They went quickly into the attack at the O’Hanrahan end of the ground. Tadgh Holland was unlucky not to get a decisive touch with the goal yawning in front of him. Credit the Rangers keeper, Ciaran Joyce who did enough to distract him.
The team in arrears needed goals. Rangers knew that too and they pulled more than one player behind the ball which helped to deny their rivals. Robert Stafford converted a brace of frees for Rangers. Bagenalstown replied through Jake Doyle who scored four points in the second half. Shane Cowman and Billy Fitzpatrick also found the posts but the goal wouldn’t come which might have precipitated moments of anxiety in the opposition.
At the end the game petered out. Bagenalstown Gaels never stopped trying but the damage had been done in the first half. If the two met again next week there would probably be little between them. When it mattered, however, Rangers got the drop on their rivals at the critical time.
Mt Leinster Rangers: Ciaran Joyce; Fionn Murphy, Michael Joyce, Declan Brennan; Sean Joyce, Fiachra Fitzpatrick, Luke Kavanagh; Robert Stafford (0-2 frees), Ciaran Kavanagh; Donagh Murphy (1-3), Tadgh Doran, Evan Kealy (0-4, 0-2 frees); Ben Bolger, Joe Dundon (1-1), James Bible (1-0). Subs: Aidan O’Loughlin for Kealy (35 mins), Luke Fenlon for Brennan (44 mins), Brad Bolger for Bolger (57 mins), Patrick Stafford for Bible (59 mins), Darragh O’Connor for Dundon (59 mins).
Bagenalstown Gaels: Steven Lillis; Sean Wall, Eoghan Hickey, Shane Cody; Niall Bolger, Darragh Nolan, Ross O’Neill; Jack McCullagh, Michael Mullins; Jason Wall, Patrick McDonnell, Oisin Dillon; Shane Cowman (0-1), Billy Fitzpatrick (0-1), Jake Doyle (0-8, 0-5 frees, 65, sl). Subs: Kuba Budzeisz (0-1) for Hickey (24 mins), Tadgh Holland (0-1) for Wall (half-time), Aidan Dowling for Cowman (48 mins).
Referee: Brian Deering (Rathvilly)