County Senior Football Final
Rathgormack are County Senior Football Champions for the first time since 1999 after they overcame the challenge of a fancied Ballinacourty side at Fraher Field on Sunday afternoon last.Played out in front of a fine attendance numbering just under 2,100, the winners led at the break 2-4 to 0-5 thanks to goals from Paul Drohan and Willie Hahessy.Although Rathgormack could only add two second half points, they restricted Ballinacourty to a goal and a point as they held on to win the Conway Cup. The Waterford champions will have to wait to see who they will play in the first round of the Munster Club Championship as Kilmurry-Ibrickane and Miltown Malbay drew nine points apiece in the Clare final.
This win for Rathgormack will give a host of clubs in Waterford confidence that they can win it in the very near future. The big three of Stradbally, The Nire and Ballinacourty have won each championship between them since Rathgormack’s last win in 1999.This win was no fluke for Rathgormack. They were one of the most consistent sides all year, putting up some excellent performances along the way. They also have invested a great deal of time and energy into their underage set up in recent years, resulting in some good wins in the different underage competitions. And while success at underage level does not always guarantee success at adult level, it often proves to be a help and so it proved in this one, as Rathgormack were able to field several players who have enjoyed under-age success.
The two sides shared just four scores between them in what was a low scoring final.
Rathgormack opened the scoring on four minutes when Jason Curry split the posts but not before former inter county goalkeeper Stephen Enright went full stretch to keep out an effort from Jason Curry.
Ballinacourty levelled two minutes later when Sean Whelan Barrett split the posts at the town end of the ground. Rathgormack were back in front when Jason Gleeson was quickest to react when Stephen Curry’s effort came off the Ballinacourty post.
The Rathgormack attack opened up the Ballinacourty defence, as they did a number of times against Stradbally, and when Jason Curry played in Jason Gleeson it looked as if he had the goal at his mercy, but his effort went wide of the upright.Rathgormack did not have to wait long however for the first green flag of the afternoon as with the very next attack James Power ran at the Ballinacourty defence and laid the ball off to Paul Drohan who palmed the size five past Stephen Enright in the Ballinacourty goal.Ballinacourty responded with a score from a David Looby free on 18 minutes which was followed with a Mark Ferncombe point from distance and a Sean Whelan Barrett point, his second of the afternoon on 22 minutes.
One of the players that has impressed in Rathgormack’s run to the county title is Willie Hahessy. The wing back, who has two All-Ireland Underage Medals, has made a habit of breaking into the opposition half of the field to create chances for himself and others, and he got his name on the score sheet in fine fashion when on 22 minutes he finished to the net to give his side a 2-2 to 0-4 lead.
David Looby, from a free, and Sean Whelan Barrett landed scores for Ballinacourty while Stephen Curry responded for Rathgormack to leave them 2-3 to 0-5 ahead with five minutes of the first half remaining.
Ballinacourty sent on Patrick Hurney, who missed the win over The Nire in the semi-final as a result of his sending off against Kilrossanty in the quarter finals, in place of Mark Twomey but there was not enough time left for him in the opening half to make an impact. Stephen Curry hit the last point of the half to leave Rathgormack 2-4 to 0-5 ahead at the break.
Ballinacourty goaled inside a minute of the restart to leave just two points between the sides and it certainly looked like game on. Patrick Hurney gave the Ballinacourty selectors, who had left him out of the starting fifteen, plenty to think about when he sent a cross field pass to Sean Whelan Barrett who hit the Rathgormack post with Padraig Hunt beaten,Four minutes later David Looby put over his third free of the game to leave just one between the sides with Ballinacourty right back in the game. They missed a great chance however to go in front on 38 minutes when Neil Montgomery shot wide when it looked as if a goal was on the cards.
Scores in the second half were hard won. Jason Curry put Rathgormack two in front from a free on 42 minutes.
Despite trailing Ballinacourty were creating chances but they could not get past a strong Rathgormack defence as Tom Walsh twice made block downs and Michael Curry and Liam Connolly also got their bodies in the way of the ball going between the posts.
Jason Gleeson pointed for Rathgormack from a free on 44 minutes, a score that remarkably was to be the last of the game.Ballinacourty had their numbers cut to 14 in added time when Patrick Hurney was ordered off after a foul on Conor Walsh that saw him issued with a second yellow card. Rathgormack now march on to a Munster Quarter Final clash against a Clare Champions on November 10, but first it can be assumed that Ger Power and his selectors will make the journey to Ennis to see their opponents in action when the replayed county final takes place.