Report Ronan Fagan
Rapparees 2-14, Rathnure 1-16
A goaled-free seven minutes into added-time by Wexford star Kevin Foley snatched a dramatic quarter-final victory for Rapparees over crestfallen Rathnure in Saturday afternoon’s Pettitt’s SHC clash at wintry Innovate Wexford Park.
A 45th-minute Ciarán O’Connor goal seemed to have left Rathnure on the cusp of a first semi-final appearance since 2012.
But substitute Eamonn Furlong gave Rapparees a lifeline when breaking stubborn Rathnure resistance to find the Clonard-end net a minute into injury-time. And just when it appeared that their race was run, Kevin Foley clawed the win from the jaws of defeat when powering a free to the net deep into added-time.
It all leaves the Rapps in the draw for the last-four along with Ferns St. Aidan’s and St. Martin’s, with the remaining spot to be fought out between St. Anne’s and Shelmaliers, who scheduled re-fixture on Saturday was postponed owing to a bereavement in the Shels’ club.
Rathnure started much brighter as the wind-assisted Rapps struggled to catch fire in attack amid damp conditions.
Kevin Ryan pointed the Rapps into the lead in the third-minute before Rathnure asserted themselves by 0-5 to 0-1 after ten minutes, as Ciarán O’Connor put over a ’65 and a free to sandwich an uninterrupted hat-trick of stylish Shane Lawlor scores.
The Rapps shook off their early lethargy to close to within 0-5 to 0-4 by the 19th-minute as Ryan Mahon determinedly got them back on track before his uncle, Tomás ‘Mossy’ Mahon and wing-back Jack Kelly were also on target – ‘Mossy’ putting over a ’65 after Alan Tobin had cut in from the right corner to force a save.
Rathnure full-forward Rory Higgins, who was engaged in a robust duel with Wexford colleague Liam Ryan, opened-up a 0-6 to 0-4 gap which was bridged after 21 minutes as Darragh Pepper and Kevin Ryan levelled matters for a second time.
But Rathnure had the composure to regain the whip-hand with a couple of dead-ball conversions by captain Ciarán O’Connor along with Shane Lawlor’s fourth personal score, and a late exchange of points left the black-and-amber deservedly ahead 0-10 to 0-7 at the break.
The Rapps looked to be building a head of steam when transforming matters by 0-11 to 0-10 within seven minutes of the resumption courtesy of ‘Mossy’ Mahon (free), Kevin Ryan (2) and Jack Kelly.
However, Rathnure, who were more convincing throughout, restored parity on 0-11 apiece through sub Richie Flynn, who then turned provider when collecting a free from ‘keeper Dermot Flynn to feed Ciarán O’Connor, who lashed to the far corner of the town-end net beyond the unsighted ‘keeper for a 45th-minute 1-11 to 0-11 lead.
Everything was pointing Rathnure’s way as they impressively stretched clear by 1-15 to 0-13, with Mark Boland and Ciarán O’Connor (3) generating genuine optimism amongst their ranks that they’d pull off a shock.
But Rapps then began to throw the kitchen-sink at their opponents, and Kevin Ryan was twice agonisingly denied goals. He pointed a couple of frees before the thrills and spills around the Rathnure goal-mouth eventually saw Eamonn Furlong force the ball to the net as the game slipped into added-time.
A pointed-free from Ciarán O’Connor had the appearance of extending Rathnure into the semi-finals with the game four minutes into injury-time and them leading 1-16 to 1-14.
Rathnure lost sub Kyle Byrne at this stage to a second yellow-card. But few could have expected there’d be another twist in the scoreline.
Yet it came, with Kevin Foley backing himself with a powerful free to the back of the net, and the subsequent puck-out was greeted with the final-whistle as Rathnure’s impressive troops sunk to the turf while Rapparees’ hard-working gang were left counting their lucky-stars.
Rapparees – Anthony Larkin; Ben Edwards, Liam Ryan, Mel Doyle; Jack Kelly (0-2), Ricky Fox, James Peare; Kevin Foley (capt., 1-0 free), Leonard Connolly (0-1); Kevin Ryan (0-6, 2 frees), Nick Doyle, Tomás Mahon (0-3, 1 ’65, 2 frees); Alan Tobin, Ryan Mahon (0-1), Darragh Pepper (0-1).
Subs: Nathan O’Connor for James Peare (HT); Oran Carty for Tomás Mahon (42); Eamonn Furlong (1-0) for Ryan Mahon (50); Neil McCrea for Alan Tobin (60+1).
Rathnure – Dermot Flynn; Paddy Whitely, Eoin Boggan, Cathal O’Connor; Aidan Redmond, Pádraig Doyle, Michael O’Connor; Eoin Higgins, Michael Redmond; Seán O’Connor, Ciarán O’Connor (capt., 1-9, 0-3 ’65s, 0-6 frees), Shane Lawlor (0-4); Jason Lawlor, Rory Higgins (0-1), Mark Boland (0-1).
Subs: Richie Flynn (0-1) for Seán O’Connor (20); Kyle Byrne for Jason Lawlor (38); Syl Barron for Rory Higgins (59); Seánie Redmond for Shane Lawlor (60+3).
Referee – Barry Redmond (Na Fianna Clonard).