U21 HC final: Ratoath by a short head

December 06, 2017

Ratoath's Gavin McGowan with Jonathan McCloskey Na Fianna during the Meath U21 Hurling Championship Final at Dunganny.

Ratoath secured their maiden Under 21 HC title with a narrow win over Na Fianna in an exciting contest at Dunganny on Tuesday night.

Ratoath .........1-11
Na Fianna ......1-9

Extra-time beckoned before Ratoath pointed twice in added time. First, team captain Darragh Kelly pointed a free from halfway to break the deadlock. From the restart Sean O'Hanrahan doubled his side's advantage.

Ratoath deserve possession of the Thomas Carrigy Cup for the first time and secured the first leg of a possible under 21 championship double in the process.

They managed 16 goals en route to the decider. However, a young Na Fianna side with 11 of their MHC-winning side in their squad worked tirelessly in a bid for a surprise win.

Both sides struggled to score when playing into the pavilion end. Ratoath had eight second-half wides including six in the final quarter. In addition, Gavin McGowan was denied a 52nd minute goal by a fine Kean Flynn save.

Na Fianna posted 10 first-half wides, but only one more thereafter. Ratoath led by two points, 1-9 to 1-7, in the 54th minute when Flynn kept out a Niall Murphy effort.

The sides were tied four times in the opening 30 minutes and a further two after the break. Four points was the most that separated the teams and that came about following Gavin McGowan's 36th minute goal that made 1-6 to 0-5.

Na Fianna's response was to double their tally inside eight minutes. Points from Jonathan McCloskey (65) and Will Flynn halved the deficit. Then, midway through the half Flynn pounced on a mistake by Ratoath 'keeper Seanie Johnson to steer the sliotar to the net from close range

Sean O'Hanrahan leveled matter for the penultimate time, 1-7 to 1-7, in the 47th minute to set up a gripping final quarter during which the team in mainly royal blue jerseys outscored Na Fianna by 0-4 to 0-2.

If Na Fianna's rearguard performed heroics to maintain contention for honours, Ratoath's backline almost matched them.

Na Fianna lined out without Mark and Peter Slevin as they pursued their first title at this grade. Daithi McGowan gave Ratoath a second minute lead which they held for a further 14.

The Enfield-Baconstown outfit shaded the second quarter by 0-4 to 0-3 and were never headed for the rest of the half. Kevin Coffey's 30th minute point gave Na Fianna the lead for the third time.

Gavin McGowan leveled matters in added time to send Ratoath to the dressing rooms on level terms, 0-4-each. Two Cian Rogers pointed frees within three minutes of the restart seemed to be the platform for victory Ratoath required. McGowan's goal - with help from Rogers - looked set to ease matters further.

Na Fianna's positive response saw them regain parity twice before Ratoath's late surge.

Ratoath - Seanie Johnson; Sean McCann, Brian Murphy, Cormac Butler; Niall McClarnon, Darragh Kelly (C) (0-1 f), Ben McGowan; Brian Murphy, Sean O'Hanrahan (0-2); Daithi McGowan (0-2), Tom Fadden, Sean Keogh (0-1); Cian Rogers (0-4 fs), Gavin McGowan (1-1), Kevin Laffey.

Na Fianna - Kean Flynn; Sean Coffey, Evan Mullally, Noel O'Sullivan; Stephen Slevin, Jonathan McCloskey (0-4, 2 65s, 2fs), Ethan Devine; Kevin Coffey (0-1), Ronan Byrne (0-2); Ciaran Holton, Oisin Coffey, Shane Walsh; Will Flynn (1-1), Cian Slattery, Sean Martin (0-1). Subs - Peter Slevin for K Coffey (53), Daniel Devine for Holton (60 + 2).

Referee - Killian Jones (Kilcock)

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