Raharney bridge 12 year gap

February 28, 2007
The duopoly enjoyed by Lough Lene Gaels and Castlepollard in the senior hurling championship was finally broken last year when Raharney defeated Castletown-Geoghegan after a replay to land their first Examiner Cup since 1994. And given their low age profile, the Deelsiders could be a force to be reckoned with for many years to come. Having lived in the shadow of Lough Lene Gaels, Castlepollard and to a lesser extent Clonkill and Castletown-Geoghegan over the past decade, Raharney's joy was perfectly understandable after they bridged a 12-year gap to become senior hurling kingpins for a ninth time. The Examiner Cup finally made its way back to Deelside on the evening of October 28 last following Raharney's 4-5 to 2-5 defeat of Castletown-Geoghegan in the county final replay. Two weeks earlier, a late goal from county footballer Alan Mangan had earned Castletown a draw they scarcely deserved, but Raharney never lost belief in their ability and made no mistake at the second time of asking. The senior championship success crowned a memorable year for the Blues. Sandwiched between the drawn and replayed senior finals, the minor championship was annexed following a thrilling victory over Clonkill. Raharney also won the under 14 championship and were desperately unlucky to miss out on a historic Leinster club intermediate championship triumph. After coming within a puck of a ball of reaching the 2005 senior final, it was clear that Raharney would have a major say in last year's championship. Under the guidance of their inspirational manager Eamonn Gallagher - who has since become a county football selector - and his assistants Billy Boyle and Kevin Carr, they recovered impressively from a heavy loss to Clonkill early on in the championship to capture Westmeath hurling's top prize. Their success certainly didn't happen overnight with much work having been done at underage level in the preceding 10 years or so. Around the turn of the millennium, the club produced a couple of exceptional under 14 teams and many of the players who had been involved in those successes were very much to the fore last year. Raharney opened their 2006 championship campaign with a 4-16 to 0-9 victory over Ringtown in a Monday evening fixture at Cusack Park (this was the venue for all of their matches except for the replayed semi-final against Clonkill). Despite six of their players being involved with the county side 24 hours earlier in the All-Ireland qualifier against Waterford, Raharney turned on the style after the break to run out facile winners. Raharney led by just three points, 2-4 to 0-7, at half-time but the result was never in doubt after John Shaw raced through to score their third goal early in the second half. A flurry of points followed before Johnny Greville completed the rout with his third goal. Raharney's championship aspirations looked to have suffered a fatal blow when they succumbed to Clonkill by 0-4 to 1-13 in their next game. Many hurling followers were quick to write off the Deelsiders after such a crushing defeat. They were completely at sea in the first half and went into the break trailing by 1-8 to 0-0. The second half saw an improvement in their performance, but they never threatened to mount a comeback against a dominant Clonkill side. Raharney put that sobering experience behind them and got their season back on track by beating Castletown-Geoghegan 1-17 to 3-7 in a dress-rehearsal for the final. With Colm Kelly in unerring form from frees and Blaine Lehart finding the net, Castletown put themselves in a strong position, only for Brian Smyth to level on the stroke of half-time. The black and ambers went four points clear after Ronan Whelan and Joe Clarke scored goals in the 38th and 39th minutes, but Raharney were back in it by the 42nd minute when Brian Connaughton crashed a penalty to the net. The final quarter belonged to the Deelsiders, for whom John Shaw, Brian Smyth, Johnny Greville and minor star Christopher Flanagan hit some great scores to seal an important win. It was a case of double delight for Raharney in their next outing against Lough Lene Gaels. Not only did they claim a one-point win to book their place in the quarter-final, they also ended the former kingpins' interests in the championship, thus leaving the knock-out stages wide open. Most of the good hurling was played in the first half, at the end of which the Deelsiders led by 2-7 to 2-5. The Gaels led by 1-4 to 0-4 at the end of the first quarter, but goals from Niall and Christopher Flanagan - either side of a Derek McNicholas strike for the Gaels - gave the Deelsiders the edge at the break. The sides were level on four different occasions during a tension-filled second half before Niall Flanagan's brilliant point in the second minute of injury-time gave Raharney a dramatic 2-12 to 2-11 victory. Raharney renewed their rivalry with Ringtown in the quarter-final and once again they enjoyed a comfortable win. Padraig Connaughton and Niall Flanagan scored 1-3 and 1-2 respectively as Eamonn Gallagher's charges cruised into the last four. Six different Raharney players scored in the final 10 minutes of the first half to lead by 0-12 to 0-4 at the interval. There was no let up in the Raharney advance after the break with Flanagan's fortuitous goal opening the floodgates. Raharney needed two attempts to get the better of Clonkill in the semi-final. The drawn encounter failed to live up to expectations with Martin Scally's late point earning Clonkill a second chance. The Loughegar outfit opened brightly and were ahead by 0-6 to 0-1 after 18 minutes. Clonkill were still five points to the good at the break, but Raharney brought themselves back into contention when county football star Francis Boyle beat Brian Murray for the opening goal. A second goal from a Brian Connaughton penalty gave the Deelsiders the lead in the closing stages, but there was still enough time for Scally to snatch a 0-10 to 2-4 draw for the long-time leaders. In a complete reversal to the drawn game, it was Raharney who took the game to their opponents in the replay at St. Loman's. Both teams stepped up their performance, in particular Raharney who deservedly advanced to their first final in 11 years. The Blues played with the wind in the first half and led by 0-6 to 0-1 after 16 minutes. Clonkill reduced the gap to four points at half-time, but a Stephen Morley goal six minutes after the restart had Raharney perched on a 1-8 to 0-3 lead. Clonkill needed a response and they did so with four unanswered points in seven minutes. But Raharney kept them at arm's length and two crucial scores from John Shaw in the closing minutes saw them prevail on a 1-10 to 0-9 scoreline. A Castletown-Geoghegan team, bidding for their second Examiner Cup win in three years, provided formidable opposition for Raharney in the final. However, for a long time it looked as though it was going to be Raharney's day until Alan Mangan ghosted in behind their defence to bat substitute Pat Connaughton's high centre to the net with three minutes remaining to leave it 1-9 apiece at the final whistle. Raharney, who dominated the second half but only registered 0-3 in the same period, could have won it in injury-time but centre back Brian Connaughton's '65' was off target. With Mangan impressive from placed balls, Castletown settled quickly and led by 0-3 to 0-1 after 12 minutes. Points from Francis Boyle and John Shaw brought Raharney level before Castletown opened up a 0-6 to 0-3 lead by the 20th minute. However, thanks largely to Brian Smyth's impressive showing at midfield, Raharney finished the half the stronger. Points from Brian Connaughton (two) and Niall Flanagan reduced the deficit to the minimum before Stephen Morley scored an opportunist goal on the stroke of half-time to send Raharney into the break leading by 1-6 to 0-7. In a low-scoring second half, Connaughton extended Raharney's lead to three, only for Mangan to reply with two further frees. When Connaughton and sub Alan Giles made it 1-9 to 0-9, Raharney looked to have done enough, but Mangan pounced late to force a replay. It was back to Cusack Park for the replay 13 days later and this time Raharney underlined their superiority with a none-too-flattering six-point win. Displaying a fierce determination and will-to-win, the Blues were never headed after a breakaway attack culminated in Niall Flanagan scoring the first goal in the 18th minute. Francis Boyle added a second six minutes later to leave Raharney 2-4 to 0-3 in front at the break. Early in the second half, Raharney stretched their lead to 11 points thanks to further majors from Christopher Flanagan and Boyle. Ronan and Sean Whelan replied with goals for Castletown, but by then the big Raharney crowd among the 3,613 attendance were in no doubt where the Examiner Cup was heading. Raharney subsequently beat Cushinstown/Rathgarogue (Wexford) and Mullinavat (Kilkenny) in the Leinster club intermediate championship before suffering a surprise two-point defeat to Ardclough (Kildare) in the provincial final. The Raharney team which triumphed in the SHC final replay: Jimmy Greville; Peter Mullen, Paul Greville, Donie Carey; Johnny Greville (captain), Brian Connaughton, Anthony Doyle; Brian Smyth, Conor Jordan; Niall Flanagan, Francis Boyle, John Shaw; Alan Giles, Brendan McKeogh, Christopher Flanagan. Subs used: Stephen Morley, Padraig Connaughton and Nick Weir.

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