Junior A League Qr. Final V St. Muredach’s College, Ballina. Pictures courtesy of TJ Hughes.
The Rice lads put in a brave performance but came out second best to a very good Ballyhaunis side. An absolute cracker from Robbie Harper and a great finish from Declan Shanahan kept Rice in the game but it just wasn’t to be.
Played at The Connacht Sports Grounds, Bekan
Rice College 1-13; Ballyhaunis C.S. 3-13
Rice College senior Hurlers were defeated in the Semi-Final of the Mayo Colleges competition after a hard fought game against Ballyhaunis CS in the Connacht Sports Grounds, Beken.
Rice College were first out of the blocks and within the space of a few minutes had 2 points on the board, both coming from the stick of Sean Brogan. The powerful, strong-running centre forward was wrecking havoc in the Ballyhaunis defence in the 1st half and was a constant thorn in their side. Four different defenders were given the task of marshaling him during the game, but to no avail. He soared majestically at one point to pluck a ball out of the air and set up a fruitful Westport attack.
Ballyhaunis opened their account a few minutes later with a fortuitous goal however. A long delivery into the square was misjudged by the Westport defence, deceiving the Keeper, Michael Gallagher to find its way to the net. Rice College responded in style with some excellent play all over the field, yielding a number of valuable frees. Zak O’Toole, playing at wing forward, was unerring from the placed balls and slotted over 6 points in the opening period. He finished with a personal tally of 10 points. Ballyhaunis stayed afloat with a brace of points, but they had to work hard for their scores, due to the tenacious tackling from the Westport defence. Fullback Rob Lee was solid in defence, ably assisted by James Moran and Conor McHale in the corners. The Halfback line of Fearghal Sammon, Niall McManamon and Cillian Browne were snuffing out Ballyhaunis attacks effectively.
With about 20 minutes on the clock, Brogan went on another penetrating run through the heart of the defence, freeing up Kaylem Connolly with a neat hand pass for a great goal chance. Kaylem was unlucky to see his shot half-blocked and ricochet out for a 70. Zak O’Toole obliged with a well-taken point, keeping Rice College in command. Westport finally breached the Ballyhaunis defence , when Patrick O’Malley batted the ball to the net after a mix-up in the Ballyhaunis defence. At the close of the opening period Rice College went in with a healthy 1-9 to 1-6 lead.
Unfortunately, the Westport was to fade considerably in the second half, outscoring Rice College 13points to 4 during this period. Westport battled admirably however; Ronan Higgins and Shane Geraghty worked tirelessly with Sean O’Donnell to try to recover the game. Zak O’Toole continued to keep the scoreboard ticking over with four points. With about 6 minutes remaining, a few lapses of concentration allowed Ballyhaunis to pounce for two further goals, which effectively killed off the game. Ballyhaunis progress to the Final V St. Gerald’s, Castlebar.
Rice College hurlers are to be commended for their Trojan effort in the competition since the preliminary blitz to the semi-final. Continuing to hurl and to work on the skills of the game will undoubtedly produce success in the future.
Rice College Team: M. Gallagher; J. Moran, R. Lee, C. McHale; F. Sammon, N. McManamon, C. Browne; R. Higgins, S. Geraghty; S. O’Donnell, S. Brogan, (0-2), Z. O’Toole (0-10, 6f, 65); P. O’Malley (1-1), K. Connolly, K. Hastings.
Subs: P. Lambert for K. Hastings; N. Kelly for N. McManamon.
Report: Joe Kennedy, Pictures courtesy of TJ Hughes