Cunneen on form as Raharney cruise to U19 hurling success
Westmeath U19 Division 1 hurling championship final: Raharney 4-17, Na Piarsaigh 1-11
A blistering second half performance ensured an emphatic victory for Raharney over Na Piarsaigh, in the Westmeath U19 Division 1 Hurling Championship final at Kinnegad last Saturday.
On a wintry day, Raharney scored 2-8 after the interval and conceded just four points as they proved the superior outfit, with Eamonn Cunneen and Aaron Ready leading a formidable inside forward line. The dynamic duo pounced for goals in the 37th and 45th minutes to quickly kill off a hitherto stern opponent and Raharney eased to an impressive win in the final quarter.
Afterwards, Matty Conaty, Chairman of the Hurling Committee, presented the cup to Jamie Mulkearns, captain of the victorious Raharney side, who were understandably thrilled with this significant victory.
The Turin/Lough Lene Gaels outfit came into this final on the back of a fine win over Clonkill, while Raharney had edged out Castletown Geoghegan in the other semi-final.
A long-range point from Cunneen set the tone in this decider before Na Piarsaigh replied with a fine strike from the impressive David Williams. Strong midfielder Jack Larkin put Raharney a point ahead again, but a sublime sideline cut from Williams split the uprights to level matters and Na Piarsaigh were ahead when Cian Reilly shot over.
A goal after 10 minutes gave Raharney a serious boost as Cunneen’s delivery was flicked home by Aaron Ready on the edge of the square. Williams (free) soon settled Na Piarsaigh again and after Cunneen’s point (free), Ciaran Kiernan shot a lovely score for the combination side.
It was keenly contested as Cunneen and Williams traded frees before Sean Leech’s cross-field ball was flicked to the net by Cian Reilly at the back post, giving Na Piarsaigh the goal their positive performance deserved.
Raharney’s response was impressive. After Cunneen (free) and Leech traded minors, the blues pounced for their second goal of the match – Joe Mulvaney setting up Ready, who shot low to the net. Raharney ‘keeper Mark Doherty produced a fine save in added time to deny Conor Heffernan a goal and further Na Piarsaigh pressure failed to yield a scoring chance in what was a critical period.
Now playing with the assistance of the breeze, Raharney pushed further ahead on the restart when Cunneen shot a terrific score from close to the sideline. Their determination was illustrated by their strength in winning tight tussles during the second half and after one such ‘ruck-ball’ scenario, Larkin shot his second point. It was the start of a prolific period as Raharney scored 1-3 without reply.
Joe Mulvaney’s point from midfield was followed by an Aaron Ready goal – the corner forward finishing low past Alex Little in the opposing goal. A pointed free by Cunneen left Raharney nine points clear by the 42nd minute and Na Piarsaigh were facing a huge challenge to turn this around.
Williams responded with a much-needed point for Na Piarsaigh, but they then conceded a fourth goal when Larkin set up Cunneen, whose low strike was partially saved by Little before the ball crept into the net. Team captain Jamie Mulkearns quickly added to the Raharney tally, leaving 11 points separating the sides.
Na Piarsaigh battled and Williams converted a free, but Michael Doherty shot Raharney’s 12th point of the final. Cunneen added a free and even allowing for missed goal chances by Brian McGrath (who shot wide) and substitute Winston Larkin (whose shot was saved by Little), the Deelsiders were now cruising. Cunneen’s pointed ‘65’ put them 13 points clear with five minutes to play.
Williams responded with another free, but Raharney finished strongly and points from Cunneen (two, one free) and Aaron Ready sealed a comprehensive victory. The rain came down at the end but it didn’t spoil the celebrations as the jubilant Raharney players showed their delight at this important victory.
Scorers – Raharney: E Cunneen 1-11 (0-8f, 0-1 ‘65’), A Ready 3-1, J Larkin 0-2, J Mulvaney, M Doherty and J Mulkearns 0-1 each. Na Piarsaigh: D Williams 0-8 (6f, 1 l/b), C Reilly 1-1, C Kiernan and S Leech 0-1 each.
Raharney: Mark Doherty; David Weir, Jamie Mulkearns, Matt Shaw; Cian Weir, Dylan Duffy, Joe Mulvaney; Caolan Ready, Jack Larkin; Kieran Daly, Michael Doherty, Callum McKeogh; Aaron Ready, Eamonn Cunneen, Brian McGrath. Subs: Winston Larkin for Daly (46), Nathan McCabe for C Ready (55), Conor Farrell for Mulvaney (57).
Na Piarsaigh: Alex Little; Craig Neville, Kevin Hogan, Declan McGrath; Sean Leech, Oisín Dolan, Oisín L’Estrange; Darragh Smith, Jack Geoghegan; Cian Reilly, David Williams, Ciaran Kiernan; Conor Leech, Daniel Buckley, Conor Heffernan. Subs: Callum Burns for Buckley (42), Jack Dowling for Kiernan (60), Lee Cribben for S Leech (60).
Ref: Barry Kelly (St Oliver Plunkett’s).