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28th February 2024

St. Raphael’s Loughrea defeated Nenagh CBS by 1-20 to 3-13 in the Masita All-Ireland Post Primary Schools Croke Cup Hurling Semi-Final on Saturday March 2nd at Tulla.

Killeen lands late knockout punch for St Raphael’s Loughrea

St Raphael’s Loughrea 1-20 Nenagh CBS 3-13

Report by Christy O’Connor for the Irish Examiner newspaper

All year, especially in the key latter of their crunch Dr Harty Cup games, Nenagh CBS had found a way to win tight matches and, while they looked set to do so again on Saturday, they finally met a side that stared them in the eye and refused to blink.

After going toe-to-toe with the Tipperary side all afternoon, St Raphael’s rebounded off the ropes in the final minutes of additional time before knocking Nenagh CBS out on the final bell with a devastating counter-punch from Cullen Killeen.

After absorbing everything that Nenagh had thrown at them, the Loughrea side still looked to have run out of time as they trailed by three in the 64th minute but they reeled off four unanswered points in three minutes.

Shortly beforehand, Darragh McCarthy had the opportunity to put the game beyond their reach but Raphael’s goalkeeper Shane Murray made an incredible save.

McCarthy pointed the subsequent ’65 but Raphael’s just refused to believe that the game had gone from them.

After Vince Morgan had levelled up the match, the seven minutes of additional time had been played, but Nenagh CBS then had Brian O’Meara red-carded for an off-the-ball incident and referee Eamon Stapleton allowed another minute.

St Raphael’s won the puckout and Killeen nailed an outstanding point from right on the sideline under intense pressure.

Reaching a first All-Ireland final in 20 years is all the more impressive again for a squad made up of just four clubs, with two – Loughrea and Kiconeiron – accounting for 21 of the 30-man squad.

This team is loaded with quality players while Raphael’s also had the outstanding player on the field in Sarsfields’ Paddy MacCárthaigh, who ended with a huge haul of 0-8 from play.

This was a brilliant game. The conversion rates and levels of execution in such tricky conditions in the first half was off the charts, with 20 scores from 25 shots. The second half was much more frantic but the dramatic ending was in synch with such an enthralling contest throughout.

Nenagh will be disappointed they couldn’t close out the match in such a commanding position, especially when they were so used to doing so.

The Galway side looked to have control in the third quarter but then they surrendered that initiative and spent the rest of the match desperately trying to get it back.

Nenagh appeared to have physically ground and worn them down in that fourth quarter, but Raphael’s never panicked and had the class and composure to win the game with clever use of possession and ice-cold shooting.

The stamp of their brilliant coach, Franny Forde – who coached the Galway seniors to the 2017 All-Ireland – was smeared all over his side too. Even when the heat and pressure was like a furnace, Raphael’s kept hurling and trying to do the right thing.

Raphael’s showed that icy temperament from the first whistle in how well they were able to work and necklace the ball up through the pitch on their own short puckout. Four of their first six scores came from that source, including their goal from Bobby Feeney in the sixth minute.

Nenagh weren’t tight or aggressive enough in their set-up or in the tackle but they pushed up more in the second quarter and began to shut down that threat.

An Aodhan O’Connor goal in the 19th minute had given them some breathing space before an unanswered 1-3 in six minutes – all sourced off turnovers – left Nenagh ahead at the break by 3-8 to 1-8.

Raphael’s thought, had the deficit down to three inside four minutes, before wiping it out by the 44th minute. Nenagh had to wait eight minutes for their first shot of the half, and until the 41st minute for their first score.

Raphael’s had all the momentum but a delay stalled it and Nenagh gradually began to soak up their pressure, hit more on the break, run the ball through the centre and draw more frees.

After missing three placed balls early in the second half, McCarthy finally found his range.

McCarthy was the only Nenagh player to score after half-time, with all five of those scores coming from placed balls, while six different Raphael’s players scored from play in that half.

Still, Raphael’s had gone 15 minutes without a score before MacCárthaigh staunched the bleeding in the 61st minute. Raphael’s were still pressed hard against the ropes by then but their punches finally found a groove and a rhythm. And their relentless late barrage eventually knocked Nenagh out cold.

Scorers for St Raphael’s: P MacCárthaigh (0-8), B Feeney (1-3, 3fs), C Killeen (0-3), V Morgan, E Mulleady (0-2 each), D MacCárthaigh, L McInerney (0-1 each).

Scorers for Nenagh CBS: D McCarthy (0-11, 9fs, ‘65), A O’Connor (2-0), D Quinn (1-0), J Hackett, Z Keller (0-1 each).

ST RAPHAEL’S: S Murray (Kilconeiron); J Griffin (Loughrea), D Keane (Kilconeiron), G Maher (Loughrea); O O’Gorman (Kilconeiron), D MacCárthaigh (Sarsfields), F Beirne (Loughrea); L McInerney (Loughrea), C Killeen (Loughrea); D Campbell (Cappatagle), P MacCárthaigh (Sarsfields), E Mulleady (Kilconeiron); V Morgan (Loughrea), T Stratford (Sarsfields), B Feeney (Loughrea).
Subs: S Keane (Kilconeiron) for Stratford (42), J Shaughnessy (Loughrea) for Beirne (60).

ST JOSEPH’S CBS, NENAGH: S Grace (Ballina); C Grace (Burgess), C Connolly (Nenagh Eire Og), G McGrath (Kiladangan); J Doran (Toomevara), J Hackett (Toomevara), A Hoolan (Moneygall); C Foley (Borrisokane), M Cawley (Nenagh Eire Og); J Mulcahy (Kilruane MacDonaghs), D McCarthy (Toomevara), Z Keller (Nenagh Eire Og); A O’Connor (Nenagh Eire Og), D Quinn (Silvermines), E Doughan (Moneygall).
Subs: A Duff (Toomevara) for Mulcahy (27); J O’Dwyer (Burgess) for Keller (44); D Treacy (Silvermines) for Duff (inj) (48); B O’Meara (Kilruane MacDonaghs) for Dora (48).

Referee: E Stapleton (Limerick)

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Date: 28th February 2024