Aaron Kennedy (Lough Lene Gaels) and Rory Keyes (Raharney) in action on Monday night. Photo: John McCauley

Williams’ late puck earns Gaels victory against champions

Slevin’s Coaches Senior ‘A’ Hurling Championship: Lough Lene Gaels 1-16, Raharney 1-15

Fourteen-man Lough Lene Gaels produced a rousing performance to defeat defending champions Raharney, in the Westmeath Senior ‘A’ Hurling Championship, in splendid sunshine at Clonkill on Monday night last.

The result means Raharney have lost twice and now face a crucial game against last year’s finalists, Castletown Geoghegan, while Lough Lene Gaels are in a great position to qualify ahead of a mouth-watering derby against Castlepollard.

It was a victory for grit and determination as Lough Lene Gaels made a wonderful start with the first five points, throwing down the gauntlet to the reigning champions.

Eoin Daly bundled home a goal from close range after 17 minutes and the Collinstown men led by 1-9 to 1-6 at the interval. Not even a sublime finish from Ciaran Doyle, who tapped the ball over Noel Conaty’s head in the 26th minute, could derail the Lough Lene Gaels challenge.

While Raharney made uncharacteristic errors, Lough Lene Gaels produced a fine workmanlike effort and were good enough to eke out a crucial victory without county star Derek McNicholas, who is recovering from a broken foot, and Marcus Kennedy.

When corner back Daire Daly picked up a straight red card in the 17th minute, they seemed to be facing a considerable challenge, but they held their focus, keeping Philip Reilly in the sweeper’s role and frustrating Raharney’s efforts to exploit full forward Eoin Keyes.

Tommy Doyle stood tall in defence and his terrific long-range point was followed by another from Shane Williams to give the challengers a dream start. Unforced errors hindered Raharney’s chances, and they were six points down when Eoin Daly forced the ball home, after ‘keeper Aaron McHugh struggled to deal with a high delivery.

When Ciaran Doyle scored an outrageous goal after 25 minutes – cleverly tapping the ball over the advancing Noel Conaty – a Raharney resurgence looked possible. However, they wasted opportunities and while they got level on five occasions in the second half, Lough Lene Gael hit back each time, showing great character.

It was 1-12 apiece at the end of the third quarter after Eamonn Cunneen’s point and when Killian Doyle pucked over a monstrous free to level it again in the 50th minute, Raharney looked poised to assume control. Crucially, David Williams converted a free and in response to a fine Robbie Greville point, Aaron Kennedy shot over to keep Lough Lene Gaels in front.

While Cormac Boyle once more brought Raharney level, there was late drama when they gifted their opponents the chance to take the lead and David Williams showed nerves of steel to score the final point.

To compound a forgettable evening for the Blues, Killian Doyle was off target from a long-range free with the final puck of the game.

Scorers – Lough Lene Gaels: D Williams 0-6f, A Kennedy and S Williams 0-3 each, E Daly 1-1, T Doyle 0-2, M Daly 0-1. Raharney: C Doyle 1-4, K Doyle 0-5 (1f), E Cunneen 0-2, D Hickey, J Boyle, R Greville and C Boyle 0-1 each.

Lough Lene Gaels: Noel Conaty; Daire Daly, Dan Higgins, Kevin Hogan; Aaron Hill, Micheál Daly, Tommy Doyle; Philip Reilly, Aaron Kennedy; Thomas Kennedy, Shane Williams, Brendan Doyle; Jordan Williams, David Williams, Eoin Daly. Sub: John Egan for T Kennedy (35).

Raharney: Aaron McHugh; Darren Finn, Gary Greville, Sean Quinn; David Hickey, Robbie Greville, Cormac Boyle; Conor McKeogh, Rory Keyes; Joey Boyle, Killian Doyle, Eamonn Cunneen; James Goonery, Eoin Keyes, Ciaran Doyle. Sub: Pearse Weir for Goonery (25).

Ref: Barry Kelly (St Oliver Plunkett’s).