Hunterstown Rovers booked their place in their second successive Paddy Sheelan Shield final on Tuesday evening with a 2-13 to 1-12 win over the Geraldines but they were made to sweat as the Haggardstown men mounted a late comeback.
Holding a ten point half time advantage, Rovers looked to be cruising to a final clash with O’Raghallaighs. The home side even extended their lead early in the second half but a strong showing from the Geraldines after the break brought the visitors within touching distance.
In the end, Glen Mathews’ late brace of points helped to ease their passage to the showpiece final where Jim Mathews’ men will look to go one further than last year when they lost out to Newtown Blues in Tullyallen.
It looked as if Hunterstown were going to blow the Gers away early on. Padraig Mathews’ early score was added to by Alan Landy’s third minute goal. Richie Taaffe advanced with the ball and found Glen Mathews. His centre for Landy saw the full forwards first effort blocked but he made no mistake with the follow up.
Geraldines got off the mark before Padraig Mathews got his second score and then Landy fed Eddie Burke who hit a low shot past the goalkeeper with his right foot. The sides exchanged scores before Rovers began to pull away.
With Ryan Ward in the full forward line, Rovers were winning their share of aerial balls with the physicality of Tony McKenna and David Finn competing well in midfield. Those two combined as McKenna put over a neatly taken score and then Burke was integral as Landy notched his first point of the game.
Ward himself got off the mark after a superb run by the excellent Glen Mathews. Martin Lennon, Burke and Landy then combined before Padraig Mathews scored from close range. Then, Finn scored arguably the best point of the half.
After Brian Mathews was penalised, a free reduced the Gers arrears. That was cancelled out when Robert McNeice found Ward who slotted over. After Niall Carrie was caught in possession, the men in green-and-white scored again. Before they break, they kicked two wides – leaving the score at 2-09 to 0-05 in Hunterstown’s favour.
Paddy Matthews replaced Padraig Mathews at the break and the sub got the first score after the interval. But that was to be Rovers only point in 22 minutes of play. The Geraldines scored 1-05 without reply to leave just three points in it.
Referee David McArdle awarded a penalty when Richie Taaffe was adjudged to be guilty of a barge. Carrie was powerless to stop it. Within the space of six minutes, Rovers could have doubled their goal tally for the day. Finn and then Landy took turns to strike the crossbar when going for goal.
With the pressure on, it was imperative that the backs were disclipined and the forwards diligent in their pressure and tracking. Paul Taaffe and Brian Mathews were on hand to make crucial interceptions when called upon.
With the score at 2-10 to 1-10, Landy brought his tally for the night to 1-02. After the Gers hit back, Glen Mathews then pointed a routine free. Again, that was cancelled out. It should have been game over when McNeice and Finn combined well to find Landy but he inexplicably fired wide from close range.
It fell to Glen Mathews in the final minute of normal time to score a fine point to seal the deal and send Rovers through to the final. Silverware is important and there’s little doubt Rovers will relish the chance to lift the Shield – even with league and championship matters to contend with.
It’s now eight games without defeat for Hunterstown – with seven wins and one defeat in league and cup in that time. Not a bad sequence as we enter the summer months.
HUNTERSTOWN ROVERS: Niall Carrie, Paul Taaffe, Brian Mathews, Richie Cunningham, Patrick Taaffe, Richie Taaffe, Martin Lennon, Tony McKenna (0-01), David Finn (0-01), Eddie Burke (1-00), Ryan Ward (0-02), Robbie McNeice, Glen Mathews (0-03), Alan Landy (1-02), Padraig Mathews (0-03).
Subs: Paddy Matthews (0-01) for Padraig Mathews, Keith Brennan for Richie Cunningham