• Sport

Gunning for Division 1: Rovers’ Road to the Playoff Final

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Alan Landy (Hunterstown Rovers) races for the ball. Photo Credit: Adrian Crawley.
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This article originally appeared on ThisIsArdee.ie
Hunterstown Rovers take on Newtown Blues at Darver Centre of Excellence tonight (T.I 8pm) as the teams battle it out for a place in Division 1 of the Louth GAA League in 2018. It’s been a stellar season for Hunterstown in league action. Here, we look back at their journey to this point match-by-match.

 

Sat April 15th – O’Raghallaighs 0-07 Hunterstown Rovers 2-13

Three defeats in the Paddy Sheelan Cup didn’t prove an accurate barometer of how Hunterstown Rovers would start their league campaign in Drogheda, as Jim Mathews roared to a 12 point win over the O’Raghallaighs, the side Mathews had just left after three years before returning to Hunterstown.

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In a swashbuckling display, Rovers needed a strong second half showing to power away from the O’Raghallaighs after a close first half. Alan Landy and Ryan Burns hit the goals in the second half. The Drogheda side missed 10 presentable point chances in the opening half hour – and were made to pay for that wastefulness. Brendan Lennon scoeed 0-03 in an impressive display, while Brian Mathews and Niall Carrie also stood out.

Sun April 23rd – Hunterstown Rovers 3-15 Dundalk Young Irelands 1-06

The following weekend, Rovers continued their 100% start to the Division Two season, this time with a 15 point win over Dundalk Young Irelands at Pairc Baile Fiach. All the more impressive was that it came without key men Ryan Ward, Glen Mathews and Ryan Burns missing through injury and holiday respectively.

Landy scored 1-05, including hitting the back of the net within just 20 seconds of the start of the second half. Lennon’s goal and Landy’s three point first half haul had handed Rovers a good but not insurmountable half time lead. Eight of the starting XV hit scores in a pleasing display, as DYI finished the game with 14 men.

Brendan Lennon in action for Hunterstown against Dundalk Young Irelands.
Fri April 28th – O’Connells 0-10 Hunterstown Rovers 2-18

Coming into the game on top of Division 2, Hunterstown remained there by the end of this Friday evening clash, racking up another sizeable score in seeing off the men from Castlebellingham by 14 points.

This match turned out to be the last regular season match in which Ryan Burns appeared for Rovers in 2017 and he top scored with 1-04, while Landy and David Finn contributed 0-06 and 1-02 each. The O’Connells had no answer for Rovers’ blistering first half display and although they made a better fist of things later in the game, it was far too late.

This scoreline brought Hunterstown’s tally after three games to 7-46.

Sat May 13th – Hunterstown Rovers 3-07 St Fechins 0-09

Back on home soil, Rovers were just as lethal in front of goal and the posts against St Fechins in mid-May, running out seven point winners at Pairc Baile Fiach. It was a result that made it four wins from four in the league.

The visitors were without inter-county players Bevan Duffy and Ronan Holcroft while Mathews couldn’t call on Burns but it was the Fechins who couldn’t take their chances. Rovers and Padraig Mathews didn’t make such a mistake. The game could have been out of reach by half time but as it was, Mathews goals in each half proved the difference.

Richie Cunningham and Paddy Mooney impressed, while captain Muiris O Suilleabhain was pressed into action in the forwards and was heavily involved.

Fri May 19th – Oliver Plunketts 0-12 Hunterstown Rovers 0-12

They four game winning streak came to an end away at Oliver Plunketts six days later but the unbeaten record remained intact, at least. With Tony McKenna unavilable, Ryan Ward’s return from injury proved timely.

Goalkeeper Niall Carrie was on 45 and free duty and he hit 0-02 which proved key. But Mathews and his team walked away from this one ruing the fact they were unable to win with chances to do so in plentiful supply.

Tue June 20th – Hunterstown Rovers 2-12 Na Piarsaigh 1-05

Rovers enjoyed a big win against their visitors from Dundalk in a game notable for the injury suffered by captain Muiris O’Suilleabhain. His serious knee injury has kept him out for the remainder of the season.

Ryan Ward helped Rovers to a 10 point victory over Na Piarsaigh.
Tue June 27th – St Josephs 1-11 Hunterstown Rovers 0-13

Dromiskin was the venue for Hunterstown’s first league defeat of 2017. A one point loss to a St Josephs team who have so excelled in the Senior Football Championship this year is no disgrace.

Rovers did hold a two point lead at the break courtesy of Tony McKenna’s four point haul from midfield and further scores from Landy, Lennon, Glen Mathews and Robbie McNeice. However, after veteran Padraig Mathews received a second yellow card with 20 minutes to play, Rovers were overrun and edged out.

Sat July 1st – Hunterstown Rovers 2-10 Naomh Fionnbarra 1-11

Before attentions turned to the Championship, Rovers bounced back from that first defeat against the Joes by edging out their visitors from Togher at Pairc Baile Fiach. If that loss was a spanner in the works, this repair job did the business to ensure Hunterstown remained just one point off the league summit.

It was acheived in the most dramatic of fashion. Paul Carrie’s goal three minutes into injury time won it. Trailing by one point in time added on, centre half back Carrie added to his first half penalty to steal victory from the jaws of almost certain defeat.

It looked as if it might not be Hunterstown’s day as Landy and Richie Taaffe were denied by the frame of the goal but luck was on their side when they were awarded a penalty. Scores from the likes of Padraig Mathews, Robbie McNeice and Lennon always kept the team in red in touch. Carrie’s fisted effort sealed the deal.

Wed July 26th – Hunterstown Rovers 1-11 St Mochtas 0-11

St Brides’ win over Oliver Plunketts meant even this win, Rovers’ seventh in nine league outings, left Hunterstown one tantalising point off the top of Division 2. On a night when a full round of fixtures was played, there was also a win for third place Naomh Fionnbarra but Rovers maintained a four point gap over fifth placed O’Raghallaighs with just two games remaining. A playoff place was all but assured with this win.

This game came just since Hunterstown and the Mochtas met in the Intermediate Football Championships, with Rovers emerging victorious in Dunleer to book their place in the last eight.

They were behind at the break in Hunterstown but were deserving of their three point win by the end. Glen Mathews’ two points were added to by Landy, Paul Carrie and David Finn in the opening 30 minutes but the visitors went in 0-06 to 0-05 in front.

The torrential downpour that fell onto the pitch an hour before throw-in was the last of the rain for the evening but on a bitterly cold night, Hunterstown came good. Carrie notched the first and last points of the half while Finn, Paddy Mooney, Richard Taaffe and Ryan Ward added more points. Padraig Mathews was the man who the ball in with six minutes remaining for the crucial score.

Sun Aug 27th – St Brides 3-16 Hunterstown Rovers 0-09

The less said about this the better. A heavily depleted Hunterstown – missing Tony McKenna, Ryan Burns, Muiris O’Suilleabhain, Padraig Mathews and Paul Carrie – were no match for St Brides. This was a chastening result which needed a reaction. Mercifully, it would come in the next two games.

Sat Sept 2nd – Hunterstown Rovers 3-19 Glen Emmets 1-11

Finally, Rovers confirmed their place in the Division 2 promotion playoffs with a bumper victory over Glen Emmets at Pairc Baile Fiach, a win which also sealed second place in the league for Rovers.

Jim Mathews’ side finished with a flourish – enjoying their highest scoring outing of the year as they bounced back from a disappointing defeat away to St Brides last Sunday. Alan Landy hit 2-04 and Glen Mathews 0-06 as Hunterstown looked comfortable from start to finish.

Looking back, you can probably say the men from Tullyallen had their focus set on Championship concerns elsewhere but Rovers still had to do their job and they did so with aplomb. Keith Brennan put in a stellar display and Paul Taaffe was strong at the back but Glen Mathews stole the show hitting 0-07 – and he probably should have had more.

Sat Sept 9th – Hunterstown Rovers 3-11 Naomh Fionnbarra 1-10

Notable for the return to the Hunterstown shirt of talisman Burns – 12 weeks to the day since Louth’s ignominious exit from the Leinster Championship – Rovers finished comfortably against Naomh Fionnbarra after a match that was anything but.

Ryan Burns returned in timely fashion for the playoff semi-final clash with Naomh Fionnbarra.

A poor first half showing left Hunterstown’s hopes of progression to the final hanging by a thread but a vastly improved display after the break meant Jim Mathews side won through, with a seven point cushion between them and their opponents. Burns scored 1-03 while Brennan and Finn got the others.

Wed Sept 27th – Hunterstown Rovers vs Newtown Blues

How is it going to go? Our fingers are crossed!

Main feature photo by Adrian Crawley. In-copy photography by Warren Matthews.

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