Ratoath's Gavin McGowan shakes hands with Kiltale's William Mahady after tonight's SHC stalemate in Pairc Tailteann. Photo David Mullen / www.cyberimages.net

Dramatic stalemate in SHC opener

It was a slow burner but Ratoath and Kiltale ultimately produced a thrilling crescendo which resulted in a 0-17 each draw on the opening night of the Meath SHC at Pairc Tailteann tonight, writes Davy Rispin.

Ratoath ought to have won it, but a baker’s dozen of points from Kiltale talisman Jack Regan, including two clutch injury-time frees, ensured the sides could not be split.

Last year’s beaten finalists led by two entering stoppage time and had the opportunity of sealing the deal with a Padraic O’Hanrahan free, but he missed, and Regan converted in the 62nd and 63rd minute.

It was an edgy and scrappy first half devoid of any excitement or quality play.

Regan pointed a free against the wind inside the first minute, but Ratoath would dominate the next 10 minutes outscoring their opponents 0-4 to 0-1. The lively Gavin McGowan struck a hat-trick of points from play along with one from Ciaran O’Hanrahan with the sole Kiltale riposte coming from Philip Garvey.

Ratoath's Domhnall Rogers lays off possession despite pressure from Kiltale's Mark O`Sullivan and Luke O`Halloran during tonight's SHC clash at Pairc Tailteann. Photo: David Mullen/www.cyberimages.net Photo by David Mullen

A brace of Regan frees restored parity at 0-4 apiece after 20 minutes but three in a row from Padraic O’Hanrahan (two) and Jack Lanigan had Micky Cole’s men three to the good again with 24 minutes on the clock.

Despite losing the influential Mark O’Sullivan to injury, the League champions finished the half stronger with Regan, Peter Durnin and substitute Daragh O’Doherty levelling things up approaching the interval.

Padraic O’Hanrahan did manage to give his side a slender 0-8 to 0-7 advantage at the break with a pointed free to leave things finely poised.

John Donoghue’s side looked a transformed side at the beginning of the second period with the breeze at their backs.

They hit five in a row with four placed balls from Regan along with a monster score from corner back David Donoghue opening up a seemingly unassailable lead 10 minutes into the second half.

Having been outscored 0-7 to 0-1 either side of the break, it looked bleak for Ratoath, but they showed great character to get themselves back into the contest.

Cole’s charges hit five of the next six points with two frees from O’Hanrahan along with a series of excellent scores from Lanigan, McGowan and Cian Rogers reigniting their hopes.

Regan’s sole point from play in response left things delicately placed at 0-13 apiece entering the final 10 minutes.

Regan nosed the 2018 Jubilee champions back in front but further points from Rogers and O’Hanrahan (free) gave Ratoath a slender one-point lead. Regan equalised from a free but back-to-back quickfire scores from Ciaran O’Hanrahan approaching stoppage time looked to have won it for Ratoath only for Regan to land two pressure frees during injury time to tie things once and for all.

Ratoath's Sean Corbett is challenged by Kiltale's William Mahady and Iarla Hughes. Photo: David Mullen/www.cyberimages.net Photo by David Mullen

Ratoath - Colm O’Riordan; Liam Kelly, Conor McGill, Domhnall Rogers; Cormac Butler, Jack Lanigan (0-2), Niall McLarnon; Ciaran O’Hanrahan (0-3), Jack McGowan; Cian Kelly, Cian Rogers (0-2), Padraic O’Hanrahan (0-6 five frees, one '65’); Gavin McGowan (0-4), Sean Corbett, Daithí McGowan. Subs - Niall Murphy for Kelly 41m, Padraic Byrne for Corbett 59m.

Kiltale - Shane McGann; William Mahady, Iarla Hughes, David Donoghue (0-1); Conor McNally, Phillip Garvey (0-1), James Kelly; Padraig Kelly, Jack Bannon; Conor Ryan, Fearghal McCabe, Jack Regan (0-13 12 frees); Luke O’Halloran, Peter Durnin (0-1), Mark O’Sullivan. Sub - Daragh O’Doherty (0-1) for O’Sullivan 16m.

Referee - Sean Stack (Dublin).