Alley finish in blaze of glory
Late burst secures crown
Not quite the Houdini act of the opening round but not far off, Buffers Alley needed to call on all their reserves to roar back from nine points behind at the break to beat Ferns St. Aidan's and claim the Gorey District Under-21 hurling Roinn 1 championship title in Camolin on Tuesday.
Buffers Alley 2-13 Ferns St. Aidan's 1-13
The Monamolin club started the game against the breeze and were trailing by 0-12 to 0-3 at half-time. However, their recovery would have been a lot more improbable had Gavin Bailey not picked up what looked like a serious knee injury in that first period.
The Ferns midfielder is a real talisman and fantastic hurler for his club. At this level there's just no way someone of his quality wasn't going to be missed when the inevitable pressure came in the final quarter.
That said, Buffers Alley showed against Liam Mellows, coming back from eleven points down to snatch a late win, that they are a team which can pull off the improbable. This win actually started off well against the breeze, with two Ross Donohoe frees.
Yet Ferns scored the next eleven points in a row. P.J. O'Neill was impressive, picking off a trio of scores, while Chris Turner continued his rich vein of form with four points in the period, but the Alley full-back line, led by the superb Ciarán Murphy, held strong and refused to be beaten in behind.
Owen Dempsey scored his side's only point from play of the half in the 30th minute but there was still time for Ryan Nolan to register from his own '45 to give Ferns a healthy 0-12 to 0-3 lead at the interval.
Substitute Darragh Hammel took just a couple of minutes to make an impact after the break, setting up Dempsey for the game's opening goal. A Donohoe free was cancelled out by a classy Turner point but the Alley soon got on a run of their own.
John Lee Meyler flighted over a brace and Donohoe added another free, while several half-chances for goals came and went as Buffers Alley cut the deficit to three (0-13 to 1-7).
However, it looked like all their hard work was for nothing when Turner latched onto Andy Cash's handpass, fought his way in on the left and, with a one-handed swing, found Oliver O'Leary's net.
Six points down, and with just over five minutes of normal time remaining, Buffers Alley started their run.
Murphy, meandering as Ferns tried to shut down the tie, pointed before the key score arrived when substitute Darragh Kehoe, only on the field a matter of seconds, latched onto a break from Meyler's long ball and fired to Conor Jordan's net.
Tails up, there was only one winner. Donohoe pulled the Alley within one, and then Meyler broke into the clear to level in the first minute of added time.
Donohoe pointed after he was fouled to give his side the lead before John Farrell and another dead-ball rounded out a run of 1-6 without reply and a three-point win.
Buffers Alley: Oliver O'Leary (capt.); Laurence Gahan, Ciarán Murphy (0-1), Leonard Leacy; Gearóid O'Connor, John Farrell (0-1), John Furlong; John Lee Meyler (0-3), Eoin Whelan; Lee Murphy, Ross Donohoe (0-7 frees), Liam Rath; Robbie Donnelly, Walter Gahan, Owen Dempsey (1-1). Subs. - Darragh Hammel for Rath (31), Darragh Kehoe (1-0) for W. Gahan (57), also Rory Kirwan, Liam Cousins, Jack Butler, Cian Fortune.
Ferns St. Aidan's: Conor Jordan; Conor Scallan, Ger Turner, Jack O'Hagan; Jason Collier, Ryan Nolan (0-1), Aaron Collier (0-1); Gavin Bailey (joint capt.), P.J. O'Neill (0-3); Peter O'Toole, Jeff Tobin (0-1), Ciarán Doran; Chris Turner (1-5, 0-3 frees), Andy Cash (joint capt., 0-1), Ben Cowman (0-1). Subs. - Dean Collier for Bailey, inj. (22), Aaron Cahill for Doran (57), also Conor Nolan, Seán Fortune, Brian O'Neill, Conor Doran, Jack Ryan, Shane Stafford.
Referee: Joe Kelly (Naomh Eanna).