Berry provides rich pickings
Harriers surprise Oulart
Jim Berry's 28th-minute goal helped Faythe Harriers to survive a mighty test as they impressively cracked the challenge of once-powerful Oulart-The Ballagh in this hugely entertaining All-County Hurling League Division 1 semi-final in Oulart on Saturday.
Faythe Harriers 1-16 Oulart-Ballagh 0-16
Adding to the significance of the victory was the fact they defeated a side at full strength whom many are hailing as almost certainties to regain their coveted Senior crown this year. But the Wexford town side asked significant questions which the home side were unable to answer and, given that they conquered their opponents so impressively, we could be in for a lively final series of games when the championship resumes mid-August.
Faythe Harriers' form had been mixed in the championship to date so they needed a significant test. Given the open nature of the groups, clubs are busily preparing and anxious to lay down markers before the race for the title resumes in earnest. Some clubs are well placed, more need victories to move into the play-off spots, while others require points to avoid a relegation battle.
Oulart-The Ballagh know a fair bit about what it requires to be successful. However, on the evidence of this setback, not taking from the Faythe Harriers victory which was hugely impressive, their hurling is patchy with little or no cohesion to their play in a side where the backroom team were prepared to experiment with the individual positioning of players.
Garrett Sinnott in the unfamiliar surrounds of centre-back was under pressure against the in-form Berry, while Keith Rossiter strove manfully at full-back to stem the flow of attacks. A variety of midfield pairings struggled, while Eoin Moore looked somewhat lost in a half-forward role as the attack struggled for the goal their game so badly needed.
This victory will be a significant boost to the Faythe Harriers players' confidence. Solid in defence where David Mooney, Richie Kehoe, Mikey Hanrahan and Emmet Keeling were outstanding, they saw Lee Chin and Alan Lynch rule midfield, while Jim Berry was the star of the attack as he dismantled the home side's defence.
With Berry picking off early points from frees and play, coupled with efforts from Lee Chin and Barry Goff, the town side led by 0-5 to 0-2 after ten minutes, with Oulart-The Ballagh responding through a Moore '65 and Des Mythen effort off the wing.
The game was flowing with some huge individual duels, but when Berry knifed his way through the defence, and in Richie Hogan-style shortened his grip on the hurley to bat the ball to the net from an acute angle, the eventual winners went on to lead by 1-12 to 0-9 at the interval.
On the resumption the Harriers struck a string of wides before the home side responded with points from Rory Jacob and a Nicky Kirwan free, but after Berry found the target with a long-range free, the Harriers led by 1-15 to 0-13 with eight minutes remaining.
Two Moore pointed frees along with a Des Mythen point left just two separating the sides (1-15 to 0-16), but a superb Lee Chin point from all of 80 metres out close to the sideline sealed a dramatic and deserved victory for the town side.
Faythe Harriers: Ian Scallan; Ross Lynch, David Mooney, Alex Lynch; Emmet Keeling, Richie Kehoe, Mikey Hanrahan; Lee Chin (0-4), Alan Lynch; John Bridges, Jim Bery (1-11, 0-7 frees), Barry Goff (0-1); Shane Howard, Pádraigh Farrell, Dean Walsh. Subs. - Brian Denton for Howard, Con O Donnagáin for Walsh.
Oulart-The Ballagh: Conor O'Leary; Kevin Nimmo, Keith Rossiter, Barry Kehoe; Laurence Prendergast, Garrett Sinnott, Shaun Murphy (0-1); Darren Nolan, Michael Jacob; Eoin Moore (0-8, 5 frees, 1 '65, 1 line ball), Tommy Storey (0-1), Des Mythen (0-3); Anthony Storey, Rory Jacob (0-1), Nicky Kirwan (0-2, 1 free). Subs. - Darren Stamp for Kirwan, Anthony Roche for Prendergast, Stephen Doyle for M. Jacob, Kevin Sheridan for Nolan, Peter Sutton for A. Storey.
Referee: Seán Whelan (St. Martin's).