Bridge boys kings of castle!
Ferns pipped in a thriller
The final match of the Rackard League season proved to be the most entertaining when Castlebridge met Ferns in the Allianz Cumann na mBunscol Rackard League Roinn 'B' hurling decider in Innovate Wexford Park on Wednesday.
Castlebridge 1-9 Ferns 1-8
The game was played at a ferocious pace from start to finish with all of the game's skills on display throughout. Castlebridge began with the strong breeze playing into the town end and they used that advantage to get two quick points on the board through centre-forward Paul Hearne.
Ferns almost replied with an early Barry O'Toole goal but netminder Ben McAleese got a hurl to the sliothar to push the shot over the bar.
Such was the standard that the opening ten minutes flew by in a flurry of clashes, hooks, blocks and tough tackling. Ferns duo Pádraig Hayden and Seán O'Rourke were highly effective in the half-back line and an intriguing battle was developing between the midfield pairings. Scores were hard to come by until the game began to open up in Castlebridge's favour.
Castlebridge scored their third point when a great team move from the back saw Paul Hearne clip over another effort. Ferns goalie Evan Murphy put his name on everyone's lips when he made four outstanding saves in quick succession.
Two brilliant Pádraig Kinsella long-range frees into the wind levelled affairs despite Castlebridge having all the chances, and then a rallying team score finished by midfielder Barry Murphy put Ferns in front for the first time. This lead proved to be shortlived however as Castlebridge went on to dominate the scoring for the rest of the half.
Three more Paul Hearne frees, a fantastic score from out on the wing by Seán Cullen, an Aodhán Byrne point and an opportunistic goal from Joe Devereux saw them race into a seven-point lead just before half-time. Further saves from the impressive Evan Murphy kept Ferns in the game.
Castlebridge retired to their dressing-room quietly confident at half-time but came out to a very different Ferns side in the second-half. Repeated indiscipline saw ace free-taker Pádraig Kinsella notch three frees to spark the fightback.
The game exploded into life when James Kinsella stitched a ball into the top corner of the Castlebridge net. Ferns could have had a second goal almost immediately after but the ball slipped wide to the relief of the Castlebridge boys.
Frantically, Castlebridge responded with another Paul Hearne point but it was mostly their backs who saw all the action now. Time and time again, the Castlebridge boys got in blocks to deny a Ferns shot at goal and any efforts that slipped through were comfortably dealt with by goalkeeper Ben McAleese.
A strong contender for man-of-the-match, Tiarnán Malone was magnificent at the heart of this brave defensive effort. Mark Scallan and Conor Roche also cleared a lot of ball to repel attack after attack by Ferns.
A late Pádraig Kinsella '65 put the minimum between the teams with only a few minutes remaining, but Castlebridge did just about enough to hold sway and had a late goal disallowed that would have given the scoreline an unfair gap between the teams.
It was a final that could have gone either way in the end and it was fitting that only one score separated two very talented and evenly-matched sides. A one-point loss will always amplify every play and mistake in hindsight, but mistakes are only natural when playing at this high-octane speed and these two teams both played to the very edge of their skills to produce a spectacular final between them.
Castlebridge: Ben McAleese, David Doyle, Conor Roche, Robbie Delaney, Ryan Kielty, Tiarnán Malone, Mark Scallan, Aodhán Byrne, Cian Doyle, Corey Lawlor, Paul Hearne, Michael Connors, Eoin McCarthy, Joe Devereux, Aaron Kinsella, Seán Cullen, Seán Óg Flanagan, Thomas Rowland, Robbie Morris, Cathal Harding, Barry Cloake, Jack Redmond, Kyle Enstone, Brian Donohoe.
Ferns: Evan Murphy, Connor O'Toole, Michael Fortune, Bob Byrne, Pádraig Hayden, Seán O'Rourke, Adam Quinn, Martin Byrne, Barry Murphy, Brian Stafford, Pádraig Kinsella, Byron Jordan, Barry O'Toole, George Warren, James Kinsella, James Murray, Liam Byrne, Craig Cullen, Joe Byrne, D.J. Gaughan, Eoin Fleming, James O'Sullivan, Jack Byrne, Joe Kinsella, Luke Fitzgerald, Ross Mulcahy.