Cleary delivers as Shels join Fethard in last eight
Shelmaliers joined opponents Fethard in the quarter-finals of the Tom Doyle Supplies Senior football championship with Group B victory in O'Kennedy Park, New Ross, on Saturday.
Shelmaliers 1-10 Fethard 0-8
With both sides heavily depleted, aptly it was one of those making the jump to Senior who made the difference. Colin Cleary has been tearing it up with the Shelmaliers second string and he proved that the leap to the top level was far from beyond him.
Not only did the tricky forward score 1-2, including a superbly-taken goal, but his all-round play was excellent.
He added a bit of zip to a conventional Shels three-man full-forward line who gave their opponents trouble throughout.
Fethard opted to use Martin Doyle as a sweeper but that didn't impinge on what Shelmaliers wanted to achieve. Against the breeze they opened the scoring in the second minute when Simon Donohoe made his way upfield and slotted with aplomb.
Ricky Rowe popped over a nice score before Joe Sutton registered to give Fethard their only lead of the evening after nine minutes. They held that advantage for eight minutes but would kick three wides before they managed another score.
Shelmaliers levelled at the start of the second quarter when Aaron Murphy chipped one over off the top of the crossbar. A driving Glen Malone found Colin Cleary in space on the left in the 19th minute, and he cut in and sent an unstoppable shot across Paul Foley to the net.
Mikie Dwyer was a handful for the Shelmaliers rearguard but Fethard struggled to get him involved as much as they would have liked.
He won a free that he converted himself to narrow the gap to two (1-2 to 0-3).
Yet it was the Wexford District side finishing the half on the front foot with Cleary tapping over after Adam Whitmore's handpass before following it a minute later with another point after a good find by Tommy Barron.
Trailing by 1-4 to 0-3 at the interval, there was a response from Fethard. Richie Waters kicked the first of his three points in the 33rd minute and Dwyer quickly followed with a nice score off the outside of his left boot.
However, Shelmaliers took control, with the next five points in a row coming in a seven-minute spell. James Gordon kicked three of them, while Barry O'Connor and Derek Walsh tapped over frees to put the game out of their opponents' reach at the end of the third quarter (1-9 to 0-5).
Fethard kept plugging away and scored three points in the last ten minutes through Waters (two) and Garrett Foley, but a Graham Staples minor kept the seasiders at arm's length and sent Shelmaliers into the quarters.
Fethard were already in the last eight before this game, courtesy of the fact that if they were to finish on four points, it could only be alongside a team they had a head-to-head win against.
Nonetheless, they will need to improve significantly to make an impact in the knockout stages.
Shelmaliers: Graham Lawler; Andre O'Brien, Eoin Doyle, Graham Staples (0-1); Aaron Murphy (0-1), Simon Donohoe (0-1), Tommy Barron; Stephen Banville (capt.), Glen Malone; Ciarán O'Shaughnessy, James Gordon (0-3), Adam Whitmore; Derek Walsh (0-1 free), Barry O'Connor (0-1 free), Colin Cleary (1-2). Subs. - Jody Donohoe for Walsh (48), Tony Smith for O'Connor (52).
Fethard: Paul Foley; Seán Donohoe, Graham O'Grady, Martin Power (capt.); Christopher Molloy, Daniel Mullan, Mikey Banville; Michael Roche, Joe Sutton (0-1); Richie Waters (0-3, 1 free), Garrett Foley (0-1), Ricky Rowe (0-1); Martin Doyle, Kevin Rowe, Mikie Dwyer (0-2, 1 free). Sub. - Cathal Walsh for Doyle, black card (42).
Referee: Anthony Tobin (Geraldine O'Hanrahans).