Davidstown-Courtnacuddy on the rise again
The outcome was never in doubt from the sixth minute onwards in the Innovate Wexford Park curtain-raiser on Sunday as Davidstown-Courtnacuddy strode to a confident and comfortable win over the St. Martin's second string in a disappointing Enniscorthy Electrical Wholesale Junior 'A' hurling championship final.
Davidstown-Courtnacudd 3-11 St.Martin's 1-7
The hot favourites were firmly in the driving seat once team captain David Dunne drilled an early penalty to the roof of the net, and it was plain sailing from that point on as their outclassed rivals lost their discipline completely in an ill-tempered last quarter and finished with just 13 men.
Unfortunately, the game was also marred by a worrying injury for the winners' county Senior defender Andrew Shore who was stretchered off to generous applause just before half-time after a delay of over ten minutes.
Initially the number six seemed to be alright after shipping a strong challenge under the stand close to the sideline. However, he went down shortly afterwards when play was elsewhere and was tended to carefully before departing for hospital. The on-field prognosis of chest pains and rib damage ensured that every precaution was taken for the stricken player who was discharged that evening.
Davidstown-Courtnacuddy led at the time by 2-4 to 0-4, and it says a lot about their overall performance that they were able to overcome his loss and still win with plenty to spare.
It has been a strange couple of years for the Enniscorthy District club whose last major county title success came in the Junior grade in 2007. This was their biggest outing since the corresponding final of 2013 which they lost to Our Lady's Island by six points, but last season was a complete disaster as they were beaten by Tara Rocks in the relegation decider.
Their team, with four county players of current or recent vintage in Shore, David Dunne, Greg Jacob and Walter Furlong, looked out of place competing in the fifth of six adult hurling grades, and they will be hell-bent on never being in the same position again after this merited win.
In contrast, while it was a tough day for St. Martin's on the whole, it was still a fine feat for this team to reach the final at just the second attempt after capturing the Junior 'B' crown in 2013. Their generally younger and lighter side struggled to win the 50-50 tussles, and the frustration of being so far off the pace was highlighted in their complete loss of composure near the end.
It had started well for the underdogs when full-forward Edward O'Byrne caught a Darren Codd line ball and split the posts at the Clonard end, but they didn't lead again once the outstanding Walter Furlong equalised from a David Dunne knock-down after a long Greg Jacob line ball.
The fleet-footed wing-forward finished with 1-5 from play and was a constant thorn in the side of the Martin's who conceded their first goal in the sixth minute. David Dunne was fouled as he stood under an Andrew Shore free with a defender behind him, and the man who rattled two goals past Clare in last year's All-Ireland Under-21 final had the net bulging again as he planted his penalty high above Phelim O'Connor.
Davidstown-Courtnacuddy didn't hammer home their advantage as a result of four wides in a five-minute spell from an overall tally of ten, with their rivals finishing with four. St. Martin's managed to pull back one point in that period courtesy of Nicky Greene from a Michael Kearney handpass, but they couldn't get any closer.
A trip on Walter Furlong led to the first of Johnny Delaney's five pointed frees before midfielder Greg Jacob directed a sweet line ball over the bar from the right.
Conor Coleman pulled back a pointed free before David Dunne lit up the ground with a brilliant individual goal in the 21st minute. He had a lot of work to do when he latched on to Paul Sheridan's delivery in the right corner, but he raced clear and survived a crude swipe and a thrown hurley before planting a venomous shot in the bottom far corner of the net (2-3 to 0-3).
Walter Furlong added another point, with a late hit on Dunne by Richard Devereux in the same movement leading to a yellow card for the centre-forward which would prove costly later on.
Conor Coleman pulled back a Martin's point just before that long delay after Andrew Shore's injury, and there was time for the excellent Furlong to pick off his third score before half-time arrived with the stopwatch reading 43 minutes and 43 seconds (2-5 to 0-4).
Shore's loss led to Greg Jacob moving to centre-back and Walter Furlong going to midfield, and the leaders remained comfortable throughout the second-half as the gap was never less than five points.
Nicky Greene's early effort for the Martin's was cancelled out by a Johnny Delaney free, with the latter then turning provider for James Doyle whose effort on goal was well saved by Phelim O'Connor at the expense of a '65 which David Dunne sent wide.
Points from the Colemans, Conor and team captain John (free), left five between them, but the margin was back to a healthier eight by the three-quarters stage after two Johnny Delaney frees were followed by a fourth from Walter Furlong.
The underlying tetchiness boiled over for the first time in the 48th minute when yellow cards were issued to Davidstown-Courtnacuddy substitute Patrick Kennedy and St. Martin's attacker Michael Kearney, with tempers also briefly flaring between two rival mentors. A reckless pull by Richard Devereux after the throw-in to resume play saw the centre-forward collect a second yellow card, and Johnny Delaney rubbed salt into the wounds as the free which followed was his best of the afternoon and sailed between the posts (2-10 to 0-7).
Conor Coleman tried his luck with a low free which was blocked, and his cousin Mikey's acrobatic follow-up went wide. Nothing went right for the losers, and this was summed up in the 57th minute when a Walter Furlong shot took a wicked deflection off the hurl of Tony Kelly en route to the net.
Furlong was picked out by Johnny Delaney for his side's last point before John Coleman drove a free through a sea of bodies for a consolation goal with 30 seconds of normal time left.
There was no excuse for the reckless pull by Kevin Price across David Dunne as he hared up the left flank under the stand in added time, with the incident leaving a sour taste as Joe Kelly brandished the inevitable red card.
Davidstown-Courtnacuddy: Ger O'Leary; Ger Martin, Mark Byrne, Daryl Freeman; Stephen Kennedy, Andrew Shore, Michael Murphy; Paul Sheridan, Greg Jacob (0-1 line ball); Walter Furlong (1-5), Colin Power, James Doyle; David Dunne (capt., 2-0, 1 pen.), Johnny Delaney (0-5 frees), Bill Harrington. Subs. - Patrick Kennedy for Shore, inj. (29), Alan Hickey for Furlong, temp. (48-52), Hickey for Harrington (53), Tommy Delaney for Power (60+3), Colm O'Shea for Sheridan (60+3), also Kevin Keane, David Shore, Stephen Sheridan, Daniel Delaney, Stephen Dunbar, Owen Keane, Donal O'Shea, Kieran Walshe, Dylan Martin.
St. Martin's: Phelim O'Connor; Tony Kelly, Ken Furlong, Kevin Price; Adrian Ryan, John Coleman (capt., 1-1 frees), Johnny Hamilton; Pádraig Morrissey, Ciarán Redmond; Darren Codd, Richard Devereux, Nicky Greene (0-2); Conor Coleman (0-3, 1 free), Edward O'Byrne (0-1), Michael Kearney. Subs. - Mikey Coleman for Redmond (25), David Higgins for Morrissey (38), Evan Dunbar for Hamilton (42), Micheál Lyng for Kearney (49), Paddy Curran for O'Byrne (51), also Dylan Byrne, Alan Kehoe, Barry O'Connor, Tomás Coleman, Eoghan Rackard, Paudie Fitzmaurice, Martin Whelan, Derek Howlin.
Referee: Joe Kelly (Naomh Eanna).