First win for Ferns after a struggle
Faltering Ferns St. Aidan's picked up their first win of the Pettitt's Senior hurling championship Group B campaign by beating Shamrocks in Bunclody on Friday, but really, this was a hollow victory.
Ferns St.Aidan's 0-15 Shamrocks 1-11
Poor form earlier in the year meant that the beaten finalists of 2013 - and the favourites for last year's crown heading into the semi-final stages - had only one point from their opening three games. Their hopes of progressing needed to be kick-started by putting up a big score against a Shamrocks side that had lost each of their opening three by an average of 16 points, but from early on, it was obvious that this was never going to be that sort of performance.
Indeed, it was still deadlocked after 25 minutes, as the sides were on 0-5 each - with most of those scores having come from frees in a poor game of hurling. Ferns did give themselves something of a cushion then with two Ian Byrne frees and a fine point by Christopher 'Bitzy' O'Connor from the left touchline.
That work was almost undone in first-half injury time though, as Shamrocks full-forward Maurice Casey was put through on goal, only for him to somehow roll the ball wide when it seemed easier to score.
Play in the second-half didn't get much better. Ferns still had the better of the scoreboard and had extended their lead to 0-14 to 0-9 by the three-quarter hour mark, with the best two of those points coming from Paddy Moroney, their Galway native and new recruit this year. Scores dried up for a while then until Bob Jacob pointed a free for Shamrocks on 53 minutes, and Harry Goff followed up with another score within 60 seconds to leave a goal between the sides (0-14 to 0-11).
Tommy Dwyer - who had taken over free-taking duties after Ian Byrne retired injured - converted what was to prove a crucial placed ball for Ferns on 59 minutes to give them their first score in 15 minutes and extend their lead to four.
Shamrocks then came up the field in the first minute of injury time and an attack that saw the ball bobble here, there and everywhere eventually ended in a goal when Anthony Wallace tapped it to the net, and suddenly a real shock result was potentially on the cards.
Shamrocks never created another scoring chance in four further minutes of injury time that followed however, and Ferns just about held on for the slenderest of victories.
While they now sit on three points in the table and mathematically still have a chance of going through, the reality of the matter is that they have to get some sort of result against Oulart-The Ballagh in their closing game to have any hope - and even beating them might not be enough, depending on other results.
Fifth spot seems the most likely finishing position now for a Ferns side who will be dreadfully disappointed with their year.
Ferns St Aidan's: Mick Walsh; Declan Byrne, Aaron Collier, Colm Whelan; Gavin Bailey, James Tonks, Derek Thorpe; Tommy Dwyer (0-3, 1 free, 1 '65), Ciarán Roberts; Ian Byrne (0-5 frees), Jonny Dwyer (0-1), Paddy Moroney (0-2); Paul Morris (0-1), John Breen, Christopher O'Connor (0-3). Subs. - Tomás Hawkins for I. Byrne, inj. (42), Ryan Nolan for Bailey, inj. (47).
Shamrocks: Daithí Murphy; Barry Dobbs, Mick Weafer, Philip Freeman; Lar McDonald, Karl Cullen, Emmet Quirke; Bob Jacob (0-6 frees), George Jacob; John O'Connor (0-1), Anthony Wallace (1-1), Seán Wildes; Harry Goff (0-2), Maurice Casey (0-1), Cyril Thorpe. Sub. - Ronan Gahan for G. Jacob (53).
Referee: David O'Leary (Rathnure).