Fr. Murphy's back in big time

Wexford exiles launch super comeback to win by point

Published 26/11/2016 | 00:00

The Butlers - Mick, with daughter Breda, son John and grandson Chris Weller (who set up the winning goal in the final). Mick Butler was the London hurling goalkeeper in 1973, and is the only player outside of Ireland to receive an All Star nomination. All photographs: Lucia Butler, Clongeen (club P.R.O.)
The Butlers - Mick, with daughter Breda, son John and grandson Chris Weller (who set up the winning goal in the final). Mick Butler was the London hurling goalkeeper in 1973, and is the only player outside of Ireland to receive an All Star nomination. All photographs: Lucia Butler, Clongeen (club P.R.O.)
The Howlins - Jim Snr. with sons Darren and Seán, grandson Conor, son Jimmy, and Josie O'Leary from Castlebridge
Team captain Stephen Bardon receives the cup from the sponsor and the County Board Chairman
The Harrells - Tommy, son Martin and grandson Oisín, with the championship trophy

The Fr. Murphy's hurling team in London returned to Senior ranks recently when they won the W. Reilly Ltd. County Intermediate championship, beating red-hot favourites Bros. Pearse in a thrilling final in Greenford.

Fr. Murphy's 1-14 Bris.Pearse 2-10

It was a very welcome piece of silverware for the Wexford exiles, eleven years on from their last championship success in the Senior grade, and it came after a very tough and physical encounter between the north-west London neighbours.

It was a very good game of hurling with the Fr. Murphy's shading the exchanges in the first half-hour to lead by one point at the interval.

A poor start for the team saw them concede two soft frees in quick succession, but luckily for them Bros. Pearse were unable to capitalise and racked up four wides early on.

Fr. Murphy's got on the scoresheet first when a Stephen Bardon 21-yard free was saved and cleared, only for Ken Watchorn to pick up the loose ball and split the posts.

Pearse's then scored three unanswered points as Murphy's indiscipline in defence was punished, and after 15 minutes the scoreline read 0-3 to 0-1.

Without any hesitation Fr. Murphy's chipped away at the Pearses over the next ten minutes to bring the game back to level terms before pushing two points ahead.

Midfielder Stephen Bardon was proving deadly accurate with placed balls, converting one '65 and two frees. Murphy's half-forward Shaun Brennan got his name on the scoresheet after a fine high catch and sharp turn before the ball sailed between the posts.

With the game reaching the halfway point, Fr. Murphy's were dealt a blow when corner-back Daniel McGuigan was injured and had to be replaced after a heavy collision with his marker.

Pearse's tapped over a 21-yard free before drawing llevel. Fr. Murphy's had the last say in the half though as a mishit puck-out landed in front of Ken Watchorn in midfield and he sent the ball back over the bar.

Murphy's were solid in defence with some big performances from wing-back Alan Griffith, along with Tomás Higgins and Darren Howlin in the full-back line. Murphy's led by 0-6 to 0-5 at half-time.

Both sides were fighting for the win, but Pearse's opened the second-half in lightning-quick fashion, scoring a goal from the off and adding three unanswered points to lead by 1-8 to 0-6.

Murphy's captain Stephen Bardon got himself on the scoresheet from play before adding two monster frees from way out to peg back the score.

Bros. Pearse found the net again to halt Murphy's fightback as the ball was deflected past goalkeeper Tom Moore and into the net. Bros. Pearse added an easy point as the game looked to be slipping away but Murphy's positive attitude ultimately prevailed.

Seán Howlin had a goalbound effort brilliantly saved and with 48 minutes gone Bros. Pearse had a commanding six-point lead.

An immediate impact was witnessed as Murphy's introduced two substitutes into the forward line. Stephen Bardon slipped when connecting with a routine free and it was heading wide, only for substitute Chris Weller to bat it back towards goal, and as the ball dropped Ryan Meyler connected with it on the 14-metre line to knock it to the back of the net.

Bardon added three more important frees to his tally as Pearse's continued to foul the lively Murphy's forward line. With three nail-biting minutes remaining, the scores were level (1-12 to 2-9).

Murphy's edged in front after another poor puck-out was grabbed by Bardon and sent back over the bar to move them ahead by one. However, a mistake by Shay O'Donoghue in the Murphy's back line allowed Pearse's to level.

In injury time Murphy's pucked the ball down the left wing. The Pearse's centre-back was favourite to win it until Seán Howlin robbed him of possession, held his nerve and soloed down the sideline before tapping over the crucial winning score.

Pearse's had one final chance to snatch a draw, but a shot was rushed and it looped wide. The final whistle was met with wild celebrations by the huge Murphy's support, having got over the line on a 1-14 to 2-10 scoreline.

It was the second championship win for Fr. Murphy's against the Pearse's this year. A never-say-die attitude from all the squad and management throughout the game clinched the title.

Fr. Murphy's had six Wexford men on the panel: Ken Watchorn, Daniel Nolan and Henry Ward from Duffry Rovers, Tom Moore and Alan Griffith of Shelmaliers, and Ryan Meyler (Our Lady's Island). The squad was completed by six London natives, three from Cork, two apiece from Antrim and Galway, plus one each from Tipperary, Westmeath, Wicklow, Waterford, Kilkenny, Kerry, Carlow and Roscommon.

Stephen Bardon finished as top scorer with 0-10 (7 frees, 1 '65), with the winning tally completed by Ryan Meyler (1-0), Ken Watchorn (0-2), Shaun Brennan and Seán Howlin (0-1 each).

Among the mentors closely associated with the win, and indeed all club activities, were Rathnure trio Jim Howlin, Mick Butler and Paddy Doyle, selector Tommy Harrell (Horsewood), Josie O'Leary and David Donohoe (Shelmaliers), and Phil Roche (Glynn-Barntown). The club would like to thank everyone for their continued support.

As a result of the success, Fr. Murphy's marched on to represent London in the All-Britain championship and put up a fine show.

After beating John Mitchel's from Liverpool in the semi-final in Birmingham by 1-11 to 0-11, they were unfortunate to go down narrowly to competition specialists Fullen Gaels from Manchester who duly qualified to play Calry St. Joseph's of Sligo in the All-Ireland Junior championship quarter-final last weekend.

The final scoreline back in Birmingham's Páirc na hEireann was 1-15 to 1-14, with another fantastic comeback just falling short after the team found itself eight points in arrears with 15 minutes left.

They also contested the McCullogh Cup final in Greenford recently, losing to Thomas McCurtain's by 3-16 to 5-4 in a repeat of the outcome from the 2015 decider.

Meanwhile, the Fr. Murphy's camogie team had a great year, winning the Tara sevens plate, the league and reaching the final of the Intermediate championship, as well as contesting the final of the All-Britain Senior championship by five points.

Former Wexford star Angie Fogarty (Oylegate-Glenbrien) is still operating in the forward line, while the ladies' footballers added Majella Byrne (Kilmore) to their squad this year.

The club has secured new winter training facilities at Wasps R.F.C. in Twyford Avenue, Ealing.

They are always anxious to recruit new players to all four codes and may be reached via www.frmurphys.co.uk, frmurphysladies@gmail.com, or by contacting Larry O'Leary on 00-44-7944178879.

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