Gorey boys so close to glory
Naomh Eanna in top two in Ireland after Féile weekend
The gallant young men of Naomh Eanna did their town, club and county proud in the Ferns Centre of Excellence on Sunday when they came ever so close to claiming the Irish Pride All-Ireland Féile Peil na nOg Division 1 title in a pulsating clash with Austin Stacks.
Austin Stacks (Kerry) 2-12 Naomh Eanna 1-6 (AET)
The Gorey lads seemed to be in serious trouble when they trailed by 0-8 to 0-2 with six minutes left in a sporting final, but they launched a marvellous comeback with the aid of the wind and struck 1-3 without reply to force extra-time.
Indeed, their Kerry rivals were a relieved bunch when the whistle sounded as they were under severe pressure at that stage.
However, the Rock Street side re-grouped to their enormous credit and steered well clear of their rivals in extra-time to be crowned the best Under-14 team in Ireland.
And there was a strong Wexford link too as their youngest panel member, Connor Kavanagh, is a grandson of Frank who won Senior football championship medals with Sarsfields in 1961 and 1967. Frank's son and Connor's father, Ronan, a native of Wexford town and past pupil of St. Peter's College, was a mentor with the triumphant Stacks squad.
This was an incredible achievement by Naomh Eanna to end up in the top two Under-14 teams in the country, and it well and truly capped what proved to be a memorable weekend in so many ways.
When one considers they lost their first game on Friday to New York by a whopping 2-11 to nil, it just underlines how much the boys in green improved with every outing. And while naturally there was bitter disappointment at the end, mentors Tony Molloy, Colin Browne, Brian Doran, Barry Levingstone, Paul Connolly and Aidan Quirke couldn't have asked for any more from this fine squad.
Austin Stacks had first use of the strong wind but Gorey defended with great gusto even though they were second best in the physical stakes. And while the Kerry lads did lead by 0-5 to nil at the half-time break after 15 minutes, it wasn't a particularly healthy advantage given what was facing them on the re-start.
Jordan Barry, Seán Quilter (free and play), Conor Myers (free and play) were the Stacks marksmen, and the impressive Quilter widened the gap to six on the re-start.
The Naomh Eanna account was opened from a Caillum Travers free in the third minute, but the Munster lads responded through Jordan Barry and were looking like winners.
A superb run by Michael Kennedy led to a free and a point for Cian Browne, but Gorey were still rank outsiders for success after Conor Myers cancelled that score out (0-8 to 0-2).
The large Naomh Eanna following really got behind their team though, and their cheers of encouragement were well rewarded.
Caillum Travers reduced the gap to five before he floated in a free which went to the net via a defender's hand with 90 seconds of normal time left.
Austin Stacks were on the back foot and they were sweating even more when Cian Browne split the posts with his left boot after good work by Jack Doran and Seán O'Brien-Murphy.
The pressure on Caillum Travers was immense when Michael Kennedy was fouled in the first minute of added time.
However, he proved to be as cool as a cucumber as he nonchalantly stroked the ball over the bar off the ground, with the whistle sounded on the kick-out.
It had taken a great effort to force the added ten minutes, and it ultimately took its toll as Stacks - with the wind in their favour again - hit 1-2 without reply, all from the boot of the tall and talented Seán Quilter at midfield.
His goal was a superb low effort to the corner just 30 seconds after the re-start, and it left Naomh Eanna chasing the game.
Caillum Travers did pull a point back from a free before the break (1-10 to 1-6), but Stacks were on a roll at that stage and added another unanswered 1-2 from two Quilter points and a Jordan Barry goal before the celebrations started on the long road home to Tralee.
Naomh Eanna: James Doran; Seánie Quirke, Cian Kenny, Dylan Molloy; Ryan Connolly, Michael Kennedy, Cian Molloy; Callum Crehan, Ryan Keogh; Jack Doran, Caillum Travers (1-4, 0-3 frees), Darragh Levingstone; Mikey Cushe, Barry Levingstone, Cian Browne (0-2, 1 free). Subs. - Seán O'Brien-Murphy for Cushe, Paul Gibson for Quirke, Seán O'Callaghan for D. Molloy, Barry Kenny for D. Levingstone, also Christopher O'Brien, Adam Purcell, Seán Miller, Pádraic Keegan, Cathal Stokes.
Austin Stacks: Oba David; Craig Teahan, Danny Draghici, David Burke; Pádraic Linnane, Dara Barry-Walsh, Eoghan Carroll; Leon Shalemba, Seán Quilter (1-7, 0-3 frees); Jordan Barry (1-2), Daniel O'Rourke, James Fernane; Conor Myers (0-3, 2 frees), Liam Nolan, Joe Bastible. Subs. - Adam Curran, Luke Chester, Owen Healy, Cian Purcell, Tom O'Farrell (all used), Charlie Curran, Daniel Breen, Greg Scanlon, Connor Kavanagh.
Referee: Brendan Martin (Ballyhogue).