Happy Harriers best in the land
Emotional scenes greet fantastic win over Glen Rovers on a special weekend
Published 24/06/2016 | 00:00
Grown men with tears in their eyes, a club rejuvenated, an ecstatic set of mentors and a group of lads that took their incredible success in their stride.
Faythe Harriers 2-3 Glen Rovers (Cork) 0-2
Faythe Harriers didn't only win the 2016 Féile na nGael Division 1 championship in Cashel on Sunday morning, they did it with panache.
There are no hard luck stories here, this was simply the best Under-14 team in the country taking their just desserts.
The Wexford town club played six 15-minute-a-side games in the national championship, and nobody came closer than six points to them, a demolition job from start to finish.
The nerves were there for all to see in this tie. Having beaten their final opponents Glen Rovers handsomely (3-6 to 0-5) in the group stages, the favourites' tag hung around the necks of the Harriers lads - a stifling weight - and it was evident in the first-half.
Rovers were up for the fight, few teams from Leeside make it easy for you, and they took a lead in at the interval. However, this title was coming back to Wexford, back to Páirc Charman, and no team in the country was good enough to stop that happening.
Sometimes in under-age games managers have to 'hide' players a little further behind in their development. The beauty of this Faythe Harriers team is that there are no weak links.
'It's a squad game' is team sport's biggest cliché nowadays, but the Harriers truly had 24 players who could step up whenever they were needed.
Maybe the first period nerves came from things not quite going for them early on. Inside a minute Emmet Gahan forced the ball over to Richie Lawlor whose pull was ferocious, but with the 'keeper beaten the sliothar flew inches wide of the post.
Glen Rovers took the lead in the third minute from a long-range Luke Horgan free, but the Harriers were still creating most of the chances at the other end. Josh Sheil pulled wide before Rovers 'keeper Connor Hourigan batted away a speculative Lawlor effort.
A second long-range free, this time from Dylan Long, made it 0-2 to nil to the Cork outfit but they only came close to adding to that score once more in the match, when Patrick Lawlor shot across the face of goal and wide, such was the dominance of a Harriers defence that conceded just 3-20 in six matches.
When Richie Lawlor was felled haring at goal in the twelfth minute, John O'Grady awarded the free and Josh Sheil converted to halve the deficit. He had another one that tailed wide late in the half as Glen Rovers led by 0-2 to 0-1 at the break.
The second period was not a close-run thing. Within a minute Lawlor was fouled for a penalty.
The pressure was, no doubt, intense on the Faythe's star man when he stepped up to take the one-on-one that he earned his side.
His shot went wide but something changed after that stroke.
Weaker players would have wilted but Lawlor re-doubled his efforts and his talismanic performance guided his club to victory. After two frees drifted wide, Harriers hit the front when Lawlor found Sheil who controlled and ran at his marker left of goal before firing low to the Glen Rovers net (1-1 to 0-2).
A lovely ball into the corner by Ben Hynes saw Lawlor notch an excellent point from tight on the right.
It was all Faythe Harriers now, and when Hynes fed long into the goalmouth with three minutes left, Cian Carty's touch deflected the ball past Hourigan to make it 2-2 to 0-2.
Glen Rovers produced a couple of attacks that came to nothing and the Harriers put the seal on victory just as the game ticked into added time when Sheil converted a dead-ball after the Cork side were penalised for over-carrying.
And so, Faythe Harriers became just the second Wexford side to win Féile Division 1 honours after Oulart-The Ballagh claimed the crown back in 2001. This Harriers success will live long in the memory of supporters, and the lads that won it probably won't even realise its significance for a while.
For the record, the new national champions had come through their group games unbeaten on Friday, defeating Kilruane McDonaghs from Tipperary by 2-8 to 0-6 and Glen Rovers by 3-6 to 0-5.
On Saturday morning they saw off their hosts, Toomevara of Tipperary, by 3-8 to 0-2 before journeying to Cloughjordan and overcoming Roscrea from Tipperary by 5-10 to 3-0 in the semi-final.
Then on Saturday evening they travelled to the home of hurling, Semple Stadium in Thurles, and defeated Ballygunner of Waterford in the semi-final by 2-5 to 0-5.
The dream was starting to become a reality at that stage, and on Sunday morning this outstanding team duly delivered.
Faythe Harriers: Josh Walsh; Seán Byrne, Cillian Boggan (capt.), Mark Henebery; Ben Hynes, Kyle Scallan, Jason Gordon; Eoin Kavanagh, Liam Cassin; Oliver McMahon, Paul Deeny, Dan Browne; Richie Lawlor (0-1), Josh Sheil (1-2, 0-2 frees), Emmet Gahan. Subs. - Cian Carty (1-0) for McMahon (11), Eoin Hartigan for Gahan (11), Calum Corcoran for Byrne (21), Alex Boggan for Henebery (21), also Patrick Duignan, Jack Connolly, Billy Hillis, Darragh Grant, Jason Kiely.
Glen Rovers: Connor Hourigan; Adam Lawlor, Gavin Marshall, Cian Martin; Jamie O'Driscoll, Luke Horgan (capt., 0-1 free), Seán Corcoran; Adam Lordan, Jake Griffin; Daniel Murphy, Ben Kelleher, Michael Ring; Nathan Goulding, Dylan Long (0-1 free), Thomas Horgan. Subs. - Josh Barry for Lordan (11), Donagh Coughlan for Horgan (11), Patrick Lawlor for Kelleher (21), Samuel Barrett for A. Lawlor (21), also David O'Callaghan, Scott Cronin, Kyle Murphy, Adam Cunneen, Jack Kennefick.
Referee: John O'Grady (Tipperary).