James fits the Bunclody bill
Sublime finishing from inside forward James Fitzgerald proved instrumental in HWH-Bunclody gaining a fully-merited three-point victory over Mogue O'Rahilly's in this excellent Jim Byrne Cup Minor football league final at St. Patrick's Park, Enniscorthy, on Sunday.
HWH-Bunclody 3-7 Mogue O'Rahilly's 2-7
Fitzgerald showed perfect footwork and finishing skills to crash home a goal in each half, scores that proved crucial to his side gaining a foothold after withstanding an onslaught from their opponents through the opening 15 minutes. That period had suggested the Fethard/Gusserane combination had the strength to carve out an eventual victory.
But there was no doubt as to the battling qualities of the Bunclody boys. With John Dunne and Josh Martin beginning to make an impact in midfield, along with the excellent play of centre-back Martin O'Connor, the eventual winners stormed all over the opposition in the closing ten minutes of the half.
Eoin Kelly also shone at centre-forward, with this superiority to continue through the opening 15 minutes of the second half, a period in which they played some dazzling attacking football.
There was lots of drama through the opening 15 minutes. Josh Martin pointed HWH-Bunclody in front inside three minutes, while two minutes later Jack Culleton brought the sides level, the score arriving after what appeared a Sam Wall goalbound shot rebounding off the post and back into play.
It was through this opening spell that the New Ross District side were playing their best football. Mikie Dwyer kicked over a fine lead point, while towards the end of the opening quarter Sam Wall sent a low shot for goal that was excellently turned around the post by 'keeper Bobby McKeown for what turned out to be a fruitless '45.
During this spell Mark Rossiter kicked over a fine long-range point to put his side 0-3 to 0-1 in front, but that was as good as it was to get for the south county combination.
HWH-Bunclody saw their big guns storm into the action. A great Josh Martin ball through the centre put Edward Dunbar clear on goal but he was denied by an excellent stop from the advancing 'keeper, Michael Ryan, while on 17 minutes Mark Rossiter saw a rising shot for the corner of the net rebound back into play off the inside of the post before eventually being cleared to safety.
Edward Dunbar once again found himself clear on goal approaching the break but was denied by the excellent Ryan in goal. James Fitzgerald's pointed free reduced the deficit, before the same player cut inside several tackles to sent a low shot to the net, giving his side a 1-2 to 0-3 interval lead.
Within two minutes of the re-start, Edward Dunbar once again found himself in a one-on-one with the 'keeper but Ryan once again proved capable with a terrific save, after which the same player followed up with a fine point.
After Fitzgerald's pointed free extended his side's lead to 1-4 to 0-3, the New Ross District combination responded with Sam Wall latching on to a great long ball inside from Mark Rossiter to send a rising shot to the net, making it 1-4 to 1-3 after 35 minutes.
But the Bunclody response was swift as they returned to the attack on the kick-out for Fitzgerald to waltz around several defenders and crash home a great goal.
Twelve minutes from the finish it was the turn of Josh Martin to get on the end of a fine forward movement to find the net, giving his side a 3-5 to 1-3 lead.
With seven minutes left, Mark Rossiter, who had moved into a more attacking role, found himself space to grab a goal, reducing the deficit to 3-6 to 2-5.
With Rossiter pointing two frees, as Fitzgerald kicked a fine score from play in between, just three points separated the sides (3-7 to 2-7) with three minutes remaining, but a calm Bunclody outfit showed control and confidence to play down the clock and secure a fully-merited three-point victory.
HWH-Bunclody: Bobby McKeown; Peadar Cowman, Adam Saddler (capt.); Byron Byrne, Martin O'Connor, Stephen Kavanagh; John Dunne (0-2), Josh Martin (1-1); Lee Conroy, Eoin Kelly, Edward Dunbar (0-1); James Fitzgerald (2-3, 0-3 frees), Cathal Dunbar. Subs. - Brandon Kavanagh for S. Kavanagh, also Adam Hogan, John McCormack, Michael Furlong, Neal Tobin-Cullen, Cathal Doyle, Michael O'Connor, Jamie Kavanagh, Darren Doyle, Paddy Dunbar.
Mogue O'Rahilly's: Michael Ryan; Daniel Kiely, Gavin Sheehan; Jimmy Sutton, Mark O'Neill, Nathan Hayes; Richard Waters (0-1), Mark Rossiter (1-4, 0-3 frees); Jack Culleton (0-1), Mikie Dwyer (0-1), Cillian Molloy; Thomas Ryan, Sam Wall (1-0). Subs. - Aaron Murphy for Sutton, Kevin O'Donoghue for T. Ryan, Colm Ryan for Molloy, also Martin Doyle, Michael Barden, Stephen Whelan, Peter Waters, Donal Kinsella, Jack Pierce, Brian Dillon, Adam Waters, Oisín Foran, Zachery Lavery.
Referee: Eddie O'Sullivan (Kilanerin).