Martin's complete a tremendous treble
Fethard and Gusserane combination outpointed as Minor kings retain crown
St. Martin's dug deep into their reserves to complete a memorable Wexford People Premier Minor hurling championship three-in-a-row against Mogue O'Rahilly's in Taghmon on Saturday.
St. Martin's 0-19 Mogue O'Rahilly's 0-14
The Piercestown-based club had coasted through the championship all the way to the final but they were given a cracking battle by a determined and undaunted Gusserane/Fethard combination.
In a see-saw game, it was probably a third quarter powerplay that got the champions over the line. Having been just a point ahead at the break (0-9 to 0-8), St. Martin's won that spell 5-1 to move two scores ahead and their opponents would never again get within one.
The first-half was quite the battle. Pre-match talk of a real game, a fantastic spectacle and a huge battle looked hollow as the maroon men blitzed into 0-6 to 0-1 lead. However, a quick glance at the line-up shows that Mogue O'Rahilly's are no mugs.
They shut down an impressive St. Martin's attack for long spells. The players that needed to perform did. Gavin Sheehan was magnificent at full-back, and the Gusserane man is the biggest reason, among several, that their opposition failed to find the net for the first time this season.
But around him others shone too. St. Martin's relied heavily on Rory O'Connor and Conor Coleman in the first-half and, while they became more of a sextet after the break, the New Ross District combo really unsettled the favourites.
St. Martin's joint-captain O'Connor opened the scoring from almost 55 metres out in the first few seconds but Mark Rossiter replied from a dead-ball after Mark O'Neill was fouled. It was one of two times Mogue O'Rahilly's pulled level, but they never led.
Philly Dempsey picked up a break in his own half, raced away and split the posts to make it 0-2 to 0-1. O'Connor pointed a free after a foul on Ben Stafford and soon added another from a '65 on the left.
Coleman opened his account from Jack Devereux's feed in the eleventh minute before O'Connor notched his fourth score of the opening quarter from just inside the '65 following a foul on Adam Cantwell.
Trailing by 0-6 to 0-1, Mogue O'Rahilly's had a purple patch of their own. While Conor Firman would go on to have a good game, he was being tested early by Mikie Dwyer. The Fethard forward scored his first point from his knees, when referee John O'Loughlin was playing advantage.
It was probably the biggest game of the Monageer-Boolavogue official's short career but he handled it well, attempting to let the game flow when possible but calling it back quickly if a clear advantage failed to materialise.
Sam Wall broke away to cut the gap to three (0-6 to 0-3) and followed it with a free after Dwyer was fouled. Kevin O'Donohoe's right wing score sliced another point off the Martin's lead and the sides were level following Wall's third point in the 21st minute.
Parity lasted less than 60 seconds, as a quick Conor Firman free picked out Coleman and he pointed. When Stafford was fouled for a second time in the period, O'Connor registered again to make it 0-8 to 0-6.
Coleman was blocked down a minute later, however, he quickly regained possession and registered his third minor. Mark O'Neill responded in the 27th minute from just outside the '45, and it was followed by a Wall point from midfield after a clever Nathan Hayes handpass.
That left the game on a knife-edge at the break with the defending champions leading by 0-9 to 0-8. Mogue O'Rahilly's must have felt confident at the change-around having repelled most of what St. Martin's threw at them in the first 30 minutes.
The second-half was all change. The light breeze was definitely hampering St. Martin's after the break but their half-back line and midfield took over the contest. Mogue O'Rahilly's struggled to find the out-ball to Mikie Dwyer as frequently and the results weren't positive.
Indiscipline didn't help the underdogs. St. Martin's clearly shifted the gameplan to running at defenders consistently and it paid dividends quickly with Stafford and Rory O'Connor winning frees that the latter converted.
Michael Codd took a line ball, received the pass back from O'Connor and made it 0-12 to 0-8 after 38 minutes. It was four straight points for St. Martin's when their free-taker notched his eighth score after Kyle Firman was fouled.
Richie Waters' 42nd-minute point, from his own '65, was his side's only score of the third quarter. Ben Stafford finally got the point his performance deserved in the 45th minute to make it 0-14 to 0-9.
Jack Culleton came off the bench to score, arguably, the point of the game but it was quickly countered by Kyle Firman. O'Connor again increased the advantage to six, only for Dwyer to nab his second point under severe pressure.
Rory O'Connor went closest to a goal eight minutes from time, forcing Micheál Ryan into a fine save. But after the resulting '65 was converted, and another free followed after a foul on Stafford, it looked like game over (0-18 to 0-11).
However, three points in 90 seconds gave Mogue O'Rahilly's hope, as Rossiter and Wall scored frees before O'Donohoe registered his second. Adam Cantwell settled any growing nerves with a 60th-minute raised white flag, the final score of the game.
Mogue O'Rahilly's dropped a couple of balls into the goalmouth in added time but they couldn't find the major breakthrough they needed as the superb St. Martin's rearguard held strong to see their club to their third title in a row.
St. Martin's: Callum Quirke; Cian Ryan (joint capt.), Ben Maddock, Philip Dempsey (0-1); Barry O'Connor, Conor Firman, Jack Devereux; Michael Codd (0-1), Eoin O'Leary; Adam Cantwell (0-1), Rory O'Connor (joint capt., 0-11, 8 frees, 2 '65s), Ben Stafford (0-1); Conor Coleman (0-3), Kyle Firman (0-1), Peter Barry. Subs. (not used) - Ciarán Dunne, Paddy Gallagher, Stephen Doyle, Cian Kelly, Rúairí Cullen, Jack Roche, Liam Ó Lionáin, Adam McLoughlin, Philip McDermott, Sam Audsley, Diarmuid Barry.
Mogue O'Rahilly's: Micheál Ryan; Martin Doyle, Gavin Sheehan, Thomas Ryan; Aaron Murphy, Mark Rossiter (0-2 frees), Richie Waters (0-1); Mark O'Neill (capt., 0-1), Jimmy Sutton; Nathan Hayes, Mikie Dwyer (0-2), Sam Wall (0-5, 3 frees); Brian Dillon, Michael Barden, Kevin O'Donohoe (0-2). Subs. - Jack Culleton (0-1) for Dillon (43), Martin Stafford for Barden (47), also Colm Ryan, Donal Kiely, Cillian Molloy, Jack Pierce, Donal Kinsella, Seán Dunne, Oisín Foley.
Referee: John O'Loughlin (Monageer-Boolavogue).