Martin's send the holders packing
St.Martin's displayed a new level of confidence and maturity, showing they are on a mission as they convincingly ended the one-year reign of Shelmaliers with a comfortable six points to spare in this disappointing Pettitt's Senior hurling championship quarter-final clash at Innovate Wexford Park on Saturday.
St.Martin's 1-16 Shelmaliers 1-10
An unstinting workrate, complemented by some excellent hurling, proved the fruitful formula that helped St. Martin's deliver a shock exit to the reigning champions. As has been the case all through this championship, St. Martin's have been showing continued improvement, but the manner in which this young side knocked the titleholders off their shortlived pedestal showed their potential.
After last year's breakthrough by Shelmaliers, further progression was expected, but this was not the case as their exit was tame to say the least. They showed scant appetite to meet the St. Martin's challenge, while they brought little workrate or intensity to their game. Really they were a well beaten side long before the final whistle and were somewhat lucky not to have lost by a wider margin.
The opening exchanges saw Ciarán Lyng and Joe Kelly exchange pointed frees, with Jack O'Connor putting his side in front after six minutes, a lead they were never subsequently to lost.
Slowly but surely they built on this lead with Ciarán Lyng providing the guidance up front where his stickwork, positional play and passes saw him lay off some wonderful ball for his colleagues.
The Martin's attack responded to the attacking play of Lyng when he picked out Harry O'Connor with a pass, leaving the corner-forward to cut across into the centre before unleashing an unstoppable shot to the roof of the net.
And when Paudie Kelly, who proved an excellent playmaker from centre-forward throughout, added a point it left his side leading by 1-3 to 0-1 after just eleven minutes.
The Shels were now under the cosh but they responded with a Joe Kelly pointed free, while Joe O'Connor and Kelly then went on to exchange points. St. Martin's were continually looking the more composed side though, with Lyng and Eoin Doyle exchanging two points apiece between a flurry of scores as St. Martin's went in leading by 1-10 to 0-8 at the interval.
In the opening passage of play on the resumption, St. Martin's should have put the result beyond doubt. After Paudie Kelly and a Joe Kelly free saw the sides exchange points, the Martin's went on to strike five wides inside the opening six minutes, all from scoreable positions, as they stormed all over the reigning champions.
Despite this series of misses, St. Martin's managed to compose themselves, with Jack O'Connor dominant in midfield, along with a strong half-back line of Aaron Maddock, Tomás Waters and Conor Firman. And they went on to add further points through Jack O'Connor from a long free and Mark Maloney to lead by 1-13 to 0-9 at the end of the third quarter.
It was becoming inceasingly more difficult for the Shels who were handed a lifeline in the 46th minute. Eoin Doyle stormed through the centre and ran into a block of defenders, but referee James Owens deemed him to have been fouled, a somewhat debatable decision.
From the resulting penalty, Brian Murphy travelled the length of the pitch to fire low beyond Luke White, making it 1-13 to 1-9.
The expected final quarter surge from the reigning champions failed to materialise as Ciarán Lyng responded with a pointed '65, while Murphy made the long journey from goal one minute from the end of normal time, but saw his rising shot from a 21-metre fee go over for a point.
St. Martin's never struggled in this game as they totally dominated their opponents How quickly it all unravelled for the Shels and it was fitting that St. Martin's closed out the scoring with fine points from the impressive Harry O'Connor and Paudie Kelly.
St. Martin's: Luke White; Willie Devereux, Daithí Hayes, Patrick O'Connor; Aaron Maddock, Tomás Waters, Conor Firman; Jack O'Connor (0-2 frees), Joe O'Connor (0-2); Rory O'Connor (0-2), Paudie Kelly (0-4), Mark Maloney (0-1); Joe Coleman, Ciarán Lyng (0-4, 2 frees, 1 '65), Harry O'Connor (1-1). Subs. - Seán Stafford for Coleman, Ryan Murphy for Maloney.
Shelmaliers: Brian Murphy (1-1, 1-0 pen., 0-1 free); Simon Donohoe, Aidan Murphy, Andre O'Brien; Conor Walsh, Benny Barron, Aidan Cash; Eoin Doyle (0-2), Brian Doyle; Joe Kelly (0-6, 5 frees), Brian Malone, Eoghan Nolan; James Cash, Ciarán O'Shaughnessy (0-1), Stephen Banville. Sub. - Tommy Barron for J. Cash.
Referee: James Owens (Askamore).