Oulart's relentless pursuit continues
Normal service resumed in Innovate Wexford Park on Sunday when Oulart-The Ballagh qualified for a remarkable eleventh Pettitt's Senior hurling championship final in twelve campaigns with a comfortable win over Faythe Harriers in the first of two very disappointing contests.
Oulart-Ballagh 3-19 Faythe Harriers 2-13
The long-time kingpins are intent on proving that last year's shock quarter-final exit to Glynn-Barntown wasn't the sign of a team in terminal decline, rather one of those unexpected blips that catches every champion out from time to time.
And their clever heads-up hurling, with the man in possession constantly looking for the best option, left the Harriers chasing shadows from an early stage. Oulart-The Ballagh's teamwork was very impressive, along with the constant rotation of their forwards into the open spaces, and clever use of crossfield passes ensured that they had one foot in the final already by half-time when they led by 2-12 to 0-8.
Faythe Harriers had surprised them in the league semi-final earlier in the year, but championship is a different story entirely. They did feel hard done by when a Lee Chin goal early in the second-half was ruled out as referee David Jenkins hadn't seen the outstretched hand of umpire Ian Plunkett alerting him to a foul in the opposing square 20 seconds before, after Ian Scallan denied Garrett Sinnott at point-blank range.
It meant that instead of the gap being reduced to seven points and perhaps filling the Harriers with hope, it was widened to eleven as Nicky Kirwan tapped over the resultant free. However, in all reality that potential four-point swing wouldn't have altered the final outcome as Oulart-The Ballagh comfortably kept their rivals at arm's length.
They trusted their defenders in the one-on-one match-ups, with Shaun Murphy continuing to closely police Lee Chin when the latter moved from centre-forward to the edge of the square at the start of the second-half. Likewise Rhys Clarke found the tenacious Barry Kehoe in his slipstream wherever he roamed.
The favourites' intent was clear early on as Des Mythen pointed after a mere twelve seconds, Garrett Sinnott followed his example before a minute had elapsed, and Tommy Storey made it 0-3 to nil from long range.
The Harriers did settle as they drew level with Chin's sole score from play sandwiched in between a brace of Clarke frees. Two Nicky Kirwan placed balls made it 0-5 to 0-3 before John Bridges hit back from a Jim Berry pass, but the town team had the wind knocked from their sails when a goal was conceded in the 16th minute.
A defender over-ran the ball when Tommy Storey sent it into the danger zone, and Garrett Sinnott picked out Nicky Kirwan who rarely if ever misses so close to goal.
And the damage to the Harriers was doubled quickly as, after Peter Sutton added a point, Kirwan goaled again when Jim Berry overcarried and the long free from Keith Rossiter broke off Rory Jacob into his path (2-6 to 0-4).
That margin had increased to ten by half-time, with Mythen, Kevin Sheridan, Kirwan (two, one '65) and Jacob (two) all on target. Barry Goff (two), Alex Lynch and Berry (free) responded for the Harriers, but the start to the second-half just about summed up their day to forget.
After that early Chin goal was chalked off, Rhys Clarke saw his penalty saved by Conor O'Leary when Barry Kehoe hauled him down. Four wides followed from the underdogs before Peter Sutton crashed home the third Oulart-The Ballagh goal in the 41st minute after a brilliant pass into the left corner by Des Mythen (3-13 to 0-8).
The Harriers did get a couple of goals back, the first when Richie Kehoe marked his move to centre-forward by flicking a Jim Berry free to the net.
Ten minutes later Rhys Clarke also beat Conor O'Leary with a snapshot from just outside the 20-metre line, narrowing the gap to 3-16 to 2-9, but they could never get close enough to turn this into a real contest.
Oulart-The Ballagh: Conor O'Leary; Eoin Moore, Keith Rossiter, Barry Kehoe (capt.); Michael Jacob, Shaun Murphy, Kevin Sheridan (0-1); David Redmond, Tommy Storey (0-1); Peter Sutton (1-2), Des Mythen (0-3), Peter Murphy (0-1); Rory Jacob (0-4, 1 free), Garrett Sinnott (0-2), Nicky Kirwan (2-5, 0-3 frees, 0-1 '65). Subs. - Tomás Dunne for P. Murphy (47), Martin Og Storey for Kirwan (50), Laurence Prendergast for Sheridan (56), Kevin Nimmo for M. Jacob (59), Murtha Doyle for Sinnott (59).
Faythe Harriers: Ian Scallan; Ross Lynch, David Mooney, Brendan Mulligan; Richie Kehoe (1-0), Emmet Keeling (capt.), Ciarán Kirwan; Alex Lynch (0-1), Jim Berry (0-1 free); John Bridges (0-1), Lee Chin (0-1), Barry Goff (0-2); Rhys Clarke (1-7, 0-6 frees), Pádraigh Farrell, Shane Howard. Subs. - Paul Lambert for Kirwan (35), Con O Donnagáin for Howard (43), Shane Wilde for Goff (52), Dean Walsh for Farrell (54).
Referee: David Jenkins (Gusserane).