Reck leaves Craanford in ruins
Oylegate-Glenbrien returned to the scene of their disappointing Intermediate exit and departed beaming from ear to ear on Saturday after digging deep to see off Craanford with two late points in a hard-fought Greenstar Under-21 hurling Roinn 1 championship final.
Oylegate-Glenbrien 1-11 Craanford 1-9
Sunny Monamolin played host to a contest which saw both clubs seeking a first-ever title in this grade, and it went right down to the wire before wing-back Ciarán O'Brien and free-taker Brian Doran split the posts in the 58th and 61st minutes respectively to get the Enniscorthy District side over the line.
However, they did have one huge let-off on Craanford's last attack as the towering Matt Nolan cut in from the left and knocked an inviting ball across the square, but one colleague didn't get the decisive touch needed to guide it to the net while a second shot low and wide.
The full-time whistle sounded on the puck-out, emphasising the thin line between victory and defeat. Oylegate-Glenbrien's only previous success at Under-21 level was secured when partnering Crossabeg-Ballymurn to the Premier crown of 1982, and seven players used on Saturday had also tasted the action in their Junior 'A' football success just one week earlier.
Two more of that football team, Podge Doran and Jamie Reck, were the mentors on this occasion, while Jim White had the special distinction of captaining both winning teams in the space of seven days.
The tempo of the game fluctuated at various stages, taking a while to get going but then thundering to life in the second quarter when both teams rose to the challenge.
Indeed, one three-minute burst in that period was spell-binding as the ball flew up and down the field with admirable effort on display from the two sides.
The pace died somewhat in the 15 minutes after the interval, but it gathered momentum again as the crunch closing stages arrived.
An unusual feature of the first-half was that all scores came from play as Craanford ended it ahead by 1-4 to 1-3, with just five frees awarded in total (four to Oylegate-Glenbrien).
From the off the eventual winners deployed Shane Reck as an extra man around the middle third, resulting in a free role for Craanford full-back Jack Kenny who had a strong hour.
Oylegate-Glenbrien took the lead in the fifth minute when Conor Heffernan fed Barry Dunne for a point with a crossfield pass, but good work by Oliver Doran set up Matt Nolan for the leveller.
The length and quality of Stephen Ring's sideline cuts was a feature of the contest, and one such effort ended with Seamus Casey restoring the Oylegate-Glenbrien lead before Doran replied from a Cian O'Toole handpass.
Craanford hit the front for the first time in fortuitous circumstances when Oylegate-Glenbrien netminder John Reck had one of those lonely moments which can affect even the most dependable of goalkeepers.
He nearly had too much time to wait as a Kevin Poole effort for a point hung in the air and fell short, but it struck his fingers and ended up in the net (1-2 to 0-2).
Craanford's tails were up as Poole quickly added a point, although Ciarán Hourihane latched on to a stray clearance to cancel that score.
James Smyth finished a John Fleming line ball over the bar after a neat turn to restore the four-point gap, but Oylegate-Glenbrien pounced for a vital goal at the end of that three-minute bout of intense action alluded to earlier.
Ciarán Hourihane directed the ball into the goalmouth from the left flank, and Barry Dunne was on hand to gather possession and fire to the net to leave his side behind by one at the break (1-4 to 1-3).
However, it could have been four as Matt Nolan's shot shaved the crossbar before going wide after John Fleming picked him out with a pass in added time.
On an afternoon when Wexford Under-21 Jim White wasn't as involved as might have been expected, it was left to county Minor Damien Reck to set the tone on the re-start when he soloed through for the equaliser after a mere nine seconds.
The midfielder's ability to break tackles and run at the opposition proved crucial in securing victory.
A wide (both teams ended with ten) meant that Oylegate-Glenbrien had to wait until the 36th minute to push ahead again when good work by Shane Reck down the right flank led to a well-taken Conor Heffernan point (1-5 to 1-4).
The first score from a free was converted by Craanford's Kevin Poole in the 40th minute, and he did the same to restore their lead before the third quarter was over after another county Minor, Seamus Casey, missed a handy placed ball at the other end.
It remained nip and tuck from that point on as the pace picked up again after a lull.
Damien Reck broke away from two would-be tacklers to equalise, but a foul on Matt Nolan led to Kevin Poole completing his hat-trick of points from frees in the 48th minute.
Casey levelled from a Ciarán Hourihane cross, and Brian Doran then edged Oylegate-Glenbrien in front after a foul on the influential Damien Reck (1-8 to 1-7).
Hourihane caught and converted a Michael Reck delivery to increase the gap to two with eight minutes left, but Craanford weren't done just yet.
Poole's fourth free was followed by their sole score from play of the second-half - an excellent point from the left flank by John Fleming which brought the sides level for the seventh time with less than four minutes of regulation time remaining.
Damien Reck posted a wide but the puck-out which arose was significant. Craanford had moved Matt Nolan out to win possession, and his collision under the ball with a rival saw it break into space and Ciarán O'Brien didn't need a second invitation as he launched it over the bar.
Nolan was then robbed by a Damien Reck flick as he embarked on a solo run at midfield, with Jack Kenny fouling the Oylegate-Glenbrien driving force.
Free-taker Brian Doran had to wait over two minutes as Kenny was booked, Reck's injury was assessed and a minor off-the-ball incident was dealt with, but it didn't upset his composure as he split the posts for what proved to be the last score.
Ciarán Hourihane followed up with a wide before that late, late drama when Craanford got that one big chance for a winning goal but were unable to take it, completing a disappointing few hours for the club as their Minor camogie team had lost a county final to Naomh Eanna earlier in the day.
Oylegate-Glenbrien: John Reck; Stephen Ring, John Lambert, Kieran Lambert; Ciarán O'Brien (0-1), Jim White (capt.), Michael Reck; Damien Reck (0-2), Brian Doran (0-2 frees); Conor Heffernan (0-1), Ciarán Hourihane (0-2), Patrick Cullen; Barry Dunne (1-1), Seamus Casey (0-2), Shane Reck. Subs. - Conor Doyle for Cullen (49), also Eddie Mernagh, Conor Hill, Lee Kehoe, Niall Kinsella, Brendan Kavanagh, Eamonn Hogan, Kevin Reck, Dean Reck, Jack Bolger.
Craanford: Andrew Tighe; Tony Kavanagh, Jack Kenny, Pat Lancaster; Pat Kenny, Michael Lyons (capt.), Ger Lyons; William Conroy, Oliver Doran (0-1); James Smyth (0-1), Kevin Poole (1-5, 0-4 frees), Martin Doyle; Cian O'Toole, Matt Nolan (0-1), John Fleming (0-1). Subs. - James Redmond for Conroy (51), also Seán Lyons, Seán Byrne, Thomas Furlong, Liam Nolan.
Referee: Dan Crosby (Kilmore).