South stun Kerry at the death
Fourteen men dig deep to complete notable double
There was drama in spades at Nowlan Park, Kilkenny, on Saturday when the second leg of a notable Celtic Challenge Under-17 hurling double was completed by South Wexford with an incident-packed victory over long-time pace-setters Kerry.
South Wexford 4-11 Kerry 2-15
The task facing the Slaneysiders was made incredibly difficult by the twelfth-minute dismissal of full-forward Sam Wall on a straight red card after he struck Jeaic McKenna after the ball broke away from the duo in the right corner.
However, just like the Tipperary Seniors the following day, they triumphed in the face of adversity to bring home the inaugural Division 2 title and the John Scott Cup.
Trailing by 1-11 to 1-7 at the break, South Wexford took great heart from a fine start to the second period as Adam Cantwell, now at right half-back, fired over from long range before Jamie Myler, moved to midfield, played a one-two with Chris Cowman and reduced the gap further.
Kerry's outstanding attacker, Barry O'Mahony, may have negated those scores from a brace of frees, but South Wexford increased the pressure even more in the 38th minute when star forward Seán Nolan took a pass from James Kelly and drilled a powerful shot to the corner of the net (1-13 to 2-9).
The pace was frenetic at this stage, with O'Mahony making it a two-point game from play before South Wexford hit the front in the 44th minute. This time Nolan turned provider as he floated in a dangerous ball and, while one colleague sought a free from referee Peter Burke, centre-forward James Kelly was more interested in playing to the whistle as he latched on to it and rattled the net for a 3-9 to 1-14 lead.
When Kerry's Gavin Dooley levelled from the puck-out, it set the scene for a wildly exciting last quarter. The Munster side didn't seem to know what to do with their extra man who was always positioned at the back, although Philip Maunsell, Evan Murphy, Gary Carey, Barry O'Mahony and Murphy again all had turns in the role.
It was particularly baffling to see their mentors deploy O'Mahony, easily the best forward on the field, there for a brief spell midway through the second-half before realising the error of their ways.
The numerical disadvantage forced South Wexford to be clever in their approach work, and they used the ball extremely well to gradually wear down their opponents.
A Kyle Firman free made it 3-10 to 1-15 early in the last quarter, but disaster struck from the puck-out when Gavin Dooley picked out Michael Slattery who crashed the ball to the roof of the net at the other end.
Jack O'Leary had a great chance to respond but his ground stroke went wide from in front of the posts after James Kelly's initial shot was saved by netminder Adam O'Sullivan.
Incredibly neither side could add a score from the 47th minute until injury time, with South Wexford hitting three wides to one in reply before another gilt-edged chance arose with 90 seconds of normal time remaining.
Ben Maddock's delivery found Jamie Myler, now at right half-forward, and he was fouled by Niall O'Mahony for a penalty. Surely this was the chance to clinch victory, but Myler snatched at his shot and it was saved and cleared.
However, he made amends in some style 40 seconds into added time when he watched the flight of a Kyle Firman centre all the way and expertly flicked it to the net for what proved to be the clinching goal.
Kerry were devastated by that score, and a pointed Firman free after a foul on Jack O'Leary made doubly sure of success deep into added time.
It was a wonderful tribute to the spirit of the South Wexford side to recover from that early dismissal, and they celebrated in style after full-back and captain Ricky McGrath was presented with the John Scott Cup - in memory of a 14-year-old killed on Bloody Sunday in 1920 - by John McGrath from Waterford, Secretary of the Past Hurlers' Association.
The award for 'best and fairest', chosen by referee Peter Burke, went to staunch corner-back Philip Dempsey who regularly stemmed the flow of Kerry attacks with his single-minded pursuit of the ball.
There had been a difficult backdrop to the game as South Wexford manager Martin Lynch had been bereaved by the sudden death of his sister who was remembered in a minute's silence beforehand.
Midfielder Kyle Firman gave South Wexford the lead after 72 seconds, but they quickly discovered the capabilities of the Kerry side as the Kingdom boys rattled off five points without reply up to the eighth minute.
Four of those scores came from stylish centre-forward Barry O'Mahony, two from play, eventually prompting the mentors to switch Gavin Sheehan on to the dangerman midway through the second quarter.
By that stage South Wexford trailed by 0-9 to 0-5 and had lost full-forward Sam Wall, with the rest of their points chalked up by Kyle Firman (two frees) and a quick brace from play by the impressive Seán Nolan.
Kerry extended their lead to seven points in the 23rd minute when Michael Slattery finished off a move started by Jeaic McKenna for their opening goal. Barry O'Mahony added a point but South Wexford crucially dug in and had the margin down to four by half-time (1-11 to 1-7).
Seán Banville and Kyle Firman (free) grabbed the points on either side of Seán Nolan's 29th-minute goal, with the Horeswood attacker finishing off the rebound after Kerry goalkeeper Adam O'Sullivan and defender Philip Maunsell combined to deny Jamie Myler.
South Wexford still faced a tall order with a full half to play one man short, but they dug deep and were richly rewarded.
South Wexford: Fionn Slattery (Rathgarogue-Cushinstown); Eoin O'Neill (Blackwater), Ricky McGrath (Rathgarogue-Cushinstown, capt.), Philip Dempsey (St. Martin's); Gavin Sheehan (Gusserane), Jamie Myler (St. James', 1-1), Ben Maddock (St. Martin's); Kyle Firman (St. Martin's, 0-6, 5 frees), Adam Cantwell (St. Martin's, 0-1); Chris Cowman (Shelmaliers), James Kelly (Davidstown-Courtnacuddy, 1-0), Seán Nolan (Horeswood, 2-2); Seán Banville (Faythe Harriers, 0-1), Sam Wall (Gusserane), Jack O'Leary (Faythe Harriers). Subs. - Shane Lacey (Taghmon-Camross) for Banville (43), Philip Rawson (St. Anne's) for Cowman (49), also Adam Howlin (Shelmaliers), Kyle Roche (Shelmaliers), Adam Hearne (Shelmaliers), Alex Gondard (Taghmon-Camross), Pádraigh Reville (Kilmore), Criostóir Reville (Kilmore), Daire Reville (Faythe Harriers), Mark Murphy (Davidstown-Courtnacuddy), Mark Power (Shelmaliers), Darragh Cooper (Davidstown-Courtnacuddy), Michael Cleere (Geraldine O'Hanrahans), James Doyle (Shelmaliers).
Kerry: Adam O'Sullivan; Jeaic McKenna, Conor O'Keeffe, Philip Maunsell; Darragh Behan, Evan Murphy, Gary Carey; Gearóid Fennessy (capt., 0-1), Niall O'Mahony; Darragh Goulding, Barry O'Mahony (0-11, 5 frees, 1 '65), Pádraig O'Mahony; Michael McCarthy, Gavin Dooley (0-2), Michael Slattery (2-1). Subs. - Gearóid O'Mahony for McKenna (49), Shane McElligott for McCarthy (52), Shane O'Mahony for Maunsell (52), Jack O'Sullivan for P. O'Mahony (60+1).
Referee: Peter Burke (Kilkenny).