Stars snatch a vital win
Starlights 1-12 St. Anne's 1-11
Despite making life a little harder than it needed to be in stoppage time, Starlights claimed a fully-deserved Tom Doyle Supplies Senior football championship Group A win at Hollymount on Friday.
The Bellefield side have looked really good at different stages in all of their three matches but they do struggle to put teams away when they are in control of a game, and that's a big worry with tougher tests ahead of them.
This game could have been as good as over at the interval. The energy and overlap running from Starlights was excellent. They were particularly potent when slicing through the centre of the St. Anne's defence.
Jack Kelly, Liam Ryan and Nick Doyle and took turns and inter-changed with speed down the middle. Poor Diarmuid O'Keeffe, coming off a great inter-county hurling season, just had wave after wave of red jerseys coming at him.
Already several bodies down, throwing Seán Gaul into the absentee list must be painful for the Rathangan side. He's a big, strong presence in that half-back line and his loss is one St. Anne's can ill-afford.
They actually started pretty well, as Seán Kelly barrelled around and scored three early points as the Wexford District side went 0-4 to 0-1 up after 14 minutes. However, they had lived dangerously at the other end.
Richie Farrell watched on as his dipping effort from distance was tipped onto the upright by Graham Holmes and then rolled along the line and clipped the opposite post. Jason Russell also had a close range shot saved by the St. Anne's stopper before Kevin Foley's toe-poke was also kept out.
The waves of Starlights attacks continued and Farrell picked off a trio of points. Jack Kelly got upfield for a point too as the Enniscorthy town club turned a three-point deficit into a 0-7 to 0-4 lead at the change of ends.
After a quick start to the second-half, that saw Kelly and O'Keeffe on target to narrow the gap to one, David O'Connor was sent-off after his elbow connected with Nick Doyle's head when both went in for a throw-in.
The game meandered along for the next 20 minutes with Starlights always holding an advantage that fluctuated between one and three points. Kevin Foley grabbed three of those second-half scores in a noteworthy performance.
With 57 minutes gone, and a point between the sides, Liam Ryan took matters into his own hands. He burst through the heart of the St. Anne's defence before playing a one-two with Killian Lett and thumping high to Holmes' net.
When Lett added the next point less than 60 seconds later the game looked up with Starlights leading by 1-12 to 0-10. However, there was still a little more sting in the St. Anne's tail and back they came with a powerful response.
Redmond Barry was at the heart of his side's goal. He picked out Kevin White breaking through from deep and, with little thought of taking a point, he sent a rasping shot at goal that Pa Doyle could only parry and substitute Michael O'Brien punched home the rebound.
A rare missed dead-ball from Kelly in the second minute of added time again looked to kill off St. Anne's chances but back they came with the bit between their teeth and they pulled within a single score when Jonathan Fogarty popped over.
With a point between the sides, and referee Barry Redmond looking at his watch, Starlights critically won their own kick-out and seconds later the full-time whistle went, much to the victors' relief.
While four points couldn't possibly guarantee a knockout spot after three rounds, the Starlights' head-to-head advantage on the two sides immediately behind them means that it would be a big surprise if they don't now make the knockout stages.
St. Anne's, while two points further back, aren't in a bad spot with their head-to-head advantage on Glynn-Barntown. With games against Sarsfields and Shelmaliers to come they should still muster enough points to make the last eight.
Starlights: Pa Doyle; Tom Wall (capt.), Mel Doyle, Rory O'Connor; Jack Kelly (0-2), Ricky Fox, Anthony Roche; Nick Doyle, Liam Ryan (1-0); Ryan Mahon, Richard Farrell (0-3, 1 '45), Kevin Foley (0-5); Darragh Pepper, Jason Russell (0-1), Dillon Redmond. Subs. - Killian Lett (0-1) for M. Doyle, temp. (30+1-HT), Lett for M. Doyle, inj. (31), Eamonn Furlong for Pepper, inj. (34), Tommy Foley for Russell (49), Brendan Kearney for Redmond, inj. (60+2).
St. Anne's: Graham Holmes; Kevin White, Tomás Cullen (capt.), Páraic O'Keeffe; Paul McDonnell, Diarmuid O'Keeffe (0-1), Kenny Cloney; Jonathan Fogarty (0-2), Ben Moore; Andy Kennedy, Redmond Barry (0-1 free), Mark Furlong; Mikey Fogarty, Seán Kelly (0-6, 4 frees), Francis Simpson (0-1). Subs. - David O'Connor for Kennedy (31), Kevin Hannigan for McDonnell (31), Liam Rochford for Furlong (39), Michael O'Brien (1-0) for Simpson (53).
Referee: Barry Redmond (Clonard).