Taghmon-Camross dig deep
Near neighbours pipped by one point in tight decider
It all boiled down to the very last play in Innovate Wexford Park on Saturday as Taghmon-Camross had one final searching test to pass in an extremely tight Ashdown Park/Amber Springs Hotels Intermediate football championship decider against near neighbours Bannow-Ballymitty.
Taghmon-Camross 0-8 Bannow-Ballymitty 0-7
Ben Brosnan's team trailed by the minimum when he prepared to take a line ball from 40 metres into the Clonard end on the right, with seconds of the two added minutes remaining.
His kick was accurate but just fell short of clearing the crossbar, and when Taghmon-Camross netminder Seán O'Gorman palmed the ball out to his first cousin, Barry, the full-time whistle sounded and the joyous celebrations began.
In truth, the game could have gone either way, but the victors showed tremendous heart and battling qualities to edge over the line first and erase their 0-11 to 0-9 group game loss to the same opponents in Clongeen last April.
They were also turning the tables after Bannow-Ballymitty won the sole previous final meeting between the one-time under-age partners in 2003, and the victory crowned a tremendous twelve months for the club as trainer Jason Ryan had also guided them to Junior hurling honours last year.
And when the outcome hung in the balance and the title was there to be won, Taghmon-Camross showed the refusal to yield typified throughout his career by a colleague who was unfortunately unable to line out in this successful campaign.
Last November one of the biggest cheers in that hurling win against Shelmaliers was reserved for a late point by the team's driving force, Johnny Waters, not normally noted for his scoring exploits.
Earlier this year Johnny faced a bigger battle than anything he had ever experienced on a playing field after a serious workplace accident. However, he fought his way back to good health with typical fortitude, and it was only fitting that captain Alan Nolan should afford him a special mention in the course of a fine speech after receiving the cup.
Over the years Johnny has been the beating heart of the Taghmon-Camross club, the type of player willing to put his body on the line to do the unglamorous work needed to win titles. And that approach was clearly drilled into Saturday's team, especially in the last ten minutes when some key interventions saw them bridge an eight-year gap and collect their fourth title in this grade.
Taghmon-Camross held a 0-7 to 0-6 lead entering the last quarter and were relieved to see Bannow-Ballymitty hit three wides in less than three minutes from Art Sweetman, Kieran Butler and the game's top scorer, Niall Harney. Butler in particular should have done a lot better with his chance, but there was still time for the team beaten by three points by Glynn-Barntown in last year's final to recover.
What proved to be the last Taghmon-Camross score, from a Seamus McLoughlin free in the 51st minute, came after a superb block at the other end on a Ben Brosnan kick by Alan Nolan who was winded after throwing himself at the ball.
Stephen O'Gorman brought off a perfect tackle to rob Niall Harney on the next Bannow-Ballymitty attack, but there was a feeling that anything might happen after Brosnan was fouled and converted the free from 44 metres with less than five minutes left (0-8 to 0-7).
Darren Carty wasted a good chance for Taghmon-Camross with a wild first-time kick off the ground before Bannow-Ballymitty captain John Sinnott surged forward, only to be denied by another wonderful block, this time from Ian Carty.
Wides from Barry O'Gorman and Darren Carty didn't help the nerves of the leaders' supporters, and they breathed a collective sigh of relief in the first of the two added minutes announced when Sinnott caught a long Brosnan line ball from under the stand but shot high to the left and wide with little space to manoeuvre.
There was still time for that last-gasp effort from Brosnan to force a replay, and the difference between winning and losing was exemplified as he slumped to the ground in agony while the Taghmon-Camross crew celebrated a win which leaves them with Senior football to look forward to for the first time since 2011.
Both sides deserve immense credit for their contribution to a contest that managed to rise above the horrible weather that was at its worst when the heavens opened during their respective warm-ups. Visibility was extremely poor midway through the first-half when darkness descended on the venue, but thankfully conditions were a lot more favourable after the interval.
And in a game of few scores, one key feature was the excellence of the defensive tackling by both sides. Indeed, neither team conceded a scoreable free in the opening half when all seven points came from play, and the first of just three out of 15 didn't arrive until the 37th minute when Seamus McLoughlin obliged for Taghmon-Camross.
Referee Barry Redmond, a replacement for the holidaying Billy Dodd, did very well and was helped by the sporting attitude of the players, with a mere 25 frees awarded (14 to the winners).
Pierce Doyle opened the Taghmon-Camross account after 90 seconds when an Ian Carty '45 broke into his path, and his side completely dominated the early exchanges.
Indeed, they should have enjoyed greater reward before Bannow-Ballymitty finally managed to break beyond midfield in the fifth minute and Niall Harney set up Adam Diskin for the leveller.
This marked the start of a spell of dominance for the wind-aided red and blacks who deployed a two-man full-forward line as David Currid was on the edge of the square for the throw-in but drifted out around the middle to be followed by Alan Nolan.
Mark O'Gorman had the task of man-marking Ben Brosnan, but there was little he could do to prevent the inter-county attacker from splitting the posts with a skyscraper of a kick from the left in the sixth minute.
A brace of points from the lively Niall Harney, in the eleventh and 18th minutes, stretched the Bannow-Ballymitty lead to 0-4 to 0-1, with a defence well marshalled by John Staples and Art Sweetman happy to see Taghmon-Camross register five wides before the game changed course in the lead-up to half-time.
There was an important moment in the 22nd minute when Kieran Butler and Harney combined to tee up Brosnan for a shot which was low to Seán O'Gorman's right, bringing out the best in the Taghmon-Camross goalkeeper.
Less than 30 seconds later Pierce Doyle added his second point from a Barry O'Gorman pass, and the gap was down to the minimum by the break after the Carty brothers combined, with Ian finding Darren who made it 0-4 to 0-3 in the 26th minute.
County Minor Luke Sinnott had an early shot on goal blocked in the new half, but he was involved along with Ian Carty in setting up Barry O'Gorman for the leveller before Art Sweetman surged forward to accept a John Sinnott pass into space on the right and restore the Bannow-Ballymitty lead.
Sinnott caught the resultant kick-out and the move ended with Brosnan feeding Harney who made it 0-6 to 0-4, but the Tomás Kavanagh-trained side were destined to score just once more in the remaining 27 minutes of action including added time.
Seamus McLoughlin made it 6-5 from a free after Darren Carty was fouled, and Luke Sinnott levelled in the 40th minute after Stephen O'Gorman played a good ball into space in the left corner.
And while they didn't know it at the time, Taghmon-Camross wouldn't lose the lead after Páuric O'Gorman put them ahead just under 60 seconds later with a sweet left-footed kick after Barry O'Gorman and Pierce Doyle created the chance on the stand side at the town end.
McLoughlin missed a scoreable free before that run of three Bannow-Ballymitty misses midway through the half. Those two tough semi-final games against Ferns St. Aidan's, ultimately won by the minimum margin, had steeled this very young Taghmon-Camross team for another battle.
They were equal to the task and, if the history of recent champions at this level is anything to go by, don't be surprised if they make a big impact on the Senior grade in 2017.
Bannow-Ballymitty aren't too far away either, and their dignified reaction after a second crushing final defeat in twelve months was an absolute credit to them. They certainly will be there or thereabouts again next season if they can recover from this latest blow.
Taghmon-Camross: Seán O'Gorman; David O'Keeffe, Alan Nolan (capt.), Mark O'Gorman; Darren Hayden, Pat Nolan, Darren Carty (0-1); Stephen O'Gorman, Barry O'Gorman (0-1); Páuric O'Gorman (0-1), Ian Carty, Seamus McLoughlin (0-2 frees); Pierce Doyle (0-2), Eoin Doyle, Luke Sinnott (0-1). Subs. - Stephen Stafford for P. O'Gorman (59), also Jack Dunne, Michael O'Gorman, Derek O'Hanlon, Barry Og McGrath, Shane Doyle, Stephen O'Keeffe, Stuart Murphy, Robert Nolan, T.J. Codd, Garvan Kelly, Brian O'Gorman, James Carroll.
Bannow-Ballymitty: Philip Murphy; M.J. Doran, Niall Murphy, Micheál Murphy; John Staples, Art Sweetman (0-1), Nicky Doyle; John Sinnott (capt.), Kieran Butler; Niall Harney (0-3), Adam Diskin (0-1), Darren Sinnott; Ben Brosnan (0-2, 1 free), David Currid, Richie Walsh. Subs. - Barry Sinnott for Walsh (26), Graham Sinnott for Diskin (44), Mark Sinnott for D. Sinnott, inj. (57), also Jon Reville, Conor Neville, Mark Wallace, Art Murphy, Darragh Murphy, Gary Morton, John Mernagh, Clem Rossiter, Conor Furlong, Podge McCormack, David White, Conor Anglim, James Crosbie, Keith Gaul, Breen Howlin, Aaron Diskin, Jack Farragher.
Referee: Barry Redmond (Clonard).