Draw enough for Ferns men
St Martin's 1-14 Ferns St Aidans 0-17
A draw was enough to ensure safe passage to the Pettitt's Senior Hurling Championship quarter-finals for Ferns but they probably should have had more in Bellefield on Friday evening.
The Gorey district side came into the game in a pretty strong position after back-to-back victories over St Anne's and Fethard so, in a way, they were free to have a good crack at this St Martin's team.
But the game wasn't without pressure, because a loss would have likely left them with a winner-takes-all clash against Faythe Harriers but they played with an impressive cohesion and a real hunger and were the better team for most of this game.
Everyone knows St Martin's have class performers around the field and their quality was just enough to grab the Piercestown side a share of the spoils.
However, they played like a team that had already qualified, there wasn't a great deal of quality to their play and it was all very clumpy.
Both sides flooded the middle third of the field, generally leaving two inside forwards with three defenders but clearing a lot of space in front of them. Both were happy to play the small ball game, plod along and pick away for openings and one might expect that to suit St Martin's.
They just weren't sharp enough and Ferns nipped around them and almost outdone them at their own game. They dared St Martin's to go long, look for a quiet Rory O'Connor but the Wexford district side rarely did.
The boys in Maroon and White started on the front foot with the breeze, Conor Firman nipped in to steal a short Ferns puck-out, feed Harry O'Connor and he just about found enough power in his shot to beat Jason Lawlor.
Rory O'Connor and Mikey Coleman both missed decent goal chances as the opening quarter came to an end but Ferns were able to tighten things up and rarely looked like conceding a major again.
After three Ian Byrne points and a Johnny Dwyer over, Paul Morris opened his account to level the scores at the midpoint of the first half.
It was nip and though for the rest of the period, Joe Coleman and Byrne both found their range from frees while Jake Firman and Eoin Murphy registered for their sides as St Martin's took a 1-8 to 0-10 lead at the break.
Playing against the breeze probably doesn't phase the 2017 County Champions but they struck seven wides and just a solitary Rory O'Connor point in the first fourteen minutes of the second half.
Ferns weren't exactly lighting it up either, with six wides of their own, but Benny Jordan and Byrne did notch to give their team a 0-13 to 1-9 lead. They stayed in front and even increased that advantage as the half wore on, going two up with Byrne's twelfth point in the 53rd minute.
However, they didn't score again. Instead St Martin's did just enough to nab the draw, Coleman pulled his side within one and it was Aaron Maddock who collected Harry O'Connor's hand-pass to point and salvage a draw in the final minute.
ST MARTIN'S: Luke White; Aaron Maddock (0-1), Joe O'Connor, Ben Maddock; Daithi Waters, Conor Firman, Patrick O'Connor; Harry O'Connor (1-0), Michael Codd; Jake Firman (0-2), Jack O'Connor (capt.), Paidi Kelly; Joe Coleman (0-10 frees), Rory O'Connor (0-1), Mikey Coleman. Subs. - Darren Codd for M. Coleman (44).
FERNS: Jason Lawlor; Patrick O'Hagan, John Breen, Rory Scallan; Niall Murphy, Conor Scallan, James Tonks; Eoin Murphy (0-1), Gavin Bailey; Benny Jordan (0-1), Paul Morris (capt., 0-2), Ian Byrne (0-12, 9 frees); Johnny Dwyer (0-1), Tommy Dwyer, Ryan Nolan. Subs. - Brian O'Neill for O'Hagan (55).
REFEREE: Philip Murphy (Faythe Harriers)