Monday 18 December 2017

Fintan's find true form



ST. FINTAN'S were under no illusions going into this replay as to what was needed to secure a victory. They struck with two first-half goals as they laid it on the line before going on to secure an eventual deserved eight points victory over a battling Naomh Eanna side in this Intermediate 'A' football championship final replay at Wexford Park on Saturday last.

Both sides were under pressure going into this game as they were anxious to make an immediate return to the top Intermediate grade for 2013. Naomh Eanna had that extra piece of pressure having already won the Intermediate 'A' hurling title, so supporters and players were hoping to achieve that elusive double.

But St. Fintan's were determined to end that long barren spell without a county title since 1999 when they won the Junior crown. They felt they had let a handsome lead slip away in their drawn encounter, so were determined not to allow a repeat. Their half-time six-point advantage was somewhat flattering, but it was still to prove too much for Naomh Eanna despite a battling second-half display.

This was a massive game for both clubs, and this could be seen through the opening exchanges when both sides' play was littered with mistakes. As they settled the standard of football improved as the ball began to move from end to end with some fluency, but the finishing of the respective attacks left a lot to be desired.

Naomh Eanna were the real guilty party when it came to the scoring stats, as they kicked seven dreadful wides, including six between the third and 21st minutes both from frees and play, all from very scoreable positions. Willie Cullen, who was so effective in the drawn game, was off the target with four attempts, two from frees, while Brendan Travers also got in on the act with two missed attempts for points having worked himself into scoreable positions. This poor quality finishing was to haunt Naomh Eanna for the course of the 60 minutes, as St. Fintan's put them to the sword with two quality first-half goals from which they never recovered.

After the drawn game, St. Fintan's learned much and made the changes before this replay, all of which worked effectively as they were the more composed side over the 60 minutes. It meant a lot to have scored the game's opening goal after just twelve minutes as it increased their confidence. They were fired up for the remainder of the game, having been led only once, and that after just 90 seconds when Willie Cullen sent over a fine leftfooted point.

Midfielder Paddy Keane, starting on this occasion, justified his inclusion with the levelling point two minutes later, while Donal Shanley, also back from injury, pointed his side in front from a fifthminute free, a lead they were never subsequently to lose.

The game was to turn over the following seven minutes. Naomh Eanna's Willie Cullen was wide with two poor efforts for points, while at the opposite end St. Fintan's showed the way with a twelfthminute goal.

Joey Wadding made his way along the endline and his pinpoint centre across the face of the goal was punched downwards into the net by corner-forward Cathal O'Brien, giving his side a 1-2 to 0-1 lead.

Willie Cullen followed with three wides, one from a free, before Brendan Travers also missed the target, but they eventually added to their opening score after a 22-minute barren spell through a Lee Kinsella point. Brendan Travers was once again off cue with a point attempt, before Cathal O'Brien added a point for the eventual winners.

As the game moved towards additional time, Joey Wadding took a quick free into the path of Conor Sinnott who finished low to the net, while Shanley followed up with a pointed free, giving his side a 2-4 to 0-2 interval lead.

There was a winning mentality now about St. Fintan's play as they succeeded in closing out the game. David O'Brien, who had assumed the freetaking role, pointed in the 33rd minute for the north county side, while at the opposite end Cathal O'Brien had a goal attempt blocked by a recovering defender after the 'keeper had been beaten.

Tomás Power and O'Brien exchanged pointed frees, with Shanley lofting over a '45 before O'Brien and Peter Travers tagged on points as Naomh Eanna strove to get back in contention.

Still trailing by 2-6 to 0-6, they were unable to break down the St. Fintan's defence where Frank Staples, Jim Rossiter and Kevin Day were outstanding, and the south county side finished off the game with late points from substitutes Pádraig Doyle and Niall Moore.

The adventure continues for the Wexford District men in Bellefield on Sunday next when they take on Kilbeggan of Westmeath in the Leinster championship quarter-final at 2.30 p.m., having already accounted for Kilcavan from Laois in the first round.

St. Fintan's: Paddy McDonnell; Jimmy Staples, Frank Staples, Brian Lacey; Jim Rossiter, Kevin Day, Brendan Hughes; John William Rowe, Paddy Keane (0-1); Donal Shanley (0-3, 2 frees, 1 '45), Dave Kelleher, Conor Sinnott (1-0); Cathal O'Brien (1-1), Joey Wadding, Tomás Power (01 free). Subs. - Eoin Whitmore for Lacey, Pádraig Doyle (01) for Rowe, Conor Day for Kelleher, Niall Moore (0-1) for Power, Jamie Codd for Shanley.

Naomh Eanna: Mark McDonagh; Paul Timmons, Simon Doran, Gareth Kinsella; Peter Travers (0-1), William Cullen (0-1), Tom Stafford; Brendan Travers, John O'Brien; David O'Brien (0-3, 2 frees), Dara McDonald, Joseph O'Connor; Pádraig Doyle, Lee Kinsella (0-1), Darragh Cullen. Subs. - Fionn Doyle for Cullen, Seán Doyle for Kinsella, John O'Brien for Doyle.

Referee: John Denton (Faythe Harriers).

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