Anne's turn tables
St. Anne's 3-7 Blackwater 1-11
The drama considerably out-weighed the quality in Innovate Wexford Park on Thursday when St. Anne's reversed the outcome of last year's decider against Blackwater to capture the Greenstar Wexford District Under-21 hurling Roinn 1 championship title for the first time since 2010.
The holders lost their crown in a game featuring four red cards, three of which were shown after the final whistle, along with nearly 14 minutes of added time.
And the topic du jour in G.A.A. circles also reared its head if you'll pardon the pun when Blackwater had a player dismissed after an incident which left an opponent without his helmet in the 45th minute.
The sides were deadlocked when a grappling match on the ground between Jake Nobbs and Ben Moore left the latter minus his headgear, and referee Seán Slaven brandished a straight red card after consulting with linesman Martin Conway.
It was undoubtedly the key moment in the game as St. Anne's struck for their decisive third goal a mere two minutes later to establish a 3-4 to 1-7 lead.
Their best player, Finn O'Driscoll, was on hand to finish to the net after a scramble, but the drama was only beginning.
An honest to goodness 50-50 challenge between Kyle Kennedy of St. Anne's and Blackwater's Aaron Culleton forced both players to retire with shoulder injuries, and play was delayed for just short of seven minutes while the former was attended to near the sideline.
When the action resumed a superb double save by Dylan Kavanagh prevented Kevin Corrigan and Dylan Dixon from getting the goal Blackwater sought so badly, but the excitement rose as the added time played stretched to more than 13 minutes.
Finn O'Driscoll (free) and Dixon picked off points at either end before three in a row between the eighth and tenth added minutes from Corrigan (two, one free) and Dixon left St. Anne's clinging to a 3-6 to 1-11 lead.
And Blackwater certainly had their chances to equalise, with Corrigan striking two wides in quick succession before Anne's netminder Kavanagh was penalised for delaying his puck-out. The throw-in on the 20-metre line broke to Blackwater's outstanding leader Darren Byrne who had moved upfield from centre-back at that stage, but his point attempt from the left wing drifted across goal and missed the target - their eighth wide of the half.
The insurance score for a relieved St. Anne's arrived in the 14th added minute when Finn O'Driscoll pointed a free, but there was further work for the referee after his final whistle when a wrestling match started roughly 40 metres from the Blackwater goal.
It didn't appear to be particularly serious but, when the dust had settled, the referee sought one Blackwater player, then a St. Anne's man, and finally a second from Blackwater, brandishing three red cards. With some strong claims of mistaken identity afterwards, I've decided not to name that trio in this report.
All that excitement followed probably the worst 30 minutes of hurling I have seen all year in the first-half.
It was dreadful stuff, with neither side scoring a point from play as wind-aided St. Anne's established an interval lead of 2-3 to 1-2. A total of 1-5 came from frees, apart from one goal apiece at either end.
Remarkably, that sole Anne's score from play arrived after a mere ten seconds when Dylan O'Brien grabbed Ben Moore's delivery and sent a low shot to the net. It most definitely wasn't a sign of things to come as the Rathangan side followed up with eleven wides before the break.
Still, they were far superior early on to slow-starting Blackwater and, after Kyle Kennedy pointed a free, moved seven points clear with their second goal in the tenth minute.
Finn O'Drisoll's long-range free possibly a got a touch off an attacker's leg en route to the net at the town end, but he deserves the credit for establishing a 2-1 to nil lead.
Kevin Corrigan finally got Blackwater off the mark with a pointed free in the 17th minute, and they were back in business shortly afterwards when his shot was blocked but Ben Redmond was on hand to drive the break to the net.
Kyle Kennedy prospered after moving to wing-forward, earning and converting two frees, but a late placed ball from Corrigan left Blackwater trailing at the break by 2-3 to 1-2 after that sub-standard half.
The seasiders wasted no time in erasing that deficit, with points from Corrigan (play and two frees) and Ian Curran bringing them level inside six minutes on the re-start.
Impressive Anne's substitute Conor Ryan then swapped scores with Dean Whelan before matters livened up considerably with the sending-off, the third Anne's goal, the extended injury time, and the after-match red mist.
St. Anne's will realise significant improvement will be needed to overcome the Gorey District champions in the county semi-final, although they were entitled to be somewhat rusty given that this was their first outing of the year.
St. Anne's: Dylan Kavanagh; Barry Roche, Andrew Walsh, Vincent Carroll (joint capt.); Graham Holmes, Finn O'Driscoll (2-2, 1-2 frees), Brian Kavanagh; Philip Rawson (0-1), Andy Kennedy; Roy Nunn (joint capt.), Ben Moore, Gavin Howlett; Adam Moore, Dylan O'Brien (1-0), Kyle Kennedy (0-3 frees). Subs. - Conor Ryan (Grascur Little, 0-1) for Howlett (34), Billy Ryan for K. Kennedy, inj. (49), Kevin Redmond for Holmes (60+14), also Conor Ryan (Gibberpatrick), Michael Carroll, Josh Cloney, Karim Byrne, Paddy White, Luke Redmond, Seán Redmond, Jack Murphy, Ian Bennett, Gearóid Finn, Jack Moore.
Blackwater: Aaron Nobbs; Robert McGuinness, Ennae Carroll, Mark Donoghue; Jake Nobbs, Darren Byrne (capt.), Eoin O'Neill; Dylan Dixon (0-2), Dean Whelan (0-1); Shane Wright, Ian Curran (0-1), Ben Redmond (1-0); Kevin Corrigan (0-7, 5 frees), Darragh Doyle, Mikey Byrne. Subs. - Aaron Culleton for M. Byrne (35), Byrne for Culleton, inj. (49), also Conor Sutton, Paddy Cullen, John Berry, Conor O'Brien, James Kelly, Shane Cahill, Caolan O'Reilly, Shane Butler, Paddy Lynch, Pádraig O'Toole.
Referee: Seán Slaven (Faythe Harriers).