Battling Blackwater bounce back
Eight points down after nine minutes, Blackwater completely changed the flow of the game with a determined, brilliant performance, taking the New Ross Standard Under-14 football Division 2 shield decider in St. Patrick's Park on Tuesday.
Blackwater 6-10 Starlights 3-4
It was a nice way to end the season for the Wexford District side, after coming up just short in the Division 2 hurling championship final. However, they looked set for more disappointment when they fell 3-0 to 0-1 behind in the opening quarter.
At that stage there seemed to be only one winner. Starlights, who were seeking a Division 2 shield hurling and football double, were sensational in those opening minutes. In attack they were devastating, and in the middle third they won every ball.
Just 14 seconds in Oisín Pepper took Stefan San Augustin's pass, blitzed through the heart of the Blackwater defence and smashed to the roof of Ian O'Reilly's net. They added a second goal two minutes later when Jeff Buckley punched home from Jack Kirwan's pass after great play by Matt Kinnaird.
A Ross Berry free halted the momentum briefly, but Starlights netted for a third time in the ninth minute when Kirwan drilled high past O'Reilly. It was important for Blackwater that they hit back quickly, and they were able to do just that when John O'Toole ran fully 50 metres before thumping home.
That moment of inspiration didn't immediately kick Blackwater into life, as the Bellefield boys scored points from Pepper, Bill Peare and Kirwan to go 3-3 to 1-1 up. However, a smashing finish from Fiachra O'Reilly, and points from Conor Byrne and O'Toole, left just a goal in it at the break (3-3 to 2-3).
The territorial dominance at the end of the first-half continued after the interval for Blackwater. They were magnificent, their energy and movement was exceptional, and it took them just 13 seconds to level.
John O'Toole took the ball from the throw-in, drove right through the heart of the defence and thumped past Treacy. Ross Berry gave his side their first lead and it was followed moments later by a David Power goal from an almost impossible angle on the right.
Josh Culleton got his name on the scoresheet after a couple of Berry points. The Blackwater captain sidestepped Regan Treacy from Kealen Fikentscher's feed and goaled with ten minutes left (5-7 to 3-3).
Starlights broke a run of 4-7 against without a score when Pepper scored a cracking point from the left wing. However, it was only momentary respite as Fikentscher netted and James Cullen added a couple of points as Blackwater brought the shield home.
Blackwater: Ian O'Reilly; Brian Og Curran, Bryan Mooney, Alan Malanowski; James Cullen (0-2), Adam Murphy, Jason Wallace; David Power (1-0), Kealan Fikentscher (1-0); Ross Berry (capt., 1-4, 0-2 frees), John O'Toole (2-2), Ben Cullen; Fiachra O'Reilly (1-0), Josh Culleton (0-1), Conor Byrne (0-1). Subs. - Ollie Murphy for Curran (44), Adam Cullen for Malanowski (46), Seamus Walsh for O'Reilly (49), Ciarán Cash for Byrne (49), James Whelan for Culleton (50).
Starlights: Regan Treacy; Mikey McVeigh, Ronan Kervick, Shaun Leacy; Matt Kinnaird, Michael McGrath (capt.), Adam Sheridan; Stefan San Augustin, Jack Walsh; Bill Peare (0-1), Jack Kirwan (1-1), Oisín Pepper (1-2, 0-1 free); Bill Collins, Christopher O'Leary, Jeff Buckley (1-0). Subs. - Tommy McVeigh for Leacy (35), Jordan Sharlott for Collins (38), Darragh Doyle for Kirwan (42), Shane Williams for Buckley (49), Lee O'Connor for O'Leary (49), also Jack Kehoe, Niall Kehoe.
Referee: David Owens (Kilrush).