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Thursday 5 December 2019

Both senior semi-finals difficult to call

Martin's, Castletown, Gusserane and Glynn-Barntown aiming to reach decider

Flashback to the Senior championship final of 2016 as Michael O’Regan (Glynn-Barntown) boots the ball away from Mark O’Neill (Gusserane)
Flashback to the Senior championship final of 2016 as Michael O’Regan (Glynn-Barntown) boots the ball away from Mark O’Neill (Gusserane)

Alan Aherne

St Martin's and Castletown are two teams that are always talked up as likely winners at the outset of any Dominic Smith Electrical Senior football championship campaign, but only one can emerge from their semi-final in Innovate Wexford Park on Sunday at 2pm.

And that game will be followed at 3.45 p.m. by an equally intriguing contest, when Gusserane take on Glynn-Barntown in a repeat of the 2016 decider.

St. Martin's and Castletown have been regular opponents since the former won the Intermediate title in 2011, meeting seven times in all including twice in semi-finals.

Castletown prevailed by 3-12 to 2-9 in 2012, and also won the 2014 quarter-final by 2-7 to 1-9, but their Wexford District rivals have been on top in the three most recent outings.

After taking the 2015 semi-final by 1-11 to 3-2, they also triumphed in the group games of 2018 and earlier this year, by 1-12 to 0-9, and 1-15 to 2-8.

Their sole Senior title to date, in 2013, is a poor return in truth for the potential within this St. Martin's group, and there has been frustration too in the form of final defeats in 2015 and 2017, along with penultimate round exits in 2012, 2016 and 2018.

Castletown's quest for a first success since 2010 has been in a similar vein, as they lost the finals of 2011 and 2012, as well as four semi-finals on the trot from 2014 to 2017.

Scoring 3-14 in their last outing without the services of Wexford's best forward this year, Jonathan Bealin, is a sure sign of their potential.

Ben Brosnan picked off 1-5 from play in that outing, and there has been a lot to admire too about the midfield play of youthful pair Liam Coleman and Rory Heffernan.

Conor Carty, the Gardiners, and the ageless Colm Morris will need to be at their best in defence to curb the expected threat from the likes of Ciarán Lyng, Paudie Kelly and the Firmans.

Barry O'Connor's inability to play, as a result of signing his Australian Rules contract, is a massive blow to St. Martin's, but at least they have had plenty of time to get used to it.

It goes without saying that Daithí Waters will be their driving force if fully fit, while the Maddock brothers will also have big roles to play in a game that is extremely hard to call.

FIVE-YEAR RECORDS - Castletown: 2014, Senior semi-final; 2015, Senior semi-final; 2016, Senior semi-final; 2017, Senior semi-final; 2018, Senior quarter-final; St. Martin's: 2014, Senior quarter-final; 2015, Senior runners-up; 2016, Senior semi-final; 2017, Senior runners-up; 2018, Senior semi-final.

It's fair to say that neither Gusserane nor Glynn-Barntown will forget the 2016 final in a hurry, but for markedly different reasons.

The Wexford District side seemed to be on course for only a second title in all, and first since 1996, but the O'Rahilly's came with a memorable late burst to snatch the crown from under their noses on a 0-11 to 0-10 scoreline.

Glynn-Barntown gained a measure of revenge in their sole meeting since, a group game last year (4-7 to 0-7), but the stakes will be considerably higher this time around.

Even the Gusserane players themselves will admit that they are capable of being very good or very poor on any given day.

After an eight-point slump to lowly Sarsfields, nobody could have foreseen the manner in which they deservedly ended the reign of Shelmaliers in the quarter-final, having bounced back initially in their last group game versus St. Martin's.

Runners-up in 2014 as well as being victors in 2016, they didn't qualify last year but have been given a huge boost with the return of dangerous forward Mark Rossiter from a long-term injury.

Indeed, if their attack clicks again, they are good enough to beat anyone, as Adrian Flynn, Seán Ryan and Páraic Conway are proven marksmen too.

Cillian Kehoe can give them an edge in midfield with John Roche, while defensive young guns Gavin Sheehan and Mark O'Neill have been developing well in the county Senior squad.

Glynn-Barntown didn't make it beyond the quarter-final stage in the next two campaigns after that loss in the 2016 decider, but they have been going about their business in an impressive manner this year.

Their clinical dismissal of St. James' was achieved minus the services of John Leacy, Robert Dempsey and Mark Fanning, but they still had nine points to spare. Matt Doyle has established himself as the county's top goalkeeper, while Rob Tierney offers a lot of experience directly in front of him.

Midfielder Aaron Breen has been one of the best young players to emerge on the club scene in recent times, while Michael O'Regan can be unstoppable when he is at his best.

FIVE-YEAR RECORDS - Glynn-Barntown: 2014, Intermediate runners-up; 2015, Intermediate champions; 2016, Senior runners-up; 2017, Senior quarter-final; 2018, Senior quarter-final; Gusserane: 2014, Senior runners-up; 2015, Senior did not qualify; 2016, Senior champions; 2017, Senior quarter-final; 2018, Senior did not qualify.

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