Craanford cruise to Minor crown
The last stirring words in the Craanford huddle before Sunday's Wexford People Minor hurling Roinn 2 championship final against St. Anne's in St. Patrick's Park, Enniscorthy, were crystal clear.
Craanford 3-12 St.Anne's 0-6
The parish had been full of hard luck stories after the defeat in the Under-21 Roinn 1 decider, not to mention the Intermediate exit a few weeks earlier. Team captain William Conroy called on his colleagues to rise to this latest challenge and finally give their supporters something to cheer about, and they delivered in style.
The last Coiste na nOg county final of the year also produced one of the most emphatic outcomes, as a well-drilled and supremely determined Craanford side strode purposefully and impressively to a commanding 15-point victory over the Wexford District side.
They paraded six players who had featured in that Under-21 loss to Oylegate-Glenbrien, and one of that number - James Smyth - led the way with a polished display of finishing in dry and bright but cold conditions. The accurate wing-forward finished with 1-10 to his name, including 1-3 from open play, setting a good example early on with the first two Craanford points in the sixth and 14th minutes.
Ian Bennett got St. Anne's off the mark in between, but they gradually faded as the second quarter wore on and faced a mammoth task at half-time when they trailed by 1-9 to 0-3.
Those opening points from Smyth were both from play, and he followed up with no fewer than four more from frees before Kevin Redmond pulled one back for the boys in blue in the 23rd minute.
A key moment arrived shortly afterwards when Tony Kavanagh's pull squirmed into the corner of the net despite the best efforts of goalkeeper Philip Murphy who initially appeared to have the shot under control.
That widened the gap to seven points, and Craanford's tails were up as James Smyth added three more scores before the break, with a lovely effort from play off the hurl followed by two more from frees.
Roy Nunn picked off the third Anne's point from a free, and he added another three in the second period with a fine display of accuracy. However, they failed to score from play after half-time and in truth never looked like doing so as William Conroy and Pat Kenny backboned an extremely strong Craanford defence.
The winners' second goal was disputed by their rivals as full-forward Martin Doyle diverted a James Smyth delivery past Philip Murphy in the 42nd minute, but referee Brendan Martin was happy to let the score stand after consulting with his umpires (2-9 to 0-4).
Paddy and Jamie Doyle became the only two Craanford players to join Smyth in the point-scoring stakes before their top scorer delivered the icing on the cake with goal number three from a ground stroke midway through the last quarter.
Even the wides count highlighted the dominance of the victors who shot eleven compared to a mere three for St. Anne's who fielded isolated players from Our Lady's Island/St. Fintan's seeking a Minor double in Cathal Devereux and Cian Wright.
Craanford: Thomas Furlong; Jack Kehoe, Pat Kenny, Jack Berney; Páraic Redmond, William Conroy (capt.), Jim Kenny; Tony Kavanagh (1-0), James Redmond; Danny Doyle, Jamie Doyle (0-1), James Smyth (1-10, 0-7 frees); Vinny Murphy, Martin Doyle (1-0), Martin Kenny. Subs. - Paddy Doyle (0-1) for M. Kenny (41), Stuart Byrne for Kavanagh, temp. (43-46), Byrne for D. Doyle (50), Luke Byrne for Murphy (56).
St. Anne's: Philip Murphy; Billy Ryan, Jack Moore, Seán Redmond (capt.); Jack Murphy, Finn O'Driscoll, Vincent Carroll; Ben Moore, Cathal Devereux; Roy Nunn (0-4 frees), Daniel Lambert, Ian Bennett (0-1); Andy Kennedy, Kevin Redmond (0-1), Kyle Kennedy. Subs. - Cian Wright for A. Kennedy (38), Brian Carroll for K. Redmond (48), Philip Rawson for Ryan (51), Michael Roche for O'Driscoll (53), also Andrew Walsh, Dylan O'Brien, Graham Holmes, Conor Ryan.
Referee: Brendan Martin (Ballyhogue).