Debut to remember
St. Martin's 3-18 Shelmaliers 1-18
Conor Coleman had a Pettitt's Senior championship debut to remember for St. Martin's as the defending champions were given a stern test by Wexford District rivals Shelmaliers before winning through by 3-18 to 1-18 in Sunday's enjoyable Group A clash in front of a moderate crowd at Innovate Wexford Park.
Shorn a number of first-teamers, most notably the injured Rory O'Connor, the holders had to call upon another young product from their under-age conveyor belt, and Coleman certainly delivered the required goods.
Not only did he confidently sweep home their first goal on 15 minutes, but he also assisted his more experienced team-mate, Ciarán Lyng, for the game-sealing third goal, and had a hand in plenty more besides on a day when the accuracy of Shelmaliers teenager Ross Banville was a joy to behold.
The latter had already slotted over two frees from within his own half, and added a third from an acute angle on the uncovered sideline, before misconnecting with Seán Keane-Carroll's cross on 14 minutes to swipe over his only point from play as Shelmaliers edged 0-6 to 0-5 in front by that juncture.
Even with their string of absentees, St. Martin's had a county player of some description in every outfield line, and Wexford footballer Daithí Waters did outstanding work to catch a puck-out from a successful Lyng free before delivering towards the danger zone. The ball was misread and it fell to Coleman to score his first-ever goal at this level.
Waters displayed his majesty again on 24 minutes when he linked up with Conor Firman before supplying Mikey Coleman who finished low across Brian Murphy to open up what looked like a useful 2-7 to 0-7 lead.
To their credit, Shelmaliers gave themselves more than a fighting chance with 1-3 before the break as a ball right down the middle found James Cash and he made yards before confidently tucking away at the town end to cut the gap to 2-8 to 1-10 at half-time.
Coleman and the prominent Paudie Kelly added a quick brace less than a minute into the new half, but the Shels continued to impress on occasion with some neat points from Conor Hearne, substitute Eoghan Nolan and Ciarán O'Shaughnessy from mid-range.
However, soon after Jack O'Connor opened up a two-point cushion again, Coleman wriggled free to release Lyng, and he fired a bullet to the net to make it 3-13 to 1-14 with 18 minutes left.
Crucially, Luke White then saved with the help of the post to deny an immediate response from Carroll. A double from hard-working captain Brian Malone, and Hearne's third, kept Shelmaliers interested, but St. Martin's always had the safety blanket of that third goal to fall back on.
In fact, the confident title-holders negotiated this potential banana skin by finishing out with points from Lyng (two frees), Jack O'Connor, and another emerging talent, Ben Maddock.
St. Martin's: Luke White; Willie Devereux, Patrick O'Connor, Mark Maloney; Daithí Waters (capt.), Aaron Maddock (0-1), Paudie Kelly (0-2); Jake Firman, Conor Firman (0-1); Ben Maddock (0-3), Jack O'Connor (0-4, 1 free), Darren Codd (0-1); Conor Coleman (1-1), Ciarán Lyng (1-3, 0-3 frees), Mikey Coleman (1-2). Subs. - Michael Codd for M. Coleman, inj. (37), Jack Devereux for D. Codd (51).
Shelmaliers: Brian Murphy; Jody Donohoe, Aidan Murphy, Ciarán Walsh; Conor Walsh, Aidan Cash, Simon Donohoe; Ciarán O'Shaughnessy (0-1), Andre O'Brien; Seán Keane-Carroll, Brian Malone (capt., 0-3), James Cash (1-0); Conor Hearne (0-3), Joe Kelly, Ross Banville (0-10, 8 frees, 1 '65). Sub. - Eoghan Nolan (0-1) for Kelly (HT).
Referee: Shane Quinn (Ballygarrett).