Tuesday 22 October 2019

Emergence of an underdog adds a lot to Senior final

Alan Aherne's On The Line column

There's nothing quite like the emergence of an underdog to get the neutrals talking about a county final, and that's why Saturday's Tom Doyle Supplies Senior football decider in Innovate Wexford Park is awaited with such interest.

I reckon the main goal at the start of the year for St. James' would have been purely to consolidate their place in the top flight. After all, it had taken them so long to finally get over the line and clinch the Intermediate crown, losing successive finals to Starlights and St. Fintan's before pipping Glynn-Barntown after extra-time.

That initial target would have remained the same right up to the last kick in their fifth group game against Starlights on August 25.

It was then, and only then, that St. James' could dream of bigger and better things as remarkably they advanced to the quarter-finals at the first attempt thanks to a one-point superior scoring difference to 2014 runners-up Gusserane.

What followed since has been the stuff of fairytales as the Ramsgrange men dumped the holders from St. Anne's before seeing off a Shelmaliers side which has been knocking on the door in recent years in Saturday's replay.

It's a shame that there's not more time for the club and the parish to embrace what it means to be in a county final, and indeed that holds true for all teams involved in the big games this weekend.

Still, there mustn't be a more positive and excited place to be right now than down around Duncannon, Shielbaggan, Arthurstown and Ballyhack. Their supporters will bring tremendous colour to our main county grounds on Saturday and, regardless of the outcome, they will recall the club's exploits in 2015 for a long time.

All followers are talking about St. James', and that's probably just the way St. Martin's would like it as they set their sights on a second football crown in three years, and the first leg of a potential Senior double.

They were far more superior in their semi-final against Castletown than the three-point winning margin suggested. And considering they hammered St. James' by 15 points in a group game in Taghmon on the last day of July, there's no denying that they will be warm favourites.

My recollection of that game is that St. Martin's drove down the centre of the field at their ease, and their support running was of the highest order. St. James' were perhaps on too much of a high after beating Gusserane in the previous round, and they were brought back down to earth with a bang.

I cannot see them being over-run in the same manner again, and I expect it to be a close contest between two well-prepared sides.

The final is preceded by The Courtyard Ferns Intermediate hurling decider featuring Naomh Eanna and Crossabeg-Ballymurn. I have seen a lot of both sides this season and that's why I'm really looking forward to the game as it has the potential to be a cracker.

The Over The Water crew are slap bang in the middle of an incredible time as they have reached this final at the first attempt after last year's Intermediate 'A' success. They also have an Under-21 Premier hurling final to look forward to, not to mention a fifth adult football decider in as many years.

Naomh Eanna of course have ace marksman Conor McDonald and tigerish defender Eoin Conroy in their ranks, but keep a close eye too on right half-back Seán Doyle who in my view has been one of the best performers in club hurling all year.

It needed a second meeting before Gorey emerged victorious when these sides last met in an Intermediate final 41 years ago. It's the last thing the C.C.C.C. would want, but it wouldn't surprise me in the least if history repeats itself.

The somewhat unusual Friday night setting for the Lodgewood Engineering Intermediate football championship final is caused by the necessity to have winners produced to meet Louth's Kilkerley Emmets in the Leinster series just two days later.

This is far from an ideal state of affairs, and I have sympathy for both clubs involved. Glynn-Barntown will be hurting after Sunday's hurling no-show, but the pain of that loss and the football defeat to St. James' last year should edge them past Bannow-Ballymitty.

Wexford People

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