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Sunday 25 February 2018

Extra-time agony as brave Fethard pipped

Ardmore (Waterford) 3-11 Fethard 0-18 (AET)

Dean Goodison

Fethard captain Garrett Foley getting his team on the attack in Croke Park on Sunday
Fethard captain Garrett Foley getting his team on the attack in Croke Park on Sunday
Joe Sutton of Fethard stopping an Ardmore opponent firmly in his tracks
Martin Power and Richie Waters applying pressure on an Ardmore attacker
The Fethard squad lining up on a very proud day for the club, a first-ever appearance in Croke Park in an All-Ireland final

There are no words of comfort, nothing that can dull the pain of losing the AIB All-Ireland Club Junior hurling championship final in Croke Park, not yet anyway.

Fethard will hurt this week, and they'll hurt next week too, but they'll carry that hurt forward; that's what happens when you put everything you have into a common goal and it doesn't end the way you want.

Pride in the performance, the immense heart shown, that never-say-die fighting spirit is a beautiful thing. It will eventually aid the process of acceptance and building will contine. There's no shame in doing absolutely everything in your power to achieve something and coming up a fraction short.

The county title will help, and being Leinster champions will immortalise this team forever in Fethard 'lore.

Too right it will. This was a special run, a sensational effort, something that will be passed through the generations.

When these lads sit down in 40 years' time, separate the grandchildren - two on each knee - and start to recite the oft-told tale of the 2017-'18 St. Mogue's season, unfortunately there will be a boogeyman.

In four decades' time, few G.A.A. folk around the country will remember Shane Hynes, but the people of Fethard will never be able to forget.

'There will be a minimum of two minutes of added-time at the end of the second-half' - it's the most pointless announcement in G.A.A. No, the referee will play exactly what he wants to play, regardless of what he previously stated to the fourth official.

To examine why there was just a few seconds short of three and a half added minutes played, you have to look a little earlier. Just as the two minutes expired, the superb Seamus Keating burst forward and looked set to get a shot away but was blown for overcarring.

This is when the game should have ended, and Fethard, leading by 0-14 to 2-7, should have been champions.

The free was blasted into the Ardmore half, time was up and nothing that had happened in the previous few minutes warranted an extra ten seconds, never minute a minute and a half.

Keating hurled a volley of abuse at Hynes after he was blown, totally understandable in the circumstances. It should have been his side's last chance to earn a draw and force extra-time and he wasn't happy.

However, his tirade seemed to earn Ardmore a few more phantom seconds and by God did they take full advantage.

The Waterford club won a free out. After Fethard made a substitution during the break (with three minutes of added-time already gone), they sent the ball long.

It found its way to David Gartland and he scored an absolutely stunning point under unbelievable pressure. He shouldn't have had that opportunity but it was an absolute gem of a score.

It seemed to take an eternity to fall over the bar. It floated forever and cleared the crossbar by a couple of yards. Fethard players ran to the referee pointing at the big screen, lamenting his decision to invent added-time, but there was no going back.

Lorcan Barden and his selectors had the impossible task of lifting their players again for extra-time. In truth, while they eventually got going, the first few minutes, when they looked completely shell-shocked, probably cost them in the end.

Seamus Prendergast, at 38 years of age, knew this was the time to turn the screw. He's been there, done that, seen it all - step on them while they are down. He drilled a stunning point, followed it with a free, and Gartland nabbed another as they went 2-11 to 0-14 up.

Mark Wallace, scorer of 14 points, flighted over a '65 in the 70th minute. He won it himself after flashing in a shot that Jack Walsh kept out of the net.

Maybe the pass to the free man inside would have been the better option but that's an easy call when under no pressure at all in the stands.

Down by 2-11 to 0-15 at the start of the second extra-time period, Mikie Dwyer scored a quick point. However, Ardmore worked the ball down the right, Stephen Keating picked a lovely pass to John Gartland, and he drilled home his second goal of the contest.

Fethard battled and battled. Wallace pointed a free, the superb Edmund Power got the score his performance deserved, and with five minutes left the deficit was down to two.

Yet despite several chances, including a rocket that whizzed wide from Bryan Power in added-time, St. Mogue's couldn't find the scores they needed.

Referee Hynes played just seven seconds over the allotted one minute in the second-half of extra-time, less time than it took for Ardmore to puck the ball out.

Earlier, Fethard started a little nervously. Yet after falling a point down, they reeled off three-in-row. Wallace nabbed a brace and Dwyer forced Jack Walsh to tip a one-handed rasper over the crossbar in the eleventh minute.

Prendergast forced home a soft goal after a long free pinged around the goalmouth to give the west Waterford club the advantage back.

The sides traded three points each in the second quarter, with Wallace notching all of his side's, to leave them 1-4 to 0-6 down at the break.

Wallace levelled with his sixth, two minutes after the re-start. However, after Prendergast pointed at the other end, John Gartland intercepted a mishit Seán Foley pass and fired it back past the Fethard stopper to the net.

Ardmore went the next 16 minutes without a score as Fethard took over. Wallace registered a trio of frees before Garrett Foley burst onto a puck-out and nailed the equalising point with twelve minutes left (2-5 to 0-11).

Twice Prendergast put Ardmore ahead with dead-balls from tight angles on the left of goal but both times Wallace responded in kind.

As the game ticked into added-time the high-scoring talisman was fouled by Kenny Murphy and he sent over what looked to be the winning free from right on his own '65.

That should have been the moment that stuck in the Fethard memories for years to come but these gallant warriors were denied by Gartland's genius right at the death - a score that left an air of inevitability circulating around Croke Park the minute it flew over the crossbar.

Fethard: Seán Foley; Martin Power, Rúairí Tubrid, Daniel Mullan; Richard Waters, Kevin Rowe, Joe Sutton; Garrett Foley (capt., 0-1), John Tubritt; Edmund Power (0-1), Mark Wallace (0-14, 12 frees, 1 '65), Daire Barden; Ciarán Dwyer, Graham O'Grady, Mikie Dwyer (0-2). Subs. - Darren Foley for O'Grady (43), Bryan Power for Tubritt (50), Brian O'Donoghue for Power (60+3), Edmund Power for O'Donoghue (71), O'Grady for C. Dwyer (71), also Jesse Foley, Jimmy Sutton, Conor O'Donoghue, John Rice, Christopher Molloy, Seán Sutton, Shane Tubrid, James Dillon, Ricky Rowe, Paul Foley, Kieran Furlong, Adam Swan.

Ardmore: Jack Walsh; Daniel Power, Declan Prendergast (capt.), Niall Hennessy; Gavin Williams, Seamus Keating (0-1), Richie Hennessy; Kenny Murphy, Wayne Hennessy; Seán Barron, David Gartland (0-2), Michael Cronin; James Flynn, Seamus Prendergast (1-8, 0-7 frees), John Gartland (2-0). Subs. - James Kennedy for Cronin (31), Kieran Conway for Power (43), Stephen Keating for W. Hennessy (70), Michael Cronin for Kennedy (74), Hennessy for Williams (80).

Referee: Shane Hynes (Galway).

Wexford People

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