Sunday 19 January 2020

Fabulous Fethard!

St. Mogue's (Fethard) 0-9 Horeswood 0-3

Cian Byrne, the Fethard captain, at the presentation ceremony with Aogán O Fearghail, national President
Cian Byrne, the Fethard captain, at the presentation ceremony with Aogán O Fearghail, national President
Fethard goalkeeper Shane Finn-Butler under pressure from a Horeswood opponent
The Horeswood squad before Sunday's final defeat to New Ross District neighbours Fethard in Nowlan Park, Kilkenny

Dean Goodison

A fabulous occasion was lit up by several fantastic individual displays and featured two teams with incredible work ethic in the searing heat of Nowlan Park as Fethard won the battle of the New Ross District neighbours in the John West Féile na nGael Division 5 hurling Cup final.

Any Féile win is special for a Wexford club but to do it against pals, schoolmates and friendly rivals makes it all the more fitting. Unfortunately, there could only be one winner and it was Fethard. Spurred on by Cian and Cillian Byrne, they proved superior on Sunday afternoon.

After the disappointment subsides for Horeswood, there will be nothing but cherished memories of the last few days. Wins over Our Lady's Island/St. Fintan's and Benbulben Gaels from Sligo got them to the knockout stages and from there they only got stronger.

Horeswood racked up a stunning 13 points against Fingallians (Dublin) in the quarter-final before edging past Ballinascreen (Derry) in a tense thriller of a semi-final (2-1 to 0-2). However, they came across their great rivals in piping hot form in the decider.

It was a competitive opening few minutes in the Kilkenny sun. Fethard opened the scoring with a Cian Byrne '65 but Horeswood then put the pressure on for a spell. Lee Kent's lovely flick pass sent Ewan Russell clear but his pulled shot was clear to safety.

In their next attack the supreme Conor Foley broke away on the right and sent over a fantastic equalising score. However, slowly Fethard turned the screw. Jake Molloy registered two classy points in a row before Cian Byrne added a brace, the first from a free after a foul on Adam O'Grady.

Quick thinking by Kean Molloy allowed Seán Nunan to break away and give his side a 0-6 to 0-1 lead after twelve minutes. A booming Conor Foley point cut the gap to four but Cian Byrne grabbed his fourth of the half moments later (0-7 to 0-2 at the break).

Horeswood conceded just one goal in their three knockout games but it's hardly a surprise considering how well their full-back line and goalkeeper defended. Five minutes into the second-half Will Foley made a sensational low save to prevent a Kean Molloy rasper from hitting the net.

Conor Foley again pointed to narrow the gap to four but Fethard, to their credit, always had a response. Within 60 seconds Seán Nunan hit back to make it 0-8 to 0-3 as his side looked on course for victory.

Yet it could have been so different. Horeswood had two fantastic chances in the space of a minute as the clock ticked down. Cathal Parker fed Alan Kehoe and he jinked inside and out before sending in a rocket that Shane Finn-Butler somehow kept out of the net.

A minute later Foley's line ball from the right was perfectly executed. It fell to Cormac Shannon but he pulled a first time effort narrowly wide of the posts. With that, Horeswood's best chance of a comeback evaporated.

Cian Byrne raced away and rattled the crossbar with a 30-yard dinger but Cillian Byrne did put the seal on the win in added time with a classy clinching score.

The victory was the culmination of an amazing three days for the champions. Having scorched past Pádraig Pearses (Roscommon), St. James' and Moorefield (Kildare) in the round-robin, Muinebheag (Carlow) and Michael Dwyer's (Wicklow) proved no match for them in the quarters and semis.

With such familiarity between the players, Horeswood were always going to prove to be their toughest opponents but the Fethard lads put friendships, but never sportsmanship, to one side for half an hour and claimed a memorable first-ever Féile na nGael hurling title for the club.

Fethard: Shane Finn-Butler; Ciarán Dunne, Conor McLoughlin, Richard Liu; Cian Swan, Eoin Whelan, Ellis Morgan; Cillian Byrne (0-1), Cian Byrne (capt., 0-4, 1 free, 1 '65); Seán Nunan (0-2), Adam O'Grady, Kean Molloy; Jake Molloy (0-2), Bill Nunan, Darren Roche. Subs. - Kyle Baker, Robbie Molloy, Conor Foran, Pádraig Gleeson.

Horeswood: Will Foley; James Dempsey, Ryan Mylett, James Whyte; Andy Crosbie, James Murphy, Adam Harris; Alan Kehoe, Cathal Parker; Shane Rowe, Conor Foley (0-3), Liam Sinnott; Ewan Russell, Lee Kent, Dmitry Murphy. Subs. - Tom Dempsey, Cormac Shannon, Conor O'Leary, also James Rice, Josh Shannon (inj.).

Referee: Paul Cahill (Kilkenny).

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