Ferns have a point to spare
Ferns St. Aidan's 1-20 Naomh Eanna 1-19
Christopher O'Connor inspired Ferns St. Aidan's with an additional time winning point as they eventually saw off an excellent Naomh Eanna challenge in this thrilling Pettitt's Senior hurling championship Group B game in Innovate Wexford Park on Sunday.
The teams matched the brilliant sunshine as the hurling exploded in a tremendous 60 minutes where both held the initiative at different stages.
Ferns turned the five-point half-time deficit around by the 43rd minute, having gone into a two-point lead to complete a seven-point turnaround, but they still had to withstand a tremendous Naomh Eanna burst in that highly-charged final quarter.
This was a game where neither side ever threw in the towel, with the match in the melting pot right to the final whistle, particularly after Eoin Conroy had struck over a splendid point for the Gorey town side on 60 minutes to bring the sides level.
However, Ferns grabbed the next opportunity, with Christopher O'Connor steering his effort between the posts three minutes into additional time to give his side a sensational victory.
Michael Laffan's reinvention of Ferns is coming along nicely, as his side showed many changes, but their physical impact to go side-by-side with their skilful hurling hauled them back into this game.
While they opened the scoring with a Jonny Dwyer point, Naomh Eanna enjoyed the ideal start, striking over five unanswered points through Pádraig Doyle (four, two frees) and Gearóid Cullen with a fine effort off the sideline to lead by 0-5 to 0-1 after just six minutes.
Eoin Conroy was making an impact in midfield, with one of his fine runs ending when he was hauled down just on the fringe of the large square, while Pádraig Doyle was showing splendid accuracy in attack.
Naomh Eanna with their fluent hurling were causing Ferns all sorts of problems, and with Doyle, Conor Hughes and Aodhán Doyle all firing over excellent long-range points, they moved into a 0-9 to 0-4 lead by the end of the opening quarter.
Ferns, inspired by Paul Morris, now began to get into the action, responding with five points to reduce the deficit to 0-11 to 0-9. Then Morris had a 29th-minute goal disallowed for a square infringement, while at the opposite end came the score of the game just on the break.
Eoin Conroy, having ripped through the defence on a great run, finished with aplomb, a splendid shot to the opposite corner of the net from an acute angle, which left his side leading by 1-12 to 0-10 at the interval.
Within minutes of the re-start, Ferns signalled their intentions, as Benny Jordan steered two long-range frees between the posts, while Paul Morris and Christopher O'Connor followed almost immediately with further points to reduce the deficit to the minimum (1-12 to 0-14).
The stage was now set for a splendid closing 25 minutes and the attendance was not disappointed. A Pádraig Doyle pointed 50-metre free helped Naomh Eanna briefly lift the siege, but it was not for long as Ferns responded, seeing a rising Paul Morris shot just go over the bar.
But on 43 minutes Ferns got a crucial breakthrough. A long Tommy Dwyer free somehow found its way through a forest of hurleys to the lurking Paul Morris inside the defence, and the inter-county attacker kept his composure to crash a low ball to the net, restoring his side's earlier first-half lead (1-15 to 1-13).
When Chris Turner and Jonny Dwyer extended their lead to four points by the end of the third quarter it looked as is they were about to assume control, but three Pádraig Doyle points (one free) and a Conor McDonald effort had the sides level (1-17 apiece) with four minutes remaining.
Then came that dramatic climax that saw Ferns edge through to the narrowest of victories, but given the scale of their effort and hurling, few would have begrudged Naomh Eanna a share of the points.
Ferns St. Aidan's: Mick Walsh; Patrick Breen, John Breen, Brian O'Neill; Ryan Nolan (0-1), James Tonks, Declan Byrne; Ciarán Roberts (0-1), Gavin Bailey (0-1); Jonny Dwyer (0-2), Benny Jordan (0-3, 2 frees), Tommy Dwyer (0-3, 1 free); Chris Turner (0-1), Paul Morris (1-5), Christopher O'Connor (0-3). Subs. - Conor Scallan for P. Breen (HT), Jeff Tobin for Turner (48).
Naomh Eanna: Barry Kinsella; Peter Travers, Brendan Travers, Eoin Molloy; Tom Stafford, Seán Doyle, Gary Molloy (0-1); Aodhán Doyle (0-1), Eoin Conroy (1-1); Gearóid Cullen (0-1), Pádraig Doyle (0-12, 7 frees), Conor Hughes (0-1); William Cullen, Conor McDonald (0-1), David O'Brien (0-1). Subs. - Michael Murphy for G. Cullen (48), Charlie McGuckin for Stafford, inj. (50), Kevin Harrington for Hughes (52), Jack Cullen for W. Cullen (54).
Referee: Dan Crosby (Kilmore).