Fethard find extra reserves
Fethard 1-14 Oulart-The Ballagh 0-13
A sparkling Fethard finish eventually set up a four-point victory and a place in the final as they cast aside a stubborn Oulart-The Ballagh challenge in this excellent Top Oil Intermediate 'A' hurling championship semi-final in Hollymount on Saturday.
While Fethard's championship bid remains very much on track, Oulart-The Ballagh's challenge was somewhat derailed before the game when centre-back Dennis Morton was withdrawn from the side, being held for Senior duty 24 hours later.
But this should not take from the Fethard finish as, after a battling opening half into the wind, at the end of which they managed to remain very much in contention, they turned in a quality second-half performance, with their late flourish of scores giving them a hugely impressive victory and a place in the final against Duffry Rovers.
Fethard, despite playing into the strong wind in the first-half, signalled their intent of staying in the game with a goal in the eighth minute.
Ben O'Connor and Mark Wallace (free) had exchanged opening points before a Pad Mythen pointed free had Oulart-The Ballagh in front.
Then came what turned out to be the game's only goal. Mark Wallace dropped a free from midfield onto the edge of the small square where Graham O'Grady pounced quickly on the breaking ball to send a ground shot to the net, giving his side a 1-1 to 0-2 lead.
It didn't look that bad for Fethard when playing into the strong wind as they defended resolutely for the remainder of the half, with Rúairí Tubrid and Kevin Rowe being particularly prominent, while both Garrett Foley and John Tubritt were winning their share of midfield possession.
Oulart-The Ballagh, in stark contrast, were failing to utilise their possession, being mainly reliant on Mythen placed balls for their scores, coupled with efforts from Ben O'Connor and a long Darren Nolan strike off the sideline.
Their interval lead of 0-11 to 1-3 did not look sufficient though given the gale-force wind blowing directly down the pitch, which they had to face into on the resumption.
After Garett Foley and Mythen ('65) had exchanged opening points, it must be said that Oulart-The Ballagh put up a staunch defence, and it wasn't until the introduction of substitute Ciarán Dwyer to the attack that Fethard began to make inroads into the lead.
Dwyer marked his arrival with two excellent points, while Wallace had two pointed frees in between to leave the minimum (0-12 to 1-8) separating the sides at the end of the third quarter.
Fethard had by now put themselves in a good position as when Wallace pointed the sides level with ten minutes to play the result was wide open.
But Fethard had stepped up the gears, hitting over three unanswered points through a Richie Waters sideline cut, Dwyer and John Tubritt to stretch into a three-point lead (1-12 to 0-12) with three minutes remaining.
While a Mythen pointed free lifted the Oulart-The Ballagh challenge, Fethard stormed through in the finish, adding points through a fine Mikie Dwyer effort off the sideline, and Brian O'Donoghue, to run out hugely impressive four-point winners.
Fethard: Seán Foley; Daniel Mullan, Rúairí Tubrid, Martin Power; Richard Waters (0-1 line ball), Kevin Rowe, Brian O'Donoghue (0-1); Garrett Foley (0-1), John Tubritt (0-1); Jesse Foley, Mark Wallace (0-6 frees), Daire Barden; Mikie Dwyer (0-1), Graham O'Grady (1-0), Eddie Power. Subs. - Ciarán Dwyer (0-3) for Foley (36), Joe Sutton for E. Power (44), Darren Foley for O'Grady (60).
Oulart-The Ballagh: James O'Toole; Seán Murphy, Nicholas Cullen, Ian Storey; Kevin Nimmo, Eamonn Murphy (0-1), Niall Redmond; Pad Mythen (0-9, 7 frees, 2 '65s), Darren Nolan (0-1); Ben O'Connor (0-2), Adam Nolan, Peter Sutton; Cormac Finn, Tomás Dunne, Gary Murphy. Subs. - Daryl Gray for Finn (48), Cathal Kenny for G. Murphy (52).
Referee: Mick Lanigan (Shelmaliers).