Fethard march on
Fethard 2-9 St. Anne's 2-7
Fethard booked their spot in the New Ross Standard Under-14 hurling Division 2 championship quarter-finals with a hard-earned victory over hosts St. Anne's in Rathangan on Thursday.
These sides were at opposite ends of the table going into this tie but there was no such evidence of a gulf in class on the field as St. Anne's gave their visitors a serious test in 50 entertaining minutes.
In truth, either side could have taken the points. Fethard are well used to winning at this stage, and their double Féile success is still fresh in the mind.
When winning becomes a habit it can really prove the difference in tight matches and that experience was vital for the victors here.
St. Anne's will drop into the Division 3 quarter-finals, having been eliminated from contention in Division 2.
However, make no mistake, there will be nobody keen to face them in the last eight, as on this form it will take a serious side to stop them.
The most intriguing battle on the park was in midfield where Cian and Cillian Byrne faced off against Finn Ryan and Liam Berry. Cian Byrne drew first blood with the opening score but it was nip-and-tuck the whole way.
St. Anne's got a boost when Michael Cullen's long-range effort dipped just under the crossbar in the eighth minute but, after Byrne grabbed his second point, Jake Molloy hit the net from the right wing to give Fethard the advantage (1-2 to 1-1).
Down-breeze the Wexford District club played some fine hurling but were reliant on frees from Cullen and the excellent Andrew Moran to fire them into a two-point lead. Cian Byrne registered just before the interval to leave his side 1-4 to 1-3 down at the change of ends.
When Finn Ryan put his side three ahead early in the second-half it jolted Fethard to life and Cian Byrne picked off a trio of points in a row to level the game at 1-6 each.
St. Anne's lost Cullen for ten minutes after he was booked but they remained competitive.
In fact, they won a penalty when Liam Whelan was fouled but Shane Finn-Butler made a superb save from Andrew Moran, although the St. Anne's lad did point following the scramble that ensued. Jake Molloy and Byrne gave Fethard the lead back with six minutes left.
It looked like game over when Kean Molloy bundled home after Seán Nunan's shot was saved by Jack O'Brien and Cian Byrne added his eighth point (2-9 to 1-7). St. Anne's set up a frantic finish when Cullen netted in added-time but it was too little, too late to stop Fethard.
Fethard: Shane Finn-Butler; Cian Swan, Ciarán Dunne, Bill Nunan; Kyle Baker, Eoin Whelan, Morgan Ellis; Cillian Byrne, Cian Byrne (capt., 0-8, 3 frees); Seán Nunan, Adam O'Grady, Robbie Molloy; David Conway, Jake Molloy (1-1), Kean Molloy (1-0). Sub. - Eoin McLoughlin for Conway (35).
St. Anne's: Jack O'Brien; Grisha Dietvorst, Rory O'Brien, Brad Walsh; Dylan Moran, Andrew Moran (0-4, 3 frees), Darren Moore; Liam Berry, Finn Ryan (capt., 0-2); Eoin Staples, Michael Cullen (2-1, 0-1 free), Matthew Dayot; Liam Whelan, Cathal Murphy, Conan Phillips. Subs. - J.J. Harpur for Dietvorst (26), Rory Flannery for Whelan (47).
Referee: Barry Redmond (Clonard).