Gorey gain title for first time
Naomh Eanna 2-7 Bannow-Ballymitty 1-5
Naomh Eanna returned to the scene of a recent bitter disappointment and left for home full of the joys of life after capturing the Permanent TSB Junior 'B' football championship title for the first time in St. Patrick's Park on Friday.
John O'Brien's goal in the 42nd minute was the decisive strike for the Gorey men as the club's upward curve continued with a five-point victory over Bannow-Ballymitty in a contest played in miserable conditions.
A fortnight earlier Naomh Eanna had left the Enniscorthy venue on a downbeat note after losing a third Joyces Expert Intermediate 'A' football final in the space of six years to Crossabeg-Ballymurn.
It was a different story this time around though as they added their name to the roll of honour of a competition first played in 1977, ten years after their last final appearance when they went down to Clongeen.
Bannow-Ballymitty were intent on making the most of this opportunity, as they had worked so hard to get to this stage in the first place. After relegation from Junior 'A' ranks in 2012, they had lost a remarkable four District finals in succession before finally cracking the code against holders Fethard, following up with a facile victory over Oylegate-Glenbrien.
It was 13 years since their sole county title success in this grade, with team captain Mark Colfer, defensive colleague Donal McLoughlin, and full-forward Barry Sinnott providing a direct link between the two teams on Friday.
Naomh Eanna had emerged from Gorey District for the first time since 2014 and impressively dismantled Our Lady's Island in the penultimate round.
They had to improvise somewhat this time around in the absence of full-back Pat Cullen, but the versatile and experienced Barry Kinsella dropped back from his listed starting place at left half-forward and had a good battle with the always-dangerous Barry Sinnott.
Scores were scarce in the first-half as both sides struggled to adapt to the poor conditions, with a swirling wind mixed with intermittent rain.
A couple of wides were chalked up at either end before Bannow-Ballymitty got off the mark in the tenth minute, with Sinnott curling one over with his left boot after Gareth McCurtin intercepted a Naomh Eanna line ball on the right flank.
Gorey levelled near the end of the first quarter when captain Michael Molloy punished a foul on Niall Kirwan, and the big full-forward then put his side ahead in the 17th minute after good work by Eoin Conroy and John O'Brien.
Two more chances to stretch the lead were squandered before Bannow-Ballymitty hit the front with a well-taken goal.
Gareth McCurtin has adapted quickly in his first year playing adult football with the club, having made his name up to this point with Wexford Youths and also as one of the most reliable performers with the county's Oscar Traynor soccer team over a long number of years.
And he ghosted into a great position in the 22nd minute, drifting from his midfield berth in behind the Naomh Eanna defence where he was picked out by Graham Sinnott before hammering the ball to the net (1-1 to 0-2).
It was a well-taken score, but it proved to be Bannow-Ballymitty's last of the half as Stephen Byrne set up Michael Molloy for a Gorey point before they regained the lead in the 29th minute.
The energetic Dara McDonald delivered the ball inside for Niall Kirwan who off-loaded in an instant to Paul Timmons, and the corner-forward drilled it past Garry Jordan to give his side a 1-3 to 1-1 interval lead.
An early Graham Sinnott goal attempt on the re-start was saved before Barry Sinnott reduced the deficit from a free after a foul on Jon Reville.
Darragh Cullen responded immediately for Gorey after a one-two with Dara McDonald, but Bannow-Ballymitty had drawn level by the 36th minute after Barry Sinnott pointed from a Reville pass and Graham Sinnott earned and converted a free (1-4 each).
Michael Molloy put Naomh Eanna ahead again after a strong run by Jack Cullen, and their all-important second goal was just around the corner.
It was fitting that John O'Brien should be the one to rattle the net as, together with team manager Pádraig Cronin from Kerry, the Corkman has been instrumental in developing the club's exciting crop of young players at primary school level over the past decade and more.
He well and truly rifled the ball to the roof of the net after Eoin McGuckin cut in along the endline and supplied the pass, with Dara McDonald also involved twice in the build-up (2-5 to 1-4).
Niall Kirwan widened the gap to five before the long-serving Garry Murphy replied with a well-taken solo point for Bannow-Ballymitty, but three wides proved all they could muster thereafter.
Just one more score was added, and it owed everything to the contribution of two recently-introduced substitutes.
Joseph Naughton enjoyed his first touch in a sweeping move that ended with Michael Bernie doing likewise, with the wily campaigner coolly kicking the ball between the posts as the Gorey club got some tangible reward in the form of silverware in a year of fine progress in both codes.
Naomh Eanna: Derick Woods; John Doyle, Barry Kinsella, John Lillis; Jack Cullen, Simon Doran, Eoin Conroy; Stephen Byrne, Darragh Cullen (0-1); Michael Molloy (capt., 0-3, 1 free), Dara McDonald, Eoin McGuckin; Paul Timmons (1-0), Niall Kirwan (0-2), John O'Brien (1-0). Subs. - Joseph Naughton for Doyle (52), Michael Bernie (0-1) for McGuckin (52), also Pat Cullen, Shane Stokes, Alan McPartlan, Patrick Dwyer, Cillian Donohoe, Eoghan Kennedy, Darren Cullen, Corey Meyler, David Christie.
Bannow-Ballymitty: Garry Jordan; Mark Colfer (capt.), Donal McLoughlin, Art Murphy; David Staunton, Robert Mageean, Pádraig McCormack; Gareth McCurtin (1-0), David Currid; Joe Sinnott, Graham Sinnott (0-1 free), Abraham Ali; Jon Reville, Barry Sinnott (0-3, 1 free), Garry Murphy (0-1). Subs. - Adam Diskin for Ali (38), James Crosbie for G. Sinnott (43), Keith Gaul for B. Sinnott, inj., also Adam Cummins, Aaron Diskin, Ger Luby, Darren Sinnott, Jason Sinnott, Shane Murphy.
Referee: Fintan O'Reilly (Kilmore).