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Wednesday 13 November 2019

Gorey make history

Naomh Eanna 3-14 Oylegate-Glenbrien 4-7

Eoin Molloy of Naomh Eanna bursts out of defence as Ciarán Hourihane gives chase
Eoin Molloy of Naomh Eanna bursts out of defence as Ciarán Hourihane gives chase

Alan Aherne

Practically all of the drama was reserved for the second-half in Innovate Wexford Park on Sunday when 14-man Naomh Eanna overcame the dismissal of Cathal Dunbar in the 37th minute to create history by qualifying for a first-ever Pettitt's Senior hurling championship final.

The scenes after the last whistle of referee Justin Heffernan were always going to be special, given that opponents Oylegate-Glenbrien were seeking to reach the decider for the first time in 55 years.

And when the time came to celebrate, it was the Gorey contingent who gave full vent to their feelings after coming through an eventful second-half of rapidly changing fortunes.

Their captain, Brendan Travers, had won the toss and opted to face the wind first, and it looked like a shrewd move when Naomh Eanna retired for the break just one goal in arrears (1-4 to 0-4).

With so much at stake, it had led to a poor opening half, and the score that divided the sides arrived in the 19th minute when a long ball by Damien Reck broke behind Podge Doran for the onrushing Seamus Casey to claim and drive to the net.

Oylegate-Glenbrien had learned the lessons from last year's quarter-final and assigned man-marking duties on Conor McDonald to Fergus Heffernan, with Reck performing as a sweeper while Casey and Doran occupied a two-man full-forward line.

With just nine scores, and 14 wides (eight from Gorey), that first-half had little to recommend it, but in fairness the game exploded into life after the interval.

Naomh Eanna led by 0-3 to 0-1 at the end of the first quarter, with Pádraig Doyle (free) and Mike Kelly swapping points before Charlie McGuckin and Aodhán Doyle put the north county men ahead.

A long-range score from Jamie Reck, plus a Casey free, brought the teams level before the latter struck for that opening goal, and Conor Heffernan then widened the gap to four with a fine effort from the left flank.

Oylegate-Glenbrien needed to be ahead by more at the break, though, with the only additional score in the last ten-plus minutes up to half-time coming from a Pádraig Doyle free (1-4 to 0-4).

It looked like the Enniscorthy District men would be up against it, but they enjoyed a dream start to the second period.

After Casey pointed a free, his lovely handpass into space after a Robert O'Connor delivery sat up invitingly for Podge Doran to pull first-time to the top corner of the Clonard end net for a game-high seven-point lead (2-5 to 0-4).

Naomh Eanna, who now had the tigerish Peter Travers as their spare man at the back, had a huge task on their hands, and it's a credit to their growing maturity that they managed to pull it off.

They were helped by a stroke of good fortune in the 33rd minute when a Pádraig Doyle '65 came back off the post into the path of Cathal Dunbar who turned swiftly and stitched the sliothar in the net.

Seán Doyle added a fine point under pressure before Casey batted the rebound over after Doran rattled the woodwork at the other end (2-6 to 1-5).

However, another major incident was just around the corner, with referee Justin Heffernan showing a straight red card to Dunbar in the 37th minute following an off-the-ball incident that linesman Brian O'Leary brought to his attention.

After initially resuming with Damien Reck at midfield, the leaders opted to bring him back as an extra defender once more after the dismissal and it seemed like a wise move in the circumstances.

Darragh Hughes and Seamus Casey (free) exchanged points before the former stepped up to a placed ball from 20 metres and beat the five men on the line with a powerful strike in the 46th minute (2-7 to 2-6).

Now it was really game on, and the last quarter was hugely entertaining as the game ebbed and flowed.

Naomh Eanna drew massive strength and resolve from that goal, with a brilliant long-range Jack Cullen point bringing them level before Aodhán Doyle and his brother Pádraig (free) left them with a 2-9 to 2-7 lead.

However, it could have been very different because, immediately after that Cullen equaliser, Podge Doran caught a Seamus Casey delivery from the left but was denied a near-certain goal by a marvellous Barry Kinsella save.

There was another twist in the 52nd minute when a Conor Heffernan ball in was initially helped on towards goal by Ciarán Hourihane before Seamus Casey got the final touch to knock it over the line.

Two Pádraig Doyle frees restored the Gorey lead, but they were rocked once more in the 58th minute when Casey completed his hat-trick from a Jack Reck handpass after an initial long-range free from Damien Reck (4-7 to 2-11).

Naomh Eanna didn't panic, and substitute William Cullen shot a fine point under pressure before a good catch and pass by Eoin Conroy left Pádraig Doyle with the time and space to shoot the leveller from 65 metres (2-13 to 4-7).

Conor McDonald hadn't scored up to this point which was a tribute to the Oylegate-Glenbrien defenders in his midst, but when the need was greatest he delivered the match-winning goal.

The game had just moved into added time when he caught an Eoin Molloy delivery to the left of the town end posts and, although he lost his hurl and he had two opponents to deal with, he somehow found the room to kick the sliothar to the net beyond John Foley.

The insurance point followed from midfielder Aodhán Doyle, before Barry Kinsella did very well to save a last-gasp Michael Heffernan shot that arrived through a sea of bodies.

The losers were distraught at the end, and naturally so because chances like this to reach a county final don't come around very often.

As for Gorey, they may be young but the manner in which they kept their composure was very impressive, with the three Doyle brothers, the two Molloys, Eoin Conroy and Charlie McGuckin all having some excellent moments.

They will relish their date with destiny on October 21, although first there's the not insignificant matter of Sunday's Intermediate 'A' football final against Cloughbawn to deal with. The people of Gorey will look upon Innovate Wexford Park as a second home before this memorable month is over.

Naomh Eanna: Barry Kinsella; Eoin Molloy, Brendan Travers (capt.), Peter Travers; Jack Cullen (0-1), Seán Doyle (0-1), Eoin Conroy; Aodhán Doyle (0-3), Gary Molloy; Darragh Hughes (1-1, 1-0 free), Pádraig Doyle (0-6, 5 frees), Charlie McGuckin (0-1); Cathal Dunbar (1-0), Conor McDonald (1-0), David O'Brien. Sub. - William Cullen (0-1) for O'Brien (43).

Oylegate-Glenbrien: John Foley; Robert O'Connor, Fergus Heffernan, Ciarán Hourihane; Damien Reck; Mark Kavanagh, Michael Heffernan (capt.), Mike Kelly (0-1); Jamie Reck (0-1), Shane Reck; Daithí O'Mahoney, Conor Heffernan (0-1), Tom White; Seamus Casey (3-4, 0-3 frees), Podge Doran (1-0). Subs. - Jack Reck for O'Mahoney (48), Bryan McCormack for O'Connor (55).

Referee: Justin Heffernan (Blackwater).

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