Sunday 21 January 2018

Hawkins fires Ferns forward

Late goal stuns St. Martin's

Brendan Furlong

Benny Jordan of Ferns St. Aidan's gets away from Joe Coleman of St. Martin's during the SHC in Innovate Wexford Park
Benny Jordan of Ferns St. Aidan's gets away from Joe Coleman of St. Martin's during the SHC in Innovate Wexford Park

Ferns always looked a side ready to brew up a storm but they left it until the sixth minute of additional time to seize the day with a dramatic Tomas Hawkins winning goal that left St. Martin's shell-shocked at the end of sixty-odd thrilling minutes of this Pettitt's Wexford Senior Hurling Championship quarter-final at Innovate Wexford Park on Sunday afternoon.

Ferns St. Aidan's 1-13 St. Martin's 0-15

New faces, fresh bodies, left Ferns with many roles to fill in the absence of James Tonks, Gavin Bailey (both injured) along with the departed Ian Byrne, now in Dubai, which ultimately led to a real fairytale story for corner-forward, Anthony Dwyer, who was making his first senior championship start for the club, at the ripe old age of 37 years.

It was surreal stuff for Ferns who celebrated on the final whistle, at the end of just seven minutes of additional time as they stole the show with as dramatic a finish as one will witness in this year's campaign.

As St. Martin's chased a victory they looked like justifying the tag of favouritism, particularly when their outstanding attacker Joe Coleman gave them a two-point cushion one minute into additional time.

But it was a precarious lead as Ferns gave them a dose of their own medicine, pressing forward ultimately leading to the goal that clinched a semi-final spot, leaving their opponents on the receiving end of a real sucker punch.

It was surreal to see St. Martin's on the receiving end of such a late blow, for generally speaking they looked a side capable of winning this game, but for some strange reason failed to turn their authority into sufficient scores.

These are the type of games this young side has still to learn how to win and put away their opponents, for they are at a stage where they realise they have the ability, but that it doesn't really matter how you achieve that objective, as long as you get across the line.

The south county side failed to press home in the second half ultimately paying a costly penalty.

As Ferns chased what would turn out a momentous victory it was a long awaited return from what has been a difficult season for this injury ravaged side.

The enforced absence of such key players saw it as a crunch game for the side.

These are the type of games they have lost down the years but on this occasion they played with a real aggression to their game as they dictated the physical exchanges.

Maybe they left it late to spring that dramatic winning goal but when you look back it was fitting that it was a foul on Paul Morris that led to the free from which the goal developed, for the inter-county attacker was on the receiving end of much close attention, gaining little protection or frees from referee Barry Redmond which left their supporters furious. But it was Morris who had the final say in manufacturing that late long-awaited free.

No questions, it became evident from early on that St. Martin's were going to rely on the accuracy of Joe Coleman for most of their scores, as he pointed a dubious free within 30 seconds of the start.

Although a Tommy Dwyer free had the sides level two minutes late, St. Martin's responded with three unanswered points through Sean Stafford, two, with Rory O'Connor pointing in between, to lead 0-4 to 0-1 after just five minutes.

While Beny Jordan and Johnny Dwyer points kept Ferns in touch, it was Coleman who struck over four further points, two frees, to spring his side into a 0-9 to 0-7 interval lead, with Harry O'Connor also on the mark, while it was Paul Morris, Chris O'Connor, free, Johnny Dwyer and Benny Jordan efforts that left Ferns just two points adrift.

An impressive second half start that produced Rory O'Connor and Coleman, free, points, extending their lead to four points after thirty-nine minutes, looked to have seen St. Martin's set out their stall, but with Tommy Dwyer and Benny Jordan on target, Ferns were still on their coat tails, trailing 0-12 to 0-11, with nine minutes remaining in the tie.

The sides continued to trade points with Ciaran Lyng and Colem,an, free, on target for their side, while Tommy Dwyer, 65, and Paul Morris, responded for Ferns, leaving the minimum separating the sides, 0-14 to 0-13 as the game entered additional time, with Coleman then sending over a huge point from play, giving his side a two point cushion.

While it looked as if the Martin's were one step ahead it did not prevent Ferns from a huge surge in the additional minutes added on. despite having Tommy Dwyer dismissed on a second yellow card four minute into additional time.

Paul Morris on two separate occasions was harassed and bullied out of possession to the right of goal on two occasions, losing his helmet in the torrid defending, but in one final throw of the dice, the Ferns attacker won a high ball, this time winning the decision of Referee Redmond.

The free was to the terrace side of goal, some five meters to the left of the posts, with Johnny Dwyer having his bullet like drive beaten down by a packed defence, but Hawkins dived in low close to the post to knock the breaking ball over the line, bringing with it the biggest cheer of the day and the most dramatic of finishes, five minutes and 30 seconds into additional time, with the referee calling full-time seconds later.

Ferns St. Aidan's: Michael Walsh; Brian O'Neill, John Breen, Padraig Bolger; Declan Byrne, Ciaran Roberts, Ryan Nolan; Tommy Dwyer (0-4, 0-3 frees, 0-1, 65), Benny Jordan (0-3, 0-1 free); Derek Thorpe, Paul Morris (0-2), Thomas Hawkins (1-0); Christopher O'Connor (0-2 frees), Johnny Dwyer (0-2), Anthony Dwyer. Sub: Paddy O'Leary for Anthony Dwyer (48).

St. Martin's: Luke White; Conor Firman, Patrick O'Connor, Daithi Hayes; Aaron Maddock, Jack O'Connor, Jake Firman; Joe O'Connor, Ciaran Lyng (0-1); Joe Coleman (0-9, 5 frees), Daithi Waters, Harry O'Connor (0-1); Rory O'Connor (0-2), Sean Stafford (0-2), Barry Lambert. Subs: Tomas Waters for lambert (ht); Conor Coleman for Stafford (51); Mark Maloney for Joe O'Connor (59).

Referee: Barry Redmond (Clonard).

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