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Saturday 21 September 2019

Holders romp home

St. Martin's 5-15 Rapparees 0-14

Harry O’Connor of St. Martin’s off-loads as Rapparees defender James Peare looks on
Harry O’Connor of St. Martin’s off-loads as Rapparees defender James Peare looks on

Alan Aherne

St. Martin's served notice that a first-ever two-in-a-row of Pettitt's Senior hurling championship titles is well within their grasp when they dished out an unmerciful 16-point hammering to a very disappointing Rapparees outfit in this one-sided semi-final in Innovate Wexford Park on Sunday.

This was expected to be a relatively close encounter, but it proved anything of the sort as the holders wrapped up an easier than anticipated victory with a brace of goals near the end of the opening half.

The first was a gift while the second came from an unstoppable shot, and when the two were put together it meant that St. Martin's were in a virtually unassailable position.

They went on to lead by 3-6 to 0-9 at half-time despite playing against the wind after captain Daithí Waters won the toss, and this made what followed a mere formality.

Although they were never going to lose and didn't need to risk him, they still introduced Rory O'Connor in the 36th minute and he went on to score two points, rubbishing suggestions that he wouldn't play another game this year.

They had to go through the last four minutes including added time with 14 men as the rock-solid Willie Devereux departed with an injury after all five substitutes had been introduced, but it simply didn't matter such was the gulf between the sides.

Neither did the winners' wides tally of 19, including twelve after the break, while they weren't fazed either by the loss of netminder Luke White for most of the second-half after making a brave save.

Neutrals really expected Rapparees to give their second successive semi-final appearance one hell of a go, but they never got into their stride, and simply weren't allowed to by the formidable victors whose bench strength is so impressive.

Both teams had lost football semi-finals seven days earlier, so to suffer another defeat must have been a particularly bitter pill for the Rapps to swallow.

They weren't at the races though, despite an encouraging enough start as Tomás Mahon (two frees), Ryan Mahon and Kevin Ryan posted the first four points inside five minutes before St. Martin's lost left half-back Paudie Kelly to an early injury.

The first Martin's goal came out of nothing in the eighth minute, with Jack O'Connor working hard to shake off some tackles before finding the unmarked Ciarán Lyng slightly to the right of the Clonard end posts, and he gave Eamonn Furlong no chance.

Although Liam Ryan responded with a monster point from just outside his own '45, he went on to hit two long-range wides from the Rapps' tally of six (all coming in the first-half).

His county colleague, Kevin Foley, discarded the bandages protecting his right hamstring just before that point, but he was powerless to prevent the impressive overall dominance of St. Martin's.

Tomás Mahon pointed two more frees on either side of a similar effort from Jack O'Connor at the other end, but things got gradually worse for the challengers after three scores on the trot brought the champions level by the 26th minute.

Joe O'Connor, Lyng and Jack O'Connor (free) did the needful, with the latter getting through an enormous amount of work in a deep-lying centre-forward role (1-4 to 0-7).

Lenny Connolly and another Tomás Mahon free left the Rapps clear again, but first-half added time was an unmitigated disaster from their point of view as they conceded 2-2 without reply.

After a Harry O'Connor point, a Ben Maddock cross from the right found Conor Coleman in a one-on-one situation, but his shot lacked power and was stopped by Eamonn Furlong.

However, after missing his first pick-up attempt, the goalkeeper only succeeded in knocking the ball back behind the line with his second, and St. Martin's couldn't believe their luck.

Eighty seconds later a Jack O'Connor delivery shot into the air after a partial block, and it eventually fell for his cousin, Barry, who turned and gave Furlong no chance with a rocket shot to the roof of the net.

It should be noted that the unfortunate Rapps netminder had started the game well with a superb early save from Harry O'Connor.

With Jack O'Connor adding a pointed free for good measure after those goals, St. Martin's led by 3-6 to 0-9 at half-time and the game was, to all intents and purposes, as good as over.

Rapparees did have a chance for a goal after just 25 seconds on the re-start when Alan Tobin played in Nick Doyle, but Luke White was off his line like a shot and injured himself in the process of making a fine stop, leading to Dylan Byrne entering the fray.

James Peare pointed in the follow-up, and Lenny Connolly added another, but the Rapps conceded six scores before they registered again near the end of the third quarter.

St. Martin's were relentless in their pursuit of victory, with Jack O'Connor (free, play and 55-metre line ball), Rory O'Connor (from his first touch), Mark Maloney and Ben Maddock stretching their advantage to 3-12 to 0-11.

Substitutes Mel Doyle and Mikey Coleman swapped points before the fourth Martin's goal with twelve minutes left prompted a mass exodus of onlookers on a bitterly cold day in the main stand.

Joe Coleman sprayed a lovely pass to Ciarán Lyng who sold an exquisite dummy before blasting home his second goal, and the final whistle couldn't come quickly enough for the Rapps by that stage.

They conceded a fifth goal before that happened, though, with Joe O'Connor soloing down the middle in added time with Liam Ryan on his tail before finding the bottom right corner of the net.

Holding the starting Rapparees forwards to a mere two points from play was a clear sign of the excellence of the winners' defence, with Willie Devereux and Conor Firman particularly solid in the corners.

On the evidence of this showing, they will start the final on Sunday week as warm favourites to hold on to the Dr. R.J. Bowe Cup, having laid down a marker in emphatic fashion.

St. Martin's: Luke White; Willie Devereux, Patrick O'Connor, Conor Firman; Daithí Waters (capt.), Aaron Maddock, Paudie Kelly; Joe O'Connor (1-1), Mark Maloney (0-1); Barry O'Connor (1-0), Jack O'Connor (0-6, 4 frees, 1 line ball), Ben Maddock (0-1); Conor Coleman (1-0), Ciarán Lyng (2-1), Harry O'Connor (0-1). Subs. - Michael Codd for Kelly, inj. (6), Dylan Byrne for White, inj. (33), Rory O'Connor (0-2) for Coleman (36), Mikey Coleman (0-2) for B. O'Connor (41), Joe Coleman for B. Maddock (48).

Rapparees: Eamonn Furlong; Dillon Redmond, Liam Ryan (0-1), Ben Edwards; James Peare (0-1), Ricky Fox, Jack Kelly; Kevin Foley (capt.), Lenny Connolly (0-2); Kevin Ryan (0-1), Ryan Mahon (0-1), Nick Doyle; Alan Tobin, Tomás Mahon (0-7 frees), Darragh Pepper. Subs. - Ed Tobin for Pepper (HT), Mel Doyle (0-1) for Redmond (40), Anthony Roche for K. Ryan (44), Tom Wall for Connolly (48), Aaron Ronan for N. Doyle (51).

Referee: James Owens (Askamore).

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