Joyous Joseph's on the rise
The remarkable rise of St. Joseph's on their second coming as a club continued in miserable conditions in St. Patrick's Park, Enniscorthy on Friday when they launched a defiant rearguard action in the second-half to pip Wexford District rivals Crossabeg-Ballymurn to the Joyces Expert Intermediate 'A' football championship crown.
St.Joseph's 1-6 Crossabeg-Ballymurn 1-4
The Bishopswater brigade are now just one step away from a return to Senior ranks for the first time since the mid-1970s, and this is a position to be proud of given their swift ascent through the grades.
This was their fourth county title in eight seasons, as the Junior 'B' success in 2008 served as the launching pad which also brought Junior 'A' honours in 2010 and the Junior crown two years ago. And while the defeat to town rivals St. Mary's (Maudlintown) in the Intermediate 'A' semi-final twelve months ago was a bitter blow at the time, they have bounced back in the best possible manner.
This loss was hard to take for Crossabeg-Ballymurn, particularly as it came just six days after being edged out by Naomh Eanna in The Courtyard Ferns Intermediate hurling championship decider. No fewer than 13 of the 16 men used against Gorey lined out again in pursuit of a better outcome, but they came up short despite having a numerical advantage from just before half-time.
It will come as no consolation right now, but during the winter perhaps the Over The Water crew will reflect on the strides they have made since St. Joseph's hammered them by 3-14 to 0-6 in the Junior final of 2013. While that game was a rout, this one was in doubt to the bitter end, and that in itself is an indication that Crossabeg-Ballymurn's rise is far from over.
Like their conquerors on Friday, they have come from the lowest grade in a very short space of time. In fact, this was their fifth year on the trot to contest an adult football final, having taken Junior 'B' honours as recently as 2011.
Conditions were difficult from the off, with St. Joseph's winning the toss and availing of the strong wind blowing into the dressing-room end. Heavy drizzle eventually developed into full-blown rainfall in the second quarter and, while thankfully it stopped after the interval, the underfoot conditions grew even more treacherous.
In the circumstances, it was never going to be a classic, but the all-out effort of both teams must be commended. And when it boiled down to it, the manic tackling and constant pressure deployed by St. Joseph's when their rivals had the ball was the key factor in getting them over the line.
The black and whites posted three wides in a tentative start, after one from Crossabeg-Ballymurn, before they opened the scoring in the best possible way in the ninth minute.
Midfielder Andy Moore, who exercised a huge influence throughout, found Shane Dempsey who sprayed a super pass from left to right into the arms of fellow corner-forward Decky Downes. He popped the ball to Wayne Carty who was arriving at pace, and Ben Turner was beaten with a clinical finish for a well-worked goal.
Crossabeg-Ballymurn managed to hit back quickly as Ronan Devereux set up Cormac O'Rourke for a point, but this proved to be their sole score of the first-half. Andy Moore provided the assist as John Bergin sold a nice dummy and pointed for the leaders, before Shane Dempsey converted the first free awarded to the Wexford town club in the 16th minute when Matty Sludds was booked for a challenge on Decky Downes.
The lead was quickly stretched as Downes pointed after a one-two with John Bergin, but St. Joseph's didn't score in the last ten minutes of the half after Shane Dempsey knocked over a '45 to make it 1-4 to 0-1.
Indeed, their title bid threatened to unravel in that spell, as Dempsey received a straight red card in the 28th minute for a crunching challenge which must have rattled every bone in Pádraig Foley's body. Shortly afterwards a Joseph's colleague on a yellow card escaped with a stern talking to from referee Eric Molloy, and at that point the sanctity of the dressing-room couldn't have come quickly enough for the leaders.
Crossabeg-Ballymurn looked like they meant business on the re-start when just nine seconds elapsed before midfielder Paddy Devereux soloed through from the throw-in and pulled back a point. However, St. Joseph's showed they were in no mood to fold when Wayne Carty slotted over a free after Andy Moore was fouled in the 34th minute (1-5 to 0-2).
Crossabeg-Ballymurn's goal came early enough for them to have ample time to fight back. Joseph's full-back Lee Wadding was very commanding in the air, but for once the bounce from a long kick deceived him and was gathered inside by Niall Murphy who rattled the net in the 35th minute.
Rather than knock St. Joseph's off course though, this concession merely strengthened their resolve as their savage workrate grew all over the field. Twelve scoreless minutes followed before Jamie McMahon saved well from substitute Billy Roche who was put through by Bill Eviston, with Cormac O'Rourke pointing the free conceded in the follow-up (1-5 to 1-3).
The siege was lifted with ten minutes left when Seamus King was tripped in the right corner and Decky Downes directed a superb kick off the crossbar and over to restore that three-point gap.
Crossabeg-Ballymurn captain Eoin McDonald repeatedly drove his side forward along with the Devereux brothers, and one long kick from the full-back found Billy Roche who picked out Bill Eviston for what proved to be the last score of the game in the 52nd minute.
The losers had their chances to draw level, with Cormac O'Rourke and Niall Murphy pulling frees wide on the near post from right and left respectively. In general though, their forwards didn't show for the ball as well as their Joseph's counterparts had done in the first-half, with the winners' backs repeatedly out in front.
St. Joseph's substitute Robin Dempsey intercepted a cross into the square and hacked it clear in added time, and Seamus Carroll of Crossabeg-Ballymurn was about to launch the ball in again when the stopwatch hit the 32-minute mark and referee Eric Molloy blew the long whistle.
St. Joseph's chose not to fulfil their AIB Leinster Club championship fixture against Barrowhouse of Laois in Portlaoise on Sunday, but manager Martin Lynch and fellow mentors Wayne Rogan, Billy Codd, Mick Carty and David Tormey attained their big target and that's all that matters in the overall scheme of things.
They follow rivals St. Mary's (Maudlintown) and Volunteers on to the list of adult football championship victors from Wexford town over the past twelve months. And it's also interesting to note that the four-year history of the Intermediate 'A' grade has been totally dominated by Wexford District clubs, with St. Fintan's and Kilmore taking the 2012 and 2013 titles respectively.
Both sides kicked five wides on Friday, while Crossabeg-Ballymurn were awarded 23 of the 41 frees. Apart from that sole red, the eight yellow cards were also evenly shared.
St. Joseph's: Jamie McMahon; Philly Leniston, Lee Wadding, Paddy King (capt.); Gary Byrne, Paddy Harnett, Seamus King; Kieran Kelly, Andy Moore; Wayne Carty (1-1, 0-1 free), Eddie Lawlor, John Fenlon; Decky Downes (0-2, 1 free), John Bergin (0-1), Shane Dempsey (0-2, 1 free, 1 '45). Subs. - Robin Dempsey for Kelly (37), Dean Roche for Lawlor (47), also Shane Barnes, Darren Dempsey, Eddie Byrne, Paul Bergin, Graham Codd, Glen McManus, Jay Frayne, Darren Killeen, Wesley Kinsella, Wally Lawlor, Paul Underwood, Kyle Dempsey.
Crossabeg-Ballymurn: Ben Turner; Martin Redmond, Eoin McDonald (capt.), Matty Sludds; Ronan Devereux, Conor Devereux, Seamus Carroll; Paddy Devereux (0-1), Pádraig Foley; Niall Murphy (1-0), Bill Eviston (0-1), Oisín Foley; Cormac O'Rourke (0-2, 1 free), Sam Kelly, Andy Butler. Subs. - Alan Byrne for Sludds (37), Billy Roche for O. Foley (42), Conor Shovlin for Butler (56), Paul Walsh for O'Rourke (56), also James White, Barry Murphy, T.J. Parle, Mark Dempsey, Michael Eviston, Shane Whelan, Conor Maddock, Conor Barlow, David Kehoe, Luke Redmond.
Referee: Eric Molloy (St. James').