Kilanerin back in big time after thriller
Kilanerin 3-13 HWH-Bunclody 3-11 (AET)
Kilanerin's three-year absence from the top flight of club football was ended in gripping fashion in Innovate Wexford Park on Sunday when three points without reply in the second period of extra-time guided them to a hard-earned victory over a fine HWH-Bunclody side in a heart-stopping Amber Springs/Ashdown Park Hotels Intermediate championship final.
It was one of the best deciders in the grade for many years, and it really was a pity that they didn't get to do it all over again after finishing level at the end of the 60 minutes.
However, both sides had agreed to play extra-time since the AIB Leinster Club opener away to Rathcline of Longford is on next Saturday, and there was no shortage of additional drama before a Kilanerin side which featured five former Tara Rocks players over the 80-plus minutes managed to get over the line.
HWH-Bunclody had the initial momentum going into the added period after snatching an unlikely equalising goal at the death when the very impressive Aidan Nolan saw his shot at the Clonard end creep between Tom Hughes' legs and into the net.
That brought them level (3-9 each) in this lively game of swaying fortunes, but Kilanerin still managed to draw first blood in extra-time when Matty Forde, as dangerous as ever, cut in along the endline and fisted a point.
The equaliser arrived quickly though from Eoin Kelly after a Peter Atkinson pass, and HWH-Bunclody took a 3-11 to 3-10 lead into the break after Nolan kicked his seventh point following a foul on Edward Dunbar.
They owed a large debt to netminder Patrick Kavanagh who made a superb save to deny Tommy Boland after he was picked out by a Forde line ball, but the second additional ten minutes belonged to Kilanerin.
Substitute Emmet O'Toole kicked the leveller with his left boot at an early stage and, when leaders were required, captain Colm Kavanagh well and truly stepped up to the mark.
He had already scored a quality first-half goal, and five and a half minutes remained when he joined the attack to give his side the lead, kicking high and between the posts at the town end after Gearóid O Súilleabháin initially ballooned the ball into the air (3-12 to 3-11).
It was edge-of-your-seat stuff as HWH-Bunclody pushed upfield again, but Dean O'Toole made a vital interception as Edward Dunbar probed for a score before Aidan Nolan had his side's ninth and final wide (Kilanerin had eleven).
The insurance point came with 22 seconds of the regulation ten minutes left, with Kavanagh once again stepping up to the mark after an O Súilleabháin kick was blocked. It was no surprise that he went on to receive the man of the match award before being presented with the cup.
This was Kilanerin's third success in the Intermediate grade, and it won't be lost on historians that their previous two victories in 1973 and 1992 were followed by Senior glory at the first attempt.
For the time being though, they will just be ecstatic at getting back among the top twelve football clubs in the county after surrendering that status at the end of 2014.
The fact that HWH-Bunclody put up such stout resistance will make the achievement all the sweeter, but spare a thought for the Enniscorthy District crew who have endured nothing but heartbreak since their own demotion in 2008.
This was their third Intermediate final loss since then, having also gone down to St. Mary's (Rosslare) in 2010, and to St. Martin's after a replay twelve months later.
A minute's silence was observed before throw-in for the late John Slevin, father of HWH-Bunclody substitute Enda, who passed away on the morning of the match.
And the early exchanges suggested that we were in for a treat as both sides had goal chances.
Peter Atkinson collected a Josh Martin cross but was bottled up after 50 seconds, while HWH-Bunclody captain John Atkinson caught the ball on his own line from a Matty Forde shot after good work by Niall Breen and Dean O'Toole on Kilanerin's first attack.
Aidan Nolan opened HWH-Bunclody's account from a fifth-minute free, with Colm Farrell doubling the lead after racing on to an Eoin Kelly handpass from his wing-back berth.
Bobby Hughes got Kilanerin off the mark in the tenth minute after a Mark Boland pass, but Nolan made it 0-3 to 0-1 near the end of the first quarter after a foul on the influential Edward Dunbar.
The first game-changer arrived from the kick-out as Niall Hughes spotted a gap and fed the advancing Colm Kavanagh. He played the ball to Mark Gethings, accepted the return pass in full stride, and belted it into Patrick Kavanagh's net for a 1-1 to 0-3 lead.
Josh Martin nearly replied in an instant for HWH-Bunclody with a shot that went narrowly wide, but they did equalise through Peter Atkinson in the 19th minute.
Colm Kavanagh then showed his defensive qualities, gathering a weakly-struck shot on goal from Edward Dunbar despite being on the ground and knocking it out for a '45 that Aidan Nolan hit off the post.
Kilanerin had been under some pressure, but they reaped rich rewards from a breakaway in the 22nd minute. Mark Boland and Peter Hughes were involved before Matty Forde laid a handpass across goal and on a plate to his nephew, Dean O'Toole, who palmed it home to give the Wicklow border side a 2-1 to 0-4 lead.
It didn't last long though, only for 40 seconds in fact, as Aidan Nolan claimed a mark from the kick-out and found David Reck, with county Minor Peadair Cowman racing forward from left half-back to accept his pass and equalise with a well-taken goal.
Mark Boland and Bobby Hughes responded to that setback with points, with an Aidan Nolan free in added time, again after a foul on Edward Dunbar, leaving the minimum in it at the break (2-3 to 1-5).
Supporters were treated to a Matty Forde masterclass for five minutes on the re-start, and it looked like being enough to secure the title.
He hadn't scored up to that stage, but proceeded to pick off 1-3 in a devastating cameo that reminded everyone why he's one of the most gifted footballers ever to don a Wexford jersey.
HWH-Bunclody trusted young Martin O'Connor, a fine prospect, to police the veteran, and to be fair he performed that task as well as anyone could have envisaged.
Despite that though, Forde shook him off after 21 seconds and lofted over a trademark point. Even better was to follow as O'Connor's sole error saw a Peter Hughes delivery hop over his head and, although Patrick Kavanagh saved Forde's first shot, he slotted the rebound home.
After kicking that first point with his left foot, he switched to his right for the second before converting a free, leaving Kilanerin clear by 3-6 to 1-5 with 25 minutes left.
Great credit is due to HWH-Bunclody though for the quality of their response, as they hit 1-4 without reply to draw level and kept their opponents scoreless for almost 22 minutes in the process.
Aidan Nolan started the revival with points from a Peadair Cowman pass, and a free earned by Colm Farrell.
Cowman made further inroads into the deficit with a point from an Edward Dunbar off-load, moments after Peter Atkinson caught a Nolan delivery but was bottled up before he could get his shot on goal away.
Another Nolan free made it a three-point game midway through the last quarter before Dunbar intercepted a line ball on the right and darted forward, finding Seán Kenny who planted his shot in the roof of the Kilanerin net.
All of a sudden it was level (2-9 to 3-6), and the red and whites had to try to win the title all over again.
It looked like they had achieved that too as they finally managed to regain some composure on the ball and pushed forward.
Niall Hughes ended their lengthy barren spell with a brilliant point from distance despite heavy pressure, and Mark Boland converted a free after Matty Forde was impeded.
When Niall Hughes nailed another kick from the 45-metre line from a Colm Kavanagh let-off it appeared to be the insurance score, with just 22 seconds left.
However, added time was less than one minute old when HWH-Bunclody struck for that sensational equaliser, with an Aidan Nolan shot that should have been saved somehow deceiving Tom Hughes and ending in the Clonard end net.
Extra-time yielded even more drama, with Colm Kavanagh's late, late intervention finally breaking the resolve of HWH-Bunclody whose huge contribution to a game of such swaying fortunes won't be forgotten.
Kilanerin: Tom Hughes; Aidan Jones, Brendan Hobbs, Rhys Owley; Gavin O'Toole, Colm Kavanagh (capt., 1-2), Richard Hughes; Niall Breen, Niall Hughes (0-2); Mark Boland (0-2, 1 free), Matty Forde (1-4, 0-1 free), Mark Gethings; Dean O'Toole (1-0), Peter Hughes, Bobby Hughes (0-2). Subs. - Emmet O'Toole (0-1) for P. Hughes, inj. (51), Tommy Boland for Gethings (53), Gearóid O Súilleabháin for B. Hughes (59), Denis Jones for R. Hughes (70+1), Tomás Owley for G. O'Toole (HT ET), Jim Hughes for N. Hughes, inj. (72), also Eoin O Luasaigh, Cillian O'Toole, Lee Owley, Edward Hughes, Damian Whelan, Colin Breen, Conor Devitt, Cathal O'Reilly.
HWH-Bunclody: Patrick Kavanagh; Billy Kelly, John Atkinson (capt.), Adam Hogan; Colm Farrell (0-1), Martin O'Connor, Peadair Cowman (1-1); Seán Kenny (1-0), Aidan Nolan (1-7, 0-6 frees); Eoin Kelly (0-1), Mark Sheehan, Josh Martin; Edward Dunbar, Peter Atkinson (0-1), David Reck. Subs. - John Dunne for Sheehan (HT), Keith O'Hara for Reck (53), James Moorhead for Martin (ET), Sheehan for Dunne (79), also Francis Reck, Enda Slevin, Jamie John Murphy, Páuric Sinnott, Matthew Byrne, Paddy Dunbar, Joe Kavanagh, Kevin Dunne, Paul Finn, Cathal Doyle, Conor Crean, Darren Kehoe, Niall Kelly.
Referee: Kevin Carty (Sarsfields).