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Tuesday 13 November 2018

Last-gasp point secures replay

Tom Doyle Supplies Senior football championship final: Shelmaliers 2-11 Kilanerin 2-11

Kilanerin’s Dean O’Toole steals a march on Shelmaliers defender Andre O’Brien
Kilanerin’s Dean O’Toole steals a march on Shelmaliers defender Andre O’Brien

A Simon Donohoe leveller with the second-last kick ensured that a replay is required to decide the Tom Doyle Supplies Senior football championship title after the highly-entertaining clash of first-time finalists Shelmaliers and Intermediate holders Kilanerin ended in a welter of excitement in Innovate Wexford Park on Sunday.

This fast-moving clash was very enjoyable from the off, but it really caught fire in a gripping last quarter full of talking points.

Although they trailed by 1-9 to 2-4 after a Peter Hughes point in the 38th minute, the Shels upped the stakes midway through the second-half and reeled off four scores without reply.

Craig McCabe pulled one back from a free after Kilanerin's Denis Jones was black-carded for a foul on Brian Malone, and the equaliser arrived in the 43rd minute when Eoghan Nolan - full of running at midfield - saw his shot hit the right post and then the crossbar before going over at the Clonard end (2-6 to 1-9).

Simon Donohoe already had a goal to his name by that stage, with his rampaging runs from the half-back line posing all sorts of problems for Kilanerin.

And after he played a one-two with Craig McCabe and pushed the final newcomers ahead in the 45th minute, he found himself totally unmarked just 45 seconds later and had the time to fist the ball over the bar and make it 2-8 to 1-9.

However, there was more left in Kilanerin, and when Colm Kavanagh played the ball into the left corner for the gifted Matty Forde to run on to, he stooped to gather and kicked it over instinctively in one glorious movement (2-8 to 1-10).

It was one of several classy scores from the 2004 All Star who finished with 1-4 of his 1-6 from play, on a day when Kilanerin midfielder Niall Hughes also made an immense contribution with a 1-3 haul.

Undoubtedly the biggest talking point arrived in the 49th minute when the Shels supporters were adamant that full-back James Cash deserved a free while in the process of delivering a pass when he went to ground along with Kilanerin substitute Emmet O'Toole.

Referee John Carton was close to the scene and saw it differently though, penalising Cash for what he appeared to regard as a deliberate pull down.

And with the full-back already on a booking from the first-half, the black card that followed resulted in a red, leaving the Shels to battle through the closing eleven minutes plus nearly four added with 14 men.

As if that wasn't bad enough, Matty Forde tapped over the free that followed, and then Shels netminder James Gordon sent his kick-out straight to the full-forward.

Forde heard the call of Niall Hughes to his right and put him in the clear with a handpass, and the rangy number 8 fired a low shot to the net to leave the 2008 champions in the driving seat (2-11 to 2-8).

Given the circumstances - three points and one man down - it was a tribute to the resolve of the Shels that they managed to force a replay, the first since 2006 when Horeswood beat Castletown at the second attempt.

However, their followers had to endure over seven nervy barren minutes before Craig McCabe was fouled by Ben O'Connor and composed himself to knock over his third free (2-11 to 2-9).

The next score arose from an unforced Kilanerin error, with a very heavy touch by Colm Kavanagh under no pressure gifting possession to their rivals.

Even at that, it looked as though Simon Donohoe would have to re-cycle the ball from his position tight to the right endline, but he somehow managed to squeeze his shot between the posts for a quite incredible point, five minutes after being booked for an off-the-ball incident.

The action was non-stop at this stage, with Rhys Owley winning a vital free out for Kilanerin in the last minute of normal time as he tracked back to prevent Eoghan Nolan from getting on the end of a one-two with Craig McCabe.

After a delay for injuries to Owley and Gavin O'Toole, Shels hearts skipped a beat when Matty Forde got the ball again on the left flank, but this time the space was closed down and he conceded a free as well as collecting a yellow card.

The chance to equalise arrive two and a half minutes into added time when Shels substitute Aidan Cash ran at Niall Hughes and was fouled in a central position on the 45-metre line.

Craig McCabe's kick dropped short, but it was gathered by Graham Staples who handpassed the ball to Simon Donohoe, and his high kick split the posts with three minutes and 28 seconds of additional time played.

Referee Carton blew for full-time on the kick-out, leaving onlookers to catch their breath while marvelling at the fact that a starting defender, albeit an attacking one, somehow registered a superb 1-4 from play in a county football final.

Donohoe's was one of three top-notch individual contributions to the scoring stakes, along with Kilanerin duo Matty Forde and Niall Hughes, with the outstanding exploits of this trio setting the scene for what will be hopefully be an equally entertaining replay.

The Shels showed no signs of nerves early on after losing the toss and playing towards the town end first, with captain Eoin Doyle kicking them in front after just ten seconds when he grabbed the break from the throw-in.

And he made it 0-2 to nil in the seventh minute after cutting inside the 45-metre line from a Graham Staples feed before letting fly, although the Shels weren't able to keep that momentum going.

Indeed, they conceded 1-4 without reply before striking again, with Kilanerin storming into the game after opening their account when Niall Hughes played a one-two with Páraic Hughes and fired over with his left boot in the tenth minute.

Matty Forde sold a brilliant dummy to James Cash before equalising from a Niall Breen pass, and the veteran then turned provider as he fed Niall Hughes whose high kick from 40 metres resulted in a peach of a point (0-3 to 0-2).

Watching Forde off the ball was nearly as compelling as the game itself, as he wisely conserved his energy at times, and only made runs when he was sure of being fed by his outfield colleagues.

One such dart into space in the 20th minute was noticed by his nephew, Dean O'Toole, and the finish was sublime as Forde put Kilanerin clear by 0-4 to 0-2.

And he was the man in the right place again when the north county side pounced for the game's first goal after a brilliant crossfield ball by Niall Hughes found Conor Devitt.

The number 15 handpassed across the square for Forde to box to the net, opening up a five-point lead for the Gorey District men in the 23rd minute.

Tom Hughes did well to catch a testing high ball from Eoin Doyle at the other end, but the pendulum then swung against his side as the Shels struck for two quickfire goals.

They hadn't scored for 20 minutes when an unfortunate slip by Kilanerin's Denis Jones led to an overcarrying call against him and a free to the opposition.

It was taken quickly, and Conor Hearne handpassed to Simon Donohoe who directed his low shot into the far left corner of the net (1-4 to 1-2).

The goal really lifted the Shels, to such an extent that they netted again just 43 seconds later.

A Brian Malone mark kick-started the move, with Eoghan Nolan also centrally involved before A.J. Lehane slotted the ball under the legs of Tom Hughes to secure a one-point lead.

Malone soloed forward to make it 2-3 to 1-4, but Matty Forde ensured that Kilanerin went in at half-time on level terms.

His third point from play was a thing of beauty, catching a Niall Hughes crossfield pass to the right on the bounce with a strong leap before turning and splitting the posts with the outside of his boot.

And when Glen Malone was booked for a foul on another one of his nephews, Seán Forde, the man who first played Senior football with Kilanerin in 1996 kicked his opening pointed free.

Indeed, it was the sole score of the twelve in the half that didn't come from play, an indication of the flowing nature of the game and the low free count (8-7 to the Shels at the break).

Craig McCabe put the Shels ahead from a free 49 seconds into the new period after a foul on Brian Malone, but the next three scores went to Kilanerin as fortunes changed one way and then the other.

The two young guns were involved in the equaliser, with Páraic Hughes setting up Seán Forde, and Niall Hughes then put Kilanerin back in front from a Peter Hughes lay-off in the 34th minute.

Colm Kavanagh made a vital interception to stop Glen Malone from setting up a possible goal chance with a handpass, and Matty Forde then provided the assist as Peter Hughes made it 1-9 to 2-4 midway through the third quarter.

The pattern that followed was quite unusual, but all the more compelling as a result: first of all, the Shels scored four points without reply; then Kilanerin hit back with an unanswered 1-2; and, finally, it was the turn of the Shels again as they reeled off the last three points to force the first replay in a Senior football final for twelve years.

Those with a keen eye on history will note that the Kilanerin jubilee team honoured at half-time for their 1993 success also required a replay on that occasion to see off Sarsfields.

They were the second club team to win the Senior crown at the first attempt, and a third such feat remains a 50-50 possibility after this fine contest.

By the same token, the Shels supporters won't need reminding that their sole Senior hurling title to date also came after a second meeting in 2014.

Hostilities will be resumed at 3.45 p.m. on Saturday, and there's sure to be a few 'spies' from future Leinster opponents, St. Peter's of Dunboyne, added to the attendance after they defeated Summerhill to clinch a first Meath title since 2005 in Navan on Sunday.

For the record, Shelmaliers kicked nine of the game's 16 wides, and were awarded 21 of the 35 frees.

Shelmaliers: James Gordon; Ciarán O'Shaughnessy, James Cash, Andre O'Brien; Simon Donohoe (1-4), Glen Malone, Graham Staples; Eoghan Nolan (0-1), Brian Malone (0-1); Jody Donohoe, Eoin Doyle (capt., 0-2), Ross Banville; A.J. Lehane (1-0), Craig McCabe (0-3 frees), Conor Hearne. Subs. - Seán Keane-Carroll for Hearne (40), Aidan Cash for J. Donohoe (51), Páraic O'Leary for Banville (58), also Graham Lawler-Ryan, Dan Campbell, Cian Manley, Brian Murphy, Thomas Barron, Liam Rockett, Conor Walsh, Craig Parker, Eoin O'Leary, Robbie Staples.

Kilanerin: Tom Hughes; Rhys Owley, Colm Kavanagh, Aidan Jones (capt.); Mark Boland, Gavin O'Toole, Denis Jones; Niall Hughes (1-3), Niall Breen; Páraic Hughes, Seán Forde (0-1), Peter Hughes (0-1); Dean O'Toole, Matty Forde (1-6, 0-2 frees), Conor Devitt. Subs. - Mark Gethings for D. Jones, black card (43), Bobby Hughes for Peter Hughes, inj. (47), Emmet O'Toole for S. Forde (47), Ben O'Connor for N. Hughes, temp. (57-58), O'Connor for D. O'Toole, inj. (60), Edward Hughes for G. O'Toole, inj. (60+3), also Stephen Hughes, Lee Owley, Patrick Fortune, Richard Hughes, Gearóid Ó Súilleabháin, Cathal O'Reilly.

Referee: John Carton (Monageer-Boolavogue).

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