Mac inspires Gorey's march
Naomh Eanna 3-13 Oylegate-Glenbrien 1-12
The town of Gorey will have a direct interest in the Pettitt's Senior hurling championship semi-finals for the first time since 1984 after the battle of the last two Intermediate victors saw Naomh Eanna emerge with a convincing win over Oylegate-Glenbrien in Innovate Wexford Park on Saturday.
The Enniscorthy District side had been a breath of fresh air in the group stages, but they could only muster 1-4 from play on this occasion as their young and promising rivals advanced to the last four for only the fourth time in the club's history.
Conor McDonald capped a fine week that saw him shortlisted for an All Star with a decisive contribution, and the fact that his own personal haul of 2-4 was three points better than the entire Oylegate-Glenbrien team put together - leaving frees aside - summed up the gap between the teams.
McDonald was also fouled for a sweetly-taken first-half penalty goal by Darragh Hughes, and the losers - seeking a first semi-final spot since 1963 - were guilty of more than a little naivety before the break in particular when the inter-county ace was left one-on-one with direct opponent Michael Heffernan on far too many occasions.
Eventually his Wexford colleague Damien Reck was moved back in a bid to keep tabs on the Gorey dangerman, but only after he crashed home a bullet-like third goal in the 36th minute to crush any chance of an Oylegate-Glenbrien comeback.
The losers were unfortunate that key man Jamie Reck felt the full impact of a strong tackle from Darragh Hughes after a mere 17 seconds that left him a shadow of his usual self before he was forced to limp off in the 53rd minute.
Oylegate-Glenbrien needed to have all of their big guns firing on full cylinders in order to match a team intent on going one better than last year when they lost at the same stage to Oulart-The Ballagh, so this was a major blow.
McDonald signalled he was in the mood to do damage as early as the fourth minute when he kicked a point before Podge Doran levelled for Oylegate-Glenbrien.
It took a brave block by teenage defender Mike Kelly to deny Eoin Conroy a goal after McDonald provided a handpass from a Seán Doyle delivery, with Pádraig Doyle converting the '65.
Seamus Casey levelled again with the only one of his nine points to arrive from open play, but the Gorey midfielders linked up to restore their lead as Aodhán Doyle fed Conor Hughes (0-3 to 0-2).
The direct ball in to McDonald paid even greater dividends for the Gorey men in the eighth minute when he gained possession from Aodhán Doyle's delivery and was hauled back by Michael Heffernan.
Darragh Hughes, one of three goalkeepers on Davy Fitzgerald's squad, performs outfield for his club and duly planted his penalty in the left corner to stretch the margin to four points.
However, Oylegate-Glenbrien responded with their best sustained spell in the game, drawing level by the 14th minute thanks to unanswered points from a Casey hat-trick (free, '65 and free) plus one from midfielder Mark Kavanagh.
Darragh Hughes edged Gorey ahead once more from a Gearóid Cullen handpass before Jack Cullen struck the perfect long ball inside for Conor McDonald to win his duel with Michael Heffernan and bury it in the net from point-blank range at the town end (2-4 to 0-6).
Seamus Casey pulled a point back from a free before an ugly situation developed out of nowhere on the sideline under the stand.
Podge Doran found himself outnumbered three-to-one in a shouldering contest off the ball before reinforcements arrived, and matters quickly escalated. At one point it looked like getting completely out of hand, and it took six minutes before order was restored.
Referee Damien Donovan felt that the incident only merited yellow cards, dishing out five as far as I could see, three to Gorey, and the game continued without further rancour.
My own opinion was that the Gorey player who had contributed most to the escalation of the original incident got away scot-free as he quickly left the scene, although the officials would have needed a second pair of eyes to collar everyone.
After all that huffing and puffing just one more point was scored in a half that only featured five and a half added minutes when I felt more time was merited. It came from the busy Aodhán Doyle after a Pádraig Doyle pass, leaving Naomh Eanna ahead by 2-5 to 0-7 at the break.
They nearly added a third goal immediately on the re-start, with Eoin Conroy cutting in from the right but only to be denied by netminder John Foley before Mike Kelly got his stick to David O'Brien's follow-up pull.
Oylegate-Glenbrien no doubt felt they were still in the contest when Seamus Casey made it a three-point game from a free, but that quickly changed.
A nice move featuring Darragh Hughes and Aodhán Doyle ended in a point for Conroy before McDonald struck for a blink-and-you'll-miss-it second goal in the 36th minute.
He grabbed a Gearóid Cullen delivery from the left slightly to the right of goal at a tricky enough angle and delivered a shot with such ferocity that many people in the stand didn't even see it (3-6 to 0-8).
It was now all about clever game management from Gorey's point of view, and McDonald added two points either side of the move that brought Damien Reck back in his slipstream.
Substitute William Cullen widened the gap to ten with his first touch after replacing injured brother Gearóid, before Podge Doran ended a 16-minute scoreless spell that undid the Oylegate-Glenbrien challenge (3-9 to 0-9).
Doran didn't get hold of a close-in free properly and it was comfortably dealt with before the respective number elevens, Pádraig Doyle and Seamus Casey (free), swapped points.
There was a glimmer of hope for Oylegate-Glenbrien in the 54th minute when substitute Conor Doyle found the net with his first touch after Casey initially popped a pass to Conor Heffernan and it broke into his path (3-10 to 1-10).
Still, they needed two more goals and Gorey were in no mood to surrender at that stage. The next four points were shared by Pádraig Doyle and Casey, with the first arriving from play courtesy of the Naomh Eanna attacker and the other three from frees.
Eoin Conroy had the ball in the net again in added time but fouled it in the lead-up, and there was a most fitting end to the action as the last score typified the overall pattern of the game.
The rest of the Gorey players had all put in the hard yards to set up those scoring chances for McDonald, and teenage substitute Charlie McGuckin was ready to make his own contribution.
His diving block led to McDonald's fourth point on an evening when the steady progress made in the county's most northerly Senior hurling outpost gained further momentum.
Naomh Eanna: Barry Kinsella; Peter Travers, Brendan Travers (capt.), Eoin Molloy; Gary Molloy, Seán Doyle, Jack Cullen; Aodhán Doyle (0-1), Conor Hughes (0-1); Gearóid Cullen, Pádraig Doyle (0-4, 1 '65, 1 free), Darragh Hughes (1-1, 1-0 pen.); David O'Brien, Conor McDonald (2-4), Eoin Conroy (0-1). Subs. - William Cullen (0-1) for G. Cullen, inj. (45), Charlie McGuckin for O'Brien (51), Lee Kinsella for Conroy (60+3).
Oylegate-Glenbrien: John Foley; Mike Kelly, Michael Heffernan, Ciarán Hourihane; Marty Kelly, Shane Reck, Bryan McCormack; Damien Reck, Mark Kavanagh (0-1); Jim White, Jamie Reck, Podge Doran (0-2); Fergal Doran, Fergus Heffernan, Seamus Casey (0-9, 7 frees, 1 '65). Subs. - Conor Heffernan for J. Reck, temp. (3-6), Heffernan for F. Doran (39), Tom White for F. Heffernan (39), Conor Doyle (1-0) for J. Reck, inj. (53).
Referee: Damien Donovan (Volunteers).