Wednesday 16 October 2019

Martin's bid to pick up the pieces

Brendan Furlong

St. Martin's, who stood on the brink of a possible Senior double, could have their dreams of even one title shattered with the news that Under-21 inter-county defender Jack O'Connor has been ruled out of next Sunday's Pettitt's Senior hurling championship final with Oulart-The Ballagh at Innovate Wexford Park (3 p.m.).

O'Connor is recovering from a broken thumb which has ruled him out of competitive action for up to five to six weeks, and which forced him to miss out on last Saturday's Senior football final defeat to St. James', along with Tomás Hayes (injured) and Paudie Kelly (suspended).

But the loss of O'Connor will be cushioned by the return from suspension of Stephen Murphy, following a two-game ban, that saw him miss out on both quarter-final and semi-final action. This time around, despite the absence of O'Connor, they will be more accustomed to the situation, having had to play through their previous two knockout games with depleted sides as the result of suspensions.

Oulart-The Ballagh, who have transformed their game following a lack-lustre start to the campaign, report a clean bill of health as they strive to continue their bid to regain the Dr. Bowe Cup and take a further step towards winning that elusive provincial club title, an achievement missing from the C.V. of this fine group of players.

It's a fair bet that many neutrals would like to see this youthful St. Martin's side emerge on top, but the bookmakers have Oulart-The Ballagh as odds-on favourites to regain the title they last held in 2013, relinquishing their crown last year in a dramatic late goal loss to Glynn-Barntown, with Shelmaliers ultimately going on to win their first crown.

Last year apart, Oulart-The Ballagh have dominated Wexford hurling over the past six seasons, but having recovered from that blip, it will be a huge surprise should they fail to return as the premier hurling force in the county.

Frank Flannery has transformed Oulart-The Ballagh's gameplan since he took over at the helm this year.

Solid and composed in defence, with the strong-running David Redmond in midfield coupled with speed and finishing power in attack, their new-found open attacking style has proven too much for all those put before them so far.

St. Martin's will be wanting to put what must be a difficult week behind them following the Senior football final defeat, and what better way than to do their club and parish proud with a final display to be remembered.

Two final defeats would be unthinkable but still they will be the first to confess that they have a huge task ahead of them.

And with preparations this week kept at the basic minimum given the demands of recent weeks, a refreshed outfit could take the stage for Sunday's game which will be refereed by Pat Kehoe of Rathgarogue-Cushinstown).

St. Martin's will be hoping to get the day off to a winning start when their second string hurlers take on Davidstown-Courtnacuddy in the Enniscorthy Electrical Wholesale Junior 'A' championship final at 1.15 p.m.

Wexford People

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