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Wednesday 23 January 2019

Martin's complete double in inaugural year after surviving stiff Bunclody test

Greenstar U20 Football Div 1 Championship Final: St Martin's 1-12 HWH-Bunclody 0-12

St. Martin’s celebrate after completing the Under-20 double on Saturday
St. Martin’s celebrate after completing the Under-20 double on Saturday
The HWH-Bunclody squad prior to Saturday’s final
Winning captain Philip McDermott with Andrew Egan of Greenstar and Cian O'Lionáin

Alan Aherne in St. Patrick's Park

A well-worked goal ten minutes from the end by corner-forward Jack Devereux was ultimately the match-winning score in St. Patrick's Park, Enniscorthy, on Saturday when St. Martin's held off a determined challenge from HWH-Bunclody to complete a Greenstar Under-20 Division 1 championship double.

With the hurling title already safely secured, the young men in maroon brought this inaugural competition to a successful end, giving the thriving club its second major victory in a matter of hours following the Minor camogie decider.

And while that goal was the eventual winning margin between the sides, its timing was of equal significance.

HWH-Bunclody had been pushing very hard in the minutes beforehand, and had managed to reduce the deficit from four points to two despite shooting a couple of wides as well.

On other occasions threatening attacks broke down as a result of the final pass going astray, while the St. Martin's defence deserved credit too for blocking the area in front of their goal with ample bodies when the pressure was at its greatest.

After six minutes of near-constant pressure during the third quarter, the siege was eventually lifted.

Barry O'Connor, the game's most influential figure, was narrowly wide from a free, while an attempt at a fisted point from Peter Barry came back into play off the post.

Given that they held a lead of 0-10 to 0-8 at the time, St. Martin's needed something more to get them over the line, and it duly arrived in the 50th minute.

Team captain Philip McDermott found Barry whose long handpass beyond the last covering defender was gathered by corner-forward Jack Devereux, and he slotted low to the far corner of Jack Regan's net with a composed finish.

It was a crushing blow for HWH-Bunclody and, although they registered four of the final six points, they were denied the goal they needed by a fine save from Brandon Dodd in the 55th minute when he kept out a powerful effort from Peadair Cowman.

There was a somewhat subdued air to proceedings for most of the opening half, with the long ball tactic into Barry O'Connor paying dividends for St. Martin's as they hit two late points to establish a double scores interval lead (0-8 to 0-4).

O'Connor and Conor Coleman returned to the starting line-up after missing the semi-final win against Sarsfields seven days earlier, and they were responsible for the opening two Martin's points from frees after Cathal Doyle had initially given HWH-Bunclody the lead.

The losers' top scorer, Eoin Kelly, levelled from a free in the eighth minute, but O'Connor restored his side's advantage from another dead-ball before midfielder Adam Cantwell kicked a fine score from distance (0-4 to 0-2).

An O'Connor brace, the first from play, highlighted the threat he posed, and the HWH-Bunclody mentors switched John Dunne on to the dangerman at an early stage.

St. Martin's also re-shuffled their pack midway through the second quarter, introducing Diarmuid Barry to their attack and moving Ben Stafford to the full-back line.

An Eoin Kelly free narrowed the gap to three in the 23rd minute, and it took a fine diving block by Philip McDermott to deny Peadair Cowman a shot at goal after a move started by HWH-Bunclody's best defender, the tenacious Jamie Kavanagh.

Byron Byrne picked out Cathal Doyle for his second point in the 27th minute to make it 6-4, but St. Martin's finished the half on a high note as Kyle Firman kicked a good score under pressure before Barry O'Connor pointed via the crossbar after Michael Codd won an opposition kick-out.

Codd partnered Ben Maddock at midfield for the second-half throw-in, and they were faced by Martin O'Connor and Josh Martin, with Eoin Kelly on the '40 for HWH-Bunclody while Peadair Cowman now featured on the edge of the square.

And the Enniscorthy District side couldn't have asked for a better start, as Kelly pulled back two points in a mere 85 seconds, from a free and play after a Tadhg O Ceallaigh assist respectively (0-8 to 0-6).

Michael Codd and Barry O'Connor combined to create an opening for Kyle Firman to respond with a point, and O'Connor also registered from a free shortly after Josh Martin and Peadair Cowman switched positions for their rivals.

HWH-Bunclody then enjoyed that spell of supremacy, with Ciarán Kavanagh setting up Eoin Kelly for a point before the latter added one more from a free after full-back Adam Hogan was fouled on a driving run (0-10 to 0-8).

That Jack Devereux goal hit them like a train and stalled the momentum, although Kavanagh did manage to notch a point less than 60 seconds later from a John Dunne pass.

A Barry O'Connor point kept HWH-Bunclody at arm's length, but it might have been a different story if Brandon Dodd had been beaten by that Peadair Cowman shot in the 55th minute.

The play was called back for a free as there was no advantage to the attacking team, and Eoin Kelly slotted it over before doing likewise after a foul on Josh Martin (1-11 to 0-11).

HWH-Bunclody followed up with two wides for a final tally of seven (St. Martin's had five), and the eventual victors kicked a precious closing point in the 60th minute when Kyle Firman fired over his third from a tight angle after good work by Adam Cantwell.

Eoin Kelly brought his own tally to nine points from a free, and there was still a glimmer of hope for the Carlow border crew when they launched one last attack over three minutes into added time.

John Dunne found Cathal Doyle whose handpass was intercepted by Sam Audsley, and that was greeted by the final whistle as St. Martin's deservedly became the first winners of this new championship.

At least HWH-Bunclody had the consolation of winning the Division 2 hurling title earlier in the season and, given that they beat Saturday's opponents by 2-9 to 1-10 in the last Under-18 Minor final in 2017, there's a strong chance that these teams will lock horns once again at Under-20 level next year with a big prize at stake.

There was one very unusual aspect to the game that is worthy of comment. Referee Brendan Holohan kept firm control of proceedings without the need to issue a card of any colour, and in my view he is an up and coming official with a big future.

And yet, it was a free-ridden encounter, due largely to the heavy underfoot conditions and the tough tackling from both sides.

A first-half featuring 23 frees was followed by 35 after the break, with HWH-Bunclody awarded 32 in total while 26 went to the winners.

St. Martin's: Brandon Dodd; Sam Audsley, Philip Dempsey, Eoin O'Leary; Philip McDermott (capt.), Conor Firman, Michael Codd; Adam Cantwell (0-1), Ben Maddock; Ben Stafford, Peter Barry, Barry O'Connor (0-7, 4 frees); Kyle Firman (0-3), Conor Coleman (0-1 free), Jack Devereux (1-0). Subs. - Diarmuid Barry for O'Leary (22), Zac Firman for Devereux (60+3), also Jack Roche, Paddy Gallagher, Conor Devereux, Stephen Doyle, Rúairí Cullen, Conor Kelly, Adam McLaughlin, Shane Walsh, Ben Morris, Conor Stafford, James Mernagh, Liam O Lionáin.

HWH-Bunclody: Jack Regan; Jamie Kavanagh, Adam Hogan, Paddy Dunbar; Byron Byrne, John Dunne, Ciarán Kavanagh (0-1); Martin O'Connor, Peadair Cowman; Eddie Black, Josh Martin, Steven Kavanagh; Cathal Doyle (0-2), Eoin Kelly (0-9, 7 frees), Tadhg O Ceallaigh. Subs. - Darren Doyle for O Ceallaigh (33), Brandon Kavanagh for S. Kavanagh (52), John McCormack for Martin (57), also Cathal Dunbar, Edward Dunbar, Lee Conroy, Bobby McKeown, Aidan Mahon.

Referee: Brendan Holohan (Rathgarogue-Cushinstown).

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