Martin's make hay with two late goals
St. Martin's 3-14 Glynn-Barntown 0-15
It was a sweet case of third time lucky for St. Martin's in sunny Oylegate on Sunday when they pounced for two late goals to wrap up victory against one-time under-age colleagues Glynn-Barntown in the Permanent TSB Junior 'A' hurling championship final.
Their District neighbours had launched a gutsy comeback to narrow the gap to two points entering the closing stages, but those clinical strikes from Donal Kelly and John Coleman ensured that this particular crown was set to wing its way to the clubhouse in Piercestown for the first time ever.
It's only four years since St. Martin's clinched the Junior 'B' title with their second string, and Glynn-Barntown had been a bogey team for them ever since.
The Killurin crew comfortably won the teams' semi-final clash in 2014, only to lose the subsequent decider to Naomh Eanna by two points after a replay.
In 2015 it was the turn of St. Martin's to reach the final, but they went down heavily to Davidstown-Courtnacuddy, while last year they were ousted in the quarters by Glynn-Barntown on a 1-15 to 1-12 scoreline
That made Sunday's success particularly special for the new champions, even though the winning margin of eight points did scant justice to the strong performance produced by a losing side missing the services of experienced former county Senior player Pierce Donoghue.
St. Martin's captain Adrian Ryan showed the right example to his team-mates with a minute gone when he pointed from long range after an Adam Cantwell handpass.
Glynn-Barntown had struck a wide beforehand, and that was to be a pattern of the opening half when the losers were off target nine times in all while their rivals had eight misses. By game's end the victors had hit 13 wides compared to 15 from the opposition.
Nonetheless, it was a well-contested and wholehearted encounter for the most part, with St. Martin's building on that early Ryan score to hit three further points on the trot by the seventh minute.
Conor Coleman knocked over a free before a strong run from Ryan Murphy was finished by John Coleman, and Ed O'Byrne made it four on an afternoon when the winners' energetic midfield partnership picked off a valuable five points from play.
Glynn-Barntown had to wait until the eleventh minute for their opening score, but it was a good one when it finally arrived as Gavin Walsh lofted the ball over the bar from midfield. His subsequent loss through injury midway through the second quarter was clearly a big blow.
Impressive captain J.J. Doyle followed up with a pointed free to halve the deficit, and it took a tremendous block by Martin's corner-back Philip Dempsey to deny Jack Brazzill a possible goal in the 13th minute.
The teenage defender had similarly foiled Doyle earlier in the game, and he also prevented his pull from testing Dylan Byrne at a critical stage with five minutes left when just two points divided the teams. If St. Martin's were looking for match-winners, the huge contribution from this promising number 4 certainly couldn't be overlooked.
Good work by Kevin Mahoney led to Aaron Kehoe reducing arrears to the minimum in the 13th minute, only for Conor Coleman to respond from a free for St. Martin's who went into battle without the suspended Richard Devereux.
J.J. Doyle made it a one-point game from a placed ball, but David Cuthbert won the puck-out and fed a short pass to Ben Maddock who duly split the posts to stretch the lead back out to 0-6 to 0-4 early in the second quarter.
Conor Coleman opted to go for goal from a close-in free, but it was saved at the expense of a '65 and he sent it wide.
It looked like Seán Stafford might be poised to rattle the net for the saints in the 23rd minute, but Paschal Carley made a brave block.
Pointed frees from the Colemans, Conor and John, the latter from inside his own half, widened the margin to four again (0-8 to 0-4), but Ben O'Shea hit back with a tremendous strike off the left wing close to the sideline.
However, Glynn-Barntown were dealt a considerable blow in the 30th minute when Adrian Ryan sent a delivery into the danger area, and Kyle Firman managed to shake off a persistent defender and get the vital touch in the air to direct it into Tommy Kehoe's net.
That goal left St. Martin's clear by 1-8 to 0-5 at the break and very much in the driving seat.
J.J. Doyle started the task of eating into that gap immediately on the re-start, with linesman Lar Doyle intervening to ensure his free was chalked down as a point after an umpire waved it wide.
Still, when St. Martin's added three of the next four points, they appeared to be cruising, with efforts from Ben Maddock, Ed O'Byrne and Conor Coleman drawing just one response from Kevin Mahoney (1-11 to 0-7).
Veteran netminder Tommy Kehoe had got a hurl to Coleman's piledriver to direct it over the bar, but Glynn-Barntown knuckled down and gradually started the recovery process, with the long-serving P.J. Carley prominent in defence along with the youthful Cian Neville.
Three pointed placed balls from J.J. Doyle (two frees and one '65) between the 42nd and 46th minutes ensured that it was far too early for St. Martin's to rest on their laurels (1-11 to 0-10).
And after an exhange between the eventual victors' new free-taker, Seán Stafford, and Doyle again, Glynn-Barntown increased the pressure even more.
A P.J. Carley clearance was turned into a point by Jack Brazzill after a neat shimmy before Carley worked a short free to Cian Neville who in turn picked out J.J. Doyle, and the captain made it 1-12 to 0-13 with nine minutes left.
A wide apiece followed before a Neville delivery broke inside and it looked like Doyle had a chance, only for Philip Dempsey to appear in a flash and deal with the danger.
Exactly ten minutes had passed without a Martin's score before Ed O'Byrne registered a priceless third point from play, but Doyle's response from a free meant that a Glynn-Barntown victory still couldn't be rule out.
However, the beginning of the end for the blue and greens arrived in the last minute of normal time when St. Martin's players swarmed around a defender who lost possession close to his own goal.
Substitute Donal Kelly had only one thing on his mind when he availed of the turnover, getting tremendous power behind a quickly-struck shot to beat Tommy Kehoe (2-13 to 0-14).
Glynn-Barntown almost replied immediately when Cormac Rowe, who had moved to full-forward, swung at a Shane Doyle cross, only to see the ball fly over rather than under the bar.
And the conditions undoubtedly played a part in the clinching third Martin's major in added time as a defender slipped while charging out to meet the ball.
John Coleman bore down on goal, brushing off a crude attempt to stop him in his tracks with a laugh after surviving the challenge and blasting the ball into an empty net.
That's the second title in September for St. Martin's after their Under-21 Premier triumph, and their Junior footballers will be trying to make it a treble against Rathgarogue-Cushinstown in Innovate Wexford Park next Saturday with many of the same personnel involved.
And with both of their Senior teams in the last four of their respective competitions, October will be every bit as busy and will carry even more potential.
Finally, after a weekend when the performance of referees was very much in the spotlight, I feel that Martin Armstrong deserves a lot of praise for competently handling his first-ever adult final.
The former HWH-Bunclody man, now with Rapparees, never made a fuss and simply got on with the job in a fair and even-handed manner without drawing attention to himself.
Hopefully it will lead to bigger appointments for this relatively new man in black in the years to come.
St. Martin's: Dylan Byrne; Pádraig Rossiter, Tony Kelly, Philip Dempsey; Adrian Ryan (capt., 0-1), James Boggan, Ryan Murphy; Ben Maddock (0-2), Ed O'Byrne (0-3); Conor Coleman (0-3, 2 frees), John Coleman (1-3, 0-1 free), Adam Cantwell; Seán Stafford (0-2 frees), Kyle Firman (1-0), David Cuthbert. Subs. - Donal Kelly (1-0) for Cuthbert (47), Johnny Hamilton for C. Coleman (52), Kevin Price for Firman, inj. (56), also Callum Quirke, Nicky Greene, Paddy Curran, Eoghan Rackard, Diarmuid Byrne, Darragh Kenny, Richard Devereux, Martin Whelan.
Glynn-Barntown: Tommy Kehoe; Paschal Carley, David Roche, Cian Neville; Nigel Usher, P.J. Carley, Kevin Mahoney (0-1); Cormac Rowe (0-1), Gavin Walsh (0-1); J.J. Doyle (capt., 0-9, 7 frees, 1 '65), Aaron Kehoe (0-1), Mark Flood; Ben O'Shea (0-1), Shane Carley, Jack Brazzill (0-1). Subs. - Ian Moran for Walsh, inj. (23), Dylan Lyne for Flood (38), Matthew Banville for A. Kehoe (40), Shane Doyle for S. Carley (59), also Pierce Donoghue, Jamie O'Shea, Gary Sutton, Daniel O'Regan, Bill Joyce, Conor Clarke, John Lacey, Ciarán Joyce.
Referee: Martin Armstrong (Rapparees).