Thursday 23 November 2017

Mighty Martin's produce a little bit extra

Mogue O’Rahilly’s thwarted again as double completed for second year on trot

Alan Aherne

St. Martin's joint captains, Conor Firman and Peter Barry, receiving the Pat White Memorial Cup from Bobby Goff (Coiste na nOg Chairman) and Alan Aherne (Group Sports Editor, People Newspapers)
St. Martin's joint captains, Conor Firman and Peter Barry, receiving the Pat White Memorial Cup from Bobby Goff (Coiste na nOg Chairman) and Alan Aherne (Group Sports Editor, People Newspapers)
Gavin Sheehan of Mogue O'Rahilly's takes a tumble as Barry O'Connor (St. Martin's) puts in a challenge
The St. Martin's squad celebrate after retaining their Wexford People Minor football Premier championship title in Taghmon on Saturday
The Mogue O'Rahilly's squad prior to Saturday's defeat in the replayed Wexford People Minor football Premier championship final in Taghmon

One of the best-ever records at Minor level in this county was embellished further in perfect conditions in Taghmon on Saturday when St. Martin's saw off Mogue O'Rahilly's after extra-time to complete the Wexford People Premier championship double for the second year running.

St. Martin's 1-15 Mogue O'Rahilly's 2-8 (after extra time)

The young men in maroon have now won the last three hurling crowns as well as two football titles on the trot, with that fine feat only bettered by the Kilmore/Rathangan combination which completed a treble in both codes from 1959 to 1961.

This victory was certainly achieved the hard way, with St. Martin's having to show incredible character to recover from a five-point deficit after the deadly-accurate Mark Rossiter tucked away a penalty midway through the second-half to give the Fethard/Gusserane side a 2-5 to 0-6 lead.

However, the Wexford District lads kept their composure, availed of a giveaway in the opposition defence to grab a goal, and then edged ahead in the first of the six added minutes played.

It took a rousing intervention by defender Mark O'Neill - surging forward to kick his side's only point from play - to bring Mogue O'Rahilly's level, and then they had a golden chance to snatch a dramatic victory when a late tackle led to a free in the right corner-forward position at the death.

Mark Rossiter's kicking of placed balls had been remarkable, particularly some exocets off the ground which he converted, but this angle would have favoured a left-footer. He took aim with the right but the shot went wide, and it meant that extra-time was needed to settle this saga (1-10 to 2-7).

St. Martin's had to replace netminder Shane Parle for the additional 20 minutes, but as time wore on the wear and tear ultimately took a greater toll on Mogue O'Rahilly's who had lost the hurling decider to the same opponents and at the same venue in September.

Already they had lost full-back Gavin Sheehan to a head injury, and goalscorer Richard Waters to a black card, and before extra-time was over, Jack Culleton and Martin Doyle had also hobbled off.

A brace of pointed Barry O'Connor frees pushed St. Martin's into a 1-12 to 2-7 lead in the first period, but Mark Rossiter converted a superb effort from tight to the right sideline to leave the minimum between them at the changearound.

The eventual winners owed a huge debt to outstanding corner-back Philip Dempsey who made a great block on Eoin Ryan as he pulled the trigger just before the break, as a goal at that stage could have significantly altered the outcome.

Dempsey formed one-third of the most consistent Martin's line on the field along with Eoin O'Leary, who started the game very well, and joint captain Conor Firman who did an admirable policing job on rival dangerman Mikie Dwyer. The fact that Mogue O'Rahilly's only scored 1-1 from play, with the goal from the centre-forward and the point from a defender, speaks volumes for the high-quality play of the winners' full-back line, with Dempsey leading the way.

It was a frustrating day for Dwyer who didn't always get the supply he needed, but when he did he was restricted to hitting two wides and three kicks into the goalkeeper's arms, while a late piledriver after a short free was blocked.

That last-gasp effort, after a quick exchange with Aaron Murphy, was the final act in a second period of extra-time which saw St. Martin's add on three points without reply to collect the Pat White Memorial Cup for the second year on the trot, and third in all after a previous success in 2006.

Substitute Ben Stafford brought fresh legs and a lot of additional energy to their play, and Ben Maddock kicked an inspirational left-footed point from long range just 26 seconds into that closing ten minutes from the replacement's handpass.

The influential Mark Rossiter was treated for an injury as players dropped like flies with their exertions taking a heavy toll.

When play resumed, St. Martin's chose to work a free-kick short from a point-able position, and it nearly led to a goal. Barry O'Connor popped the ball to Conor Coleman whose low drive was destined for the bottom corner of the net until Mogue O'Rahilly's defender Thomas Ryan dived to keep it out.

Eventually it was re-cycled to Diarmuid Barry who fired over, leaving St. Martin's with a valuable two-point cushion. And that became three immediately as Peter Barry found substitute Philip McDermott whose first touch picked out Rory O'Connor for his third point from play (1-15 to 2-8).

The winning line was finally in sight for the holders, and after Mark Rossiter (free) and Kyle Firman swapped wides, Mogue O'Rahilly's couldn't engineer another chance after that late low free from Mikie Dwyer was smothered.

There had been a complete contrast in the first-half. It was all St. Martin's in the first quarter, moving 0-4 to nil clear by the 16th minute thanks to a solo score from Rory O'Connor after a mere eleven seconds, a Kyle Firman '45, a fine kick from distance by Jack Devereux, and the first of Barry O'Connor's seven converted frees.

However, Mogue O'Rahilly's sprung to life in the 17th minute when Sam Wall had the vision and the accuracy to plant a beautifully-flighted quick free right into the path of the inrushing Richard Waters who beat advancing goalkeeper Shane Parle in a sprint and found the net (0-4 to 1-0).

That led to a transformation as the New Ross District side added three points without reply to lead by two at the break, all thanks to the sublime kicking of Mark Rossiter. He converted his first free off the ground in the 21st minute, and added one from his hands before reverting to the turf again after dissent by a back brought another opportunity closer to the posts.

The closest St. Martin's came to adding to their tally was from a Michael Codd point attempt which rebounded off the post in added time, but Mogue O'Rahilly's were dealt a big blow just before the interval when full-back Gavin Sheehan had to depart owing to injury.

Play resumed with Barry O'Connor at full-forward for St. Martin's and his county Minor colleague, Mark O'Neill, in his slipstream. And inside three minutes O'Connor had the sides level after extracting two fouls from his direct opponent (0-6 to 1-3).

Mogue O'Rahilly's quickly struck another purple patch though, as Mark Rossiter scored from two more frees before a high ball from the left by Richard Waters in the 45th minute was caught by Jack Culleton. He dispatched it quickly to Sam Wall who was fouled, with a penalty awarded and Martin's defender Cian Ryan given a black card.

Rossiter sent it low into the corner on the goalkeeper's left, and Mogue O'Rahilly's were looking good with a 2-5 to 0-6 advantage. St. Martin's were far from finished though, with Barry O'Connor settling them again with two pointed frees, the second after Richard Waters was black-carded for hauling down Rory O'Connor.

Mark Rossiter knocked over another magnificent free after being fouled to make it 2-6 to 0-8, but there was a huge turning point in the 57th minute.

A Mogue O'Rahilly's defender had possession but took the wrong option by turning into traffic when he had a chance to clear his lines by moving in the opposite direction. The ball was spilled and in an instant Jack Devereux and Rory O'Connor had combined to find Diarmuid Barry who planted a sweet shot in the top left corner of the net (2-6 to 1-8).

We had a serious game on our hands at that stage after a somewhat subdued first-half, and Rory O'Connor levelled just as the stopwatch hit the 30-minute mark from a quick Devereux free into the left corner.

Fifty seconds later the O'Connor cousins, Barry and Rory, linked up before Kyle Firman's kick went over the bar via Micheál Ryan's fingertips. It would have been cruel on Mogue O'Rahilly's to lose in that fashion, and Mark O'Neill was having none of it as he took the situation by the scruff of the neck, driving forward from defence and planting the equaliser over the bar.

It was heart-stopping stuff as Conor Firman was penalised for over-carrying in a position ideal for another effort at the posts from Rossiter three and a half minutes into added time. A rush of blood to the head saw the kick taken quickly crossfield though, but it did end up with another albeit more difficult opportunity for Rossiter.

He fired the sixth of Mogue O'Rahilly's eight wides (their rivals had eight too), and the saga moved into that extra 20 minutes. Then, and only then, did St. Martin's see off their keen rivals in an admirably sporting contest, but both teams have contributed immensely to three absorbing Wexford People Minor Premier finals over the past two months in both codes.

St. Martin's: Shane Parle; Eoin O'Leary, Conor Firman (joint capt.), Philip Dempsey; Jack Roche, Ben Maddock (0-1), Cian Ryan; Rory O'Connor (0-3), Peter Barry (joint capt.); Jack Devereux (0-1), Barry O'Connor (0-7 frees), Michael Codd; Ciarán Dunne, Kyle Firman (0-2, 1 '45), Diarmuid Barry (1-1). Subs. - Conor Coleman for Dunne (HT), Adam McLoughlin for Ryan, black card (45),Calum Quirke for Parle, inj. (ET), Ben Stafford for Roche (70+2), Philip McDermott for D. Barry (76), also Liam O Lionáin, Adam Cantwell, Paddy Gallagher, Stephen Doyle, Rúairí Cullen, Sam Audsley, Cian Kelly.

Mogue O'Rahilly's: Micheál Ryan; Thomas Ryan, Gavin Sheehan, Donal Kiely; Martin Doyle, Mark O'Neill (0-1), Nathan Hayes; Mark Rossiter (1-7, 0-7 frees, 1-0 pen.), Jimmy Sutton; Sam Wall, Richard Waters (1-0), Michael Barden; Jack Culleton, Mikie Dwyer (capt.), Eoin Ryan. Subs. - Martin Stafford for Sheehan, inj. (30+5), Brian Dillon for Barden (43), Aaron Murphy for Sutton, temp. (47-49), Murphy for Waters, black card (51), Cillian Molloy for Culleton, inj. (70+2), Colm Ryan for Doyle, inj. (80+1), also Kevin O'Donohoe, Jack Pierce, Donal Kinsella, Seán Dunne, Oisín Foran.

Referee: Brendan Martin (Ballyhogue).

Wexford People

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