No Laffan matter for Anne's
Glenealy (Wicklow) 1-14 St. Anne's 2-8
Take a bow, Garry Laffan's Glenealy and enter the history books as, for the first time ever, a Wicklow hurling club has reached an AIB Leinster championship final.
They did so by beating St. Anne's in Aughrim on Saturday, seven days after the visitors pipped Crossabeg-Ballymurn to the county title.
Colossal performances from the likes of Jonathan 'Bosco' O'Neill with a one hundred per cent success rate from placed balls, his son Jonathan who won a few of those frees and chipped in with 1-1, Danny Staunton who dominated from centre-back, and many more Glenealy players led them to victory.
Warren Kavanagh was given a poisoned chalice with the job of marking Diarmuid O'Keeffe, the All Star nominated Wexford wing-back who was positioned at full-forward for the afternoon.
Kavanagh has been in exceptional form all year though and emerged with credit, winning his fair share of battles, including a late one when he conspired with his brother Lee to snuff out any danger.
If ever there was a match with the balance of play swaying from one team to another and purple patches for both, this was it. St. Anne's went ahead, Glenealy came back. Glenealy went ahead, St. Anne's came back.
Both sides missed easy chances as the poor weather conditions played havoc with their shooting, St. Anne's hitting twelve wides to Glenealy's eight.
It was a ten-minute period either side of half-time that put Glenealy on the front foot when they scored nine points without reply, Bosco Snr. with seven of them.
That turned a four-point deficit into a five-point lead and it gave them some breathing space when St. Anne's hit four points in a row to get within a point in the 56th minute. Two late Glenealy frees however and that was it, they had made history.
Jonathan Snr. opened the scoring with a free within seconds of the start when he was fouled. Moments later his son doubled the lead, making the most of a poor Páraic O'Keeffe clearance.
By the eighth minute St. Anne's were level and should have been ahead. Mark Furlong converted a free and then went for goal from 21 metres which was easily blocked. Diarmuid O'Keeffe added the equaliser.
They went one point ahead four minutes later, from a Furlong free, but Glenealy hit back straight away with 1-1.
O'Neill Jnr. raced on to a loose ball and nearly burst the net before Leighton Glynn slotted over a beauty. Before Glynn's point, Danny Staunton pick-pocketed the sliothar from a St. Anne's player with panache.
Both teams had goal chances in the next few minutes. At one end O'Neill Jnr. had his shot saved while at the other Keith Snell was alive to a possible Jonathan Fogarty chance and out like a shot to dispossess him.
Snell made a terrible mistake, however, in the next play when he failed to deal with a long ball and Liam Rochford stole in to bundle it into the net.
A minute later Diarmuid O'Keeffe rifled a shot into the top corner that gave Snell no chance. Rochford added a point and St. Anne's led by 2-4 to 1-3 after 21 minutes, but they didn't score for another 25 minutes.
The sides went in level at half-time, O'Neill Snr. with all four points to restore parity.
First his son was fouled for a free, then he split the posts from 55 metres when Jamie Byrne forced a St. Anne's defender to touch the ball on the ground with ferocious tackling.
He made the most of a poor clearance before O'Neill Jnr. plucked a ball from the heavens and was fouled in front of goal. It was 1-7 to 2-4 at half-time.
St. Anne's started the second-half the better team without making it count on the scoreboard, hitting three wides and dropping one short.
Glynn dropped a couple of his own shots short also but O'Neill didn't have such problems, converting two frees to put Glenealy into a lead they would never relinquish.
Jamie Byrne, Glynn and O'Neill, with a free from an almost impossible angle, added a point each and Glenealy led by five in the 43rd minute.
Glenealy were dominating the game at this stage, their midfield and half-back line winning everything and starving Diarmuid O'Keeffe of possession.
O'Keeffe moved out to centre-forward with a quarter of an hour to go and the game swung back into their favour.
He hit four points in a row to leave a point between the teams with four minutes left. That was as close as they would get.
O'Neill Jnr. won a free for his father to convert near the sideline before Kevin White hauled down Enan Glynn who was bearing down on goal. Bosco duly did the honours.
Glenealy survived a late goal chance that went harmlessly wide and their loyal band of supporters huddled under the stand nearly broke the sound barrier at the final whistle.
They go into the Leinster final against Kilkenny Intermediate champions St. Patrick's of Ballyragget as raging underdogs, but that won't stop them from giving it a shot.
St. Anne's: Redmond Barry; Páraic O'Keeffe, Tomás Cullen, Kevin White; Kevin Hannigan, Aidan Rochford, Kenny Cloney; Mark Furlong (joint capt., 0-2 frees), Seamus Mythen (joint capt.); Jess Codd, David O'Connor, Jonathan Fogarty; Michael Fogarty, Diarmuid O'Keeffe (1-5, 0-2 frees), Liam Rochford (1-1). Subs. - Francis Simpson for J. Fogarty (39), Brian Kavanagh for Codd (44), Andy Kennedy for M. Fogarty (61).
Glenealy: Keith Snell; Emmet Byrne, Warren Kavanagh, Rúaidhrí O'Neill; Gary Byrne, Danny Staunton, Thomas Doyle; Jonathan O'Neill Snr. (0-10, 9 frees), John Manley; Robert Byrne, Jamie Byrne (0-1), Enan Glynn; Jonathan O'Neill Jnr. (1-1), Alan Driver, Leighton Glynn (0-2). Subs. - Paul O'Brien for R. Byrne (HT), Lee Kavanagh for Doyle (37), Wayne O'Gorman for Driver (41), Ronan Manley for O'Neill (51), Gary Hughes for J. Byrne (61).
Referee: Michael O'Sullivan (Kilkenny).