No mistakes from Martin's
St. Martin's 1-14 Shelmaliers 2-4
St. Martin's played like a group realising they were capable of a lot better in Innovate Wexford Park on Sunday when they overcame the absence of injury victim Rory O'Connor to complete their target of reaching both Senior championship deciders with a fully-deserved replay win over Shelmaliers.
This Tom Doyle Supplies semi-final was a stop-start affair as familiarity between the protagonists did breed a certain degree of contempt, but the favourites exercised control when they needed to and put a sloppy third quarter behind them to kick the last five points and advance to face Starlights in a novel pairing.
They were aided and abetted by a Shelmaliers side which seemed intent on self-destructing, as the early goal that put the saints in the driving seat was an absolute present.
More significantly though, a tough task for the Over The Water crew was rendered even more difficult when a moment of madness after the half-time whistle saw them reduced to 14 men.
Páraic O'Leary had been booked only minutes earlier along with Harry O'Connor when he involved himself in a minor disagreement between two players for some unknown reason.
Referee David Jenkins was compelled to show a second yellow card and it left Shelmaliers one man short as they faced into the second-half four points in arrears.
The man in the middle got a hard time from the losers' supporters afterwards, but it didn't seem to be deserved.
The game needed a firm hand in charge after the sub-standard officiating in the drawn encounter, and Jenkins exerted full control throughout. And while that might not have lended itself to a flowing encounter, it was hardly the referee's fault that so much pettiness prevailed between these close rivals. For the record, 32 of the 55 frees awarded actually went to the losers who only managed to score three times from play.
Although Eoghan Nolan converted a placed ball to put the Shels ahead in the fourth minute, Jamie Carty quickly equalised with that accurate left peg of his from a Jake Firman pass.
And a giveaway goal followed for St. Martin's as a high ball that appeared to be going nowhere was touched down by Carty in the sixth minute into the path of an unmarked Paudie Kelly who coolly slotted the ball past Aodhán Foley with his direct opponent nowhere to be seen.
The Shels should have replied immediately when Nolan blocked a Peter Barry kick and handpassed to full-forward Craig McCabe, but Martin's netminder Tomás Hayes dived on his boot to make a vital save.
Simon Donohoe powered forward to pull back a point, with the impressive Barry O'Connor replying after Aaron Maddock played the ball into his zone.
There was better luck for McCabe in the eleventh minute when he did manage to hit the net, palming the ball home from close range after Eoin Doyle beat Mikey Coleman on the left flank and delivered a handpass that meant his attacking colleague really couldn't miss (1-2 each).
Jack O'Connor nearly raised a green flag on the next Martin's attack, hitting the outside of the post after Jake Firman floated a pass that was caught and off-loaded quickly by Ciarán Lyng.
However, they regained the lead in the 16th minute when a foul on Barry O'Connor was punished by Lyng, with the free-taker adding another after a Shels defender touched the ball on the ground.
Lyng's third point in four minutes arrived from play, a superb curled left-footer after Jamie Carty stretched his big frame to get a hand on the ball and make an interception (1-5 to 1-2).
Eoghan Nolan pointed a free from just inside the 45-metre line in the 21st minute, but the last two scores of the half went to the eventual winners.
Jamie Carty split the posts after a Peter Barry pass, while Barry O'Connor robbed Cian Manley of possession and advanced to kick his second point (1-7 to 1-3).
The last ten minutes of the half saw four yellow cards dished out, two per team, and the dreaded red followed for Páraic O'Leary for his unnecessary participation in a minor incident that initially involved rival captains Willie Devereux and Aidan Cash.
The cards continued to come in a very poor third quarter as only one score was added, with Ciarán Lyng converting a free in the 35th minute after Cash was black-carded for pulling down Barry O'Connor after a clever jink by the teenage attacker. Once again, it was clearly the correct call.
Eoghan Nolan sent two frees wide for the Shels in that spell, the second a straightforward kick that struck the outside of the post, while Aaron Maddock blazed one off target at the other end.
And the yellow card count also rose, with three more for the Martin's and two to the Shels before the game settled into any sort of discernible pattern again.
Daithí Waters was a giant in the midfield exchanges for the eventual winners, although they were unable to put their rivals away in a forgettable period of scrappy football.
And they were reminded that the job wasn't done yet in the 46th minute when Simon Donohoe stole in behind the defensive cover to run on to a Glen Malone handpass and direct a low shot to Tomas Hayes' net.
That goal narrowed the gap to 1-8 to 2-3, and it remained that way after Joe O'Connor's reply, from a Jamie Carty pass, was cancelled by Craig McCabe's free after Conor Firman was black-carded for a cynical challenge on Conor Hearne.
St. Martin's finally got the job done in the last nine minutes plus added time, and that numerical advantage made a huge difference as they simply wore their tiring rivals down.
A foul on Jack O'Connor led to another Ciarán Lyng point, with Craig McCabe sending a placed ball wide at the other end before Daithí Waters claimed a mark from the kick-out.
Lyng did very well to keep the ball in play on the left before Barry O'Connor drove a high shot between the posts, and there was no way back for the Shels.
They were asleep when Lyng tapped a quick free to Jake Firman who kicked an easy point, and the experienced full-forward converted his fifth placed ball in the 60th minute after Jack O'Connor cut out a re-start.
Big substitute Joe Coleman had the last word, brushing a tackle aside after winning the kick-out before driving a beauty between the posts at the town end.
The St. Martin's odyssey continues as a third final in five years awaits on the last Sunday of the month, with the not insignificant matter of the hurling decider coming first. And on that note, the sight of Aaron Maddock pulling up and hobbling off near the end won't have been a welcome one for his team's supporters, and he will no doubt be joining Rory O'Connor on the treatment table for the rest of the week.
St. Martin's: Tomás Hayes; Mikey Coleman, Willie Devereux (capt.), Harry O'Connor; Joe O'Connor (0-1), Aaron Maddock, Conor Firman; Daithí Waters, Jack O'Connor; Peter Barry, Paudie Kelly (1-0), Jake Firman (0-1); Barry O'Connor (0-3), Ciarán Lyng (0-6, 5 frees), Jamie Carty (0-2). Subs. - Ed O'Byrne for Barry (45), Ben Maddock for A. Maddock, inj. (48), Philip Dempsey for C. Firman, black card (50), Michael Codd for Coleman (51), Ryan Murphy for Carty (57), Joe Coleman (0-1) for Joe O'Connor (59).
Shelmaliers: Aodhán Foley; Graham Staples, James Cash, Cian Manley; Simon Donohoe (1-1), Ciarán O'Shaughnessy, Tommy Barron; Aidan Cash (capt.), Brian Murphy; Glen Malone, Brian Malone, Eoghan Nolan (0-2 frees); Páraic O'Leary, Craig McCabe (1-1, 0-1 free), Eoin Doyle. Subs. - Conor Hearne for A. Cash, black card (36), A.J. Lehane for Murphy (45), Conor Walsh for Barron (50), Colin Cleary for McCabe (58).
Referee: David Jenkins (Gusserane).