One-man show from Byrne
A Conor Byrne point-scoring show this may have been, but Bannow-Ballymitty were left fuming at the number of refereeing calls that went against them as they bowed out of the EEW Junior hurling championship quarter-final in controversial circumstances to Shelmaliers at Taghmon on Saturday.
Shelmaliers 0-14 Bannow-Ballymitty 1-10
While Byrne finished the game with his team's entire score of 14 points, amazingly 13 of those came from frees, and all of this despite missing out on another three scoreable placed balls during the closing seven minutes at a time when his team trailed by a one point.
However, he did manage to point two frees in additional time to give his side the most controversial of victories. In addition to this he was also wide with two further easier frees earlier in the game, with two more dropping short, so it says something for the free count against the eventual losers who had every right to feel aggrieved given that the majority of calls from referee Brendan Martin were very, very questionable.
It was no surprise when the losers' players and mentors vented their anger at the end of the game, leading to a straight red card for Robert Mageean. The standard of refereeing was not acceptable for a quarter-final as the questionable calls no doubt denied Bannow-Ballymitty a semi-final spot.
The Shels were so limited in attack that they could only produce one point from play, yet they came out on the right end of the verdict despite being on the ropes during several passages of play.
Conor Byrne opened with three points inside six minutes, two from frees, before three Art Sweetman points, two from frees, had the sides level on 0-3 each after twelve minutes.
The game never gained any real momentum with players and supporters alike becoming increasingly frustrated with the constant whistling from the referee.
Byrne's pointed frees kept his side in front until two minutes before the break when Tom Fitzharris flicked a Michael Murphy cross to the net, a score that helped Bannow-Ballymitty to a 1-8 to 0-7 interval lead.
Two quick-fire points on the resumption from Murphy and Fitzharris extended their side's lead to six points, but five Byrne pointed frees in a row reduced the deficit to the minimum (1-10 to 0-12) with seven minutes remaining.
Byrne went on to strike three scoreable frees wide, before he eventually found the target again in additional time with two pointed frees to give his side the narrowest of victories and a semi-final clash with Horeswood in Bellefield on Saturday.
This will be a repeat of the county final of 2011 which was won comfortably by Horeswood, who have been waiting patiently for this game since beating Faythe Harriers in New Ross on September 26.
Taghmon-Camross were comfortable victors over Tara Rocks in the first semi-final one week later, so the date for the decider - Saturday, November 7 - cannot come around quickly enough as they aim to go one better than last year.
Shelmaliers: Paul McCleane; Eoghan Fitzgerald, Barry O'Connor, Eoin O'Leary; Cathal Gaule, Aaron O'Neill, Alan Griffith; Ciarán Walsh, Liam Rockett; Michael Feeney, Glen Malone, Emmet O'Leary; Stephen Whelan, Conor Byrne (0-14, 13 frees), Jody Donohoe. Subs. - Johnny Cambell for Rockett, Denis Kelly for Feeney, Craig Parker for Campbell, inj., Kevin O'Leary for Whelan, Cian Manley for Gaule.
Bannow-Ballymitty: John Sinnott; David White, Paudge Barden, John Mernagh; Nicky Doyle, Niall Murphy, Mark Wallace (0-1); Pat Fitzharris, Art Sweetman (0-6, 5 frees); Michael Murphy (0-1), Robert Mageean, Gary Morton (0-1); Adam Diskin, Tom Fitzharris (1-1), Darragh Murphy. Sub. - Jim Doyle for Diskin.
Referee: Brendan Martin (Ballyhogue).