Oulart win again
Leinster champions add to title haul
As if a reminder was needed, Oulart-The Ballagh showed exactly why they are Leinster champions as they dismissed upstarts St. Martin's with a clinical second-half display in the All-County Hurling League Division 1 final at Innovate Wexford Park on Sunday.
Oulart-The Ballagh 2-18 St. Martin's 1-16
There have been suggestions that this is the year that the Piercestown-based club start to look like the finished product, a team which had completed the process of blending the superb under-age talent they possess with their experienced stars.
After the first-half, in which they missed several glorious goal chances but were extremely sharp and were undoubtedly the better team, those whispers might have been louder. Then the second-half happened.
Oulart-The Ballagh made a few subtle changes and showed their own strength-in-depth. The champs might have been missing two key defenders in Barry Kehoe and Eoin Moore in the full-back line, but it was the St. Martin's half-forwards and midfield that were running their opponents ragged in the opening 30 minutes.
Yet nothing came as easy after the break. Some of the inter-change in the Oulart-The Ballagh defence - seamless switching of possession with unerringly accurate short passing - was magnificent. A young St. Martin's side, with boundless energy, slowly had the legs ran out of them.
At the other end the Enniscorthy District side peppered a relatively small St. Martin's full-back line with an endless stream of long balls. The most basic of tactics, some might say, but it could hardly have been more effective as score after score was garnered.
Oulart-The Ballagh started well with a light breeze at their backs in the opening half and took a 0-4 to 0-1 lead, the pick of which was a Murtha Doyle point. In that spell St. Martin's had a great chance when the impressive Harry O'Connor sent Daithí Waters away but his weak shot under little pressure was easily saved by Conor O'Leary.
However, there was no stopping a rocket from Joe Coleman in the 14th minute when he was fed into the clear by a Ciarán Lyng pass. St. Martin's ended the first quarter leading by 1-3 to 0-5 after Daithí Waters pointed.
The pick of the scores was a Harry O'Connor point from an almost impossible angle on the right as St. Martin's grew their lead to 1-6 to 0-7 after 19 minutes.
They then got lucky when Martin Og Storey caught Rory Jacob's long ball and flashed a close-range shot over off the crossbar.
At the other end Jake Firman's pass was just inches from being perfect as Harry O'Connor broke across the front of the goal untouched.
Nicky Kirwan brought his tally to six as the half expired and the sides went in deadlocked at 0-11 to 1-8.
St. Martin's led for the fourth and final time after Lyng's 34th-minute point. Things went south for the Wexford District side after Kirwan cut all the way in from the right corner and just about beat Luke White with his shot, despite the 'keeper getting a strong touch on the strike.
With their composure starting to plummet, as more and more passes missed their mark, St. Martin's quickly fell further behind. Oulart-The Ballagh went 2-14 to 1-11 ahead when Keith Rossiter's long ball was collected and flicked off by Murtha Doyle to Kirwan. The experience attacker made no mistake with his finish.
A big moment came and went when Harry O'Connor couldn't cleanly take Firman's pass when away on goal in the 43rd minute. St. Martin's got within three points with O'Connor's fourth point in the 49th minute but would get no closer.
Despite their opponents huffing and puffing, Oulart-The Ballagh picked off enough late points to keep St. Martin's at arm's length. Garrett Sinnott lifted the cup for his side and it will come as no surprise if these two face-off for more silverware as the season reaches its climax.
Oulart-The Ballagh: Conor O'Leary; Anthony Roche, Keith Rossiter, Dennis Morton; Kevin Sheridan, Tommy Storey, Michael Jacob; Billy Dunne (0-1), Peter Murphy (0-1); Martin Og Storey (0-1), Des Mythen (0-2), Rory Jacob (0-1); Murtha Doyle (0-2), Garrett Sinnott (capt.), Nicky Kirwan (2-8, 0-4 frees). Subs. - Eamonn Murphy for Sheridan (26), Anthony Storey (0-1) for M. Jacob (29), Ben O'Connor (0-1) for Dunne (31), Niall Redmond for R. Jacob (56), also Michael O'Dowd, Darren Nolan, Shaun Murphy, David Redmond, Cormac Finn, Richard Doyle, Craig Davitt, Kevin Sinnott, Colin Sunderland, Garry Murphy, Eoin Moore, Barry Kehoe, Paul Roche.
St. Martin's: Luke White; Ryan Murphy, Daithí Hayes, Mark Maloney; Joe O'Connor, Aaron Maddock, Patrick O'Connor; Jake Firman (0-2, 1 '65), Rory O'Connor (0-2); Daithí Waters (0-1), Tomás Waters (0-1), Joe Coleman (1-4, 0-3 frees); Harry O'Connor (0-4), Ciarán Lyng (capt., 0-2), Seán Stafford. Subs. - Mikey Coleman for Stafford (41), Darren Codd for Lyng, inj. (56), also Ed O'Byrne, Nicky Greene, Conor Coleman, Barry O'Connor, Barry Lambert, Willie Devereux, Conor Firman, Jack O'Connor.
Referee: David O'Leary (Rathnure).