Parle double propels Jimmies into first Senior final
St James' remarkable progress continued when they defied the odds with a fully-deserved five-point victory over Shelmaliers in this Tom Doyle Supplies Senior football championship semi-final replay at Innovate Wexford Park on Saturday.
St James 2-9 Shelmaliers 0-10
Displaying the hunger and drive of a team seeking their first title, St. James' turned in their best football after being reduced to 14 players after just 35 minutes, as they reached new heights in a sensational closing quarter and despite their numerical disadvantage they still maintained control of the game.
They now sit tantalisingly on the cusp of winning their first-ever county Senior football title, and now they can look forward to this Saturday's final meeting with St. Martin's with a huge degree of confidence given the improvement they have shown along the way.
Shelmaliers had their chances but tired legs eventually told. They looked a side with heavy legs, as the toll of recent seasons has begun to catch up on the players, particularly following their exploits of last season, a year when they made the big breakthrough in Senior hurling with the lifting of the county title. They were hauled in by a hungrier, more committed and composed St. James' outfit and can have few complaints with the final result.
The portents didn't look good for the Shels as the game entered the second quarter. While an A.J. Lehane point after 90 seconds had them in front, they fell adrift to points from Kevin O'Grady and a Matthew O'Hanlon 40-metre free by the eleventh minute.
While they responded with points from Craig McCabe and Glen Malone, the game turned St. James' way after 17 minutes when Dan Keating and Emmet dunning combined to set up Adam Parle for an excellently-executed goal, leaving the eventual winners leading by 1-2 to 0-3.
The Shels managed to close in once again as points from Aidan Murphy and Brian Malone had the sides level, but St. James' ended the half impressively with points from Adam Parle and Kevin O'Grady to lead by 1-4 to 0-5 at the interval.
St. James' were determined to grab their opportunity as they responded with points from Dan Keating and Kevin O'Grady to lead by 1-6 to 0-5 just three minutes into the second-half. Then followed the straight red carding of Emmet Dunning, for what appeared to be a head-butt on an opposing player, leaving referee Billy Dodd with no option.
But St. James' were not for allowing their grip on the game to slip, as players like Graeme Molloy, who was outstanding, and man-mountain midfielder Matthew O'Hanlon, along with forwards Kevin O'Grady, Adam Parle and substitute Brian Molloy, stormed into the game, never allowing their control to slip.
Molloy and O'Grady inspired their side with pointed frees as they stretched 1-8 to 0-5 clear by the end of the third quarter. The Shels now managed to raise the tempo of their game, with a rising shot from Graham Staples going just over the bar, while substitute Páraic O'Leary had a goal attempt blocked for a fruitless '45, with Craig McCabe's effort drifting wide.
When McCabe followed with a pointed free nine minutes from the end, just four points (1-8 to 0-7) separated the sides. There was much drama to follow, with Parle missing out on a real goal chance, over-running the ball when clear, while at the opposite end a Brian Malone punched effort for a point came back off the upright before being cleared to safety.
Five minutes from the end, St. James' secured their final passage when Adam Parle fired home a splendid goal, and while the sides continued to trade scores, the New Ross District men held out to create another piece of history on an eventful journey in qualifying for their first Senior final.
St. James': John Ryan; Paul Barron, Jason Barron, Greg Doyle; Robbie Barron, Graeme Molloy (0-1 free), David Doyle; Brendan Doyle (capt.), Matthew O'Hanlon (0-1 free); Dan Keating (0-1), Kevin O'Grady (0-4, 1 free), Donal Barron; Shane Murphy, Emmet Dunning, Adam Parle (2-1). Subs. - Brian Molloy (0-1) for D. Barron, Darragh Lyons for Murphy, Liam Murphy for Keating, Mark Molloy for O'Grady, Brian Kennedy for Parle.
Shelmaliers: Graham Lawler; Andre O'Brien, Eoin Doyle, Ciarán O'Shaughnessy; Graham Staples (0-1), Simon Donohoe (capt.), Arnie Murphy; Brian Malone (0-1), Aidan Cash (0-1); Glen Malone (0-1), Brian Doyle, A.J. Lehane (0-1); Eoghan Nolan, Craig McCabe (0-4, 3 frees), Aidan Murphy (0-1). Subs. - Stephen Banville for Lehane, Páraic O'Leary for Nolan, Tommy Barron for Arnie Murphy.
Referee: Billy Dodd (Sarsfields).