'Pecker' hasn't lost his touch
St. Anne's 3-20 Askamore 0-19
Adjustment to life at a lower level started successfully for St. Anne's in Bellefield on Sunday when one of the survivors from their last appearance in the Intermediate grade 18 years ago contributed in rich measure to a comfortable The Courtyard Ferns Group A hurling championship win over Askamore.
The Rathangan crew hadn't featured in the grade since October 17, 1999, when they overcame Adamstown by 3-9 to 0-8 to clinch the county title.
The margin, and the colours worn by the opposition, were the exact same this time around, even if the jersey design was somewhat different in a nod to the passage of time.
However, one constant was the scoring exploits of wily corner-forward Francis Simpson.
'Pecker' contributed 2-1 to that success all those years ago, and he went even better this time around with a 3-2 haul as St. Anne's opened on a bright note despite Liam Og McGovern's continued absence through long-term injury.
While Askamore were without P.J. Nolan, they did welcome back Shane Tomkins after a lengthy lay-off, and he picked off three first-half points but wasn't as prominent after the break.
Simpson was one of three survivors from the 1999 team, along with Redmond Barry who looked comfortable in a new goalkeeping role, and late substitute David O'Connor.
Askamore were able to stay in touch for long periods through the scoring exploits of corner-forward Ted Kinsella chiefly from frees, while the St. Anne's midfield pairing of Seamus Mythen and Mark Furlong also figured prominently with five points from play between them.
Askamore were quickest off the mark and moved 0-4 to 0-1 clear before the boys in blue settled down and picked off nine of the next eleven points to go 10-6 ahead by the 19th minute.
However, Shane Tomkins, Billy Nolan and Ted Kinsella made it a one-point game prior to an exchange of points between Mark Furlong and Kinsella (free).
The key period was the lead-up to half-time when Simpson showed his opportunism is still intact when he pounced for two goals in less than three minutes.
The first came from an Aidan Rochford delivery that was misjudged by a defender and, though Ted Kinsella converted another free, Askamore were rocked again when a Seamus Mythen point attempt came back off the post and Simpson was on hand to guide it home (2-11 to 0-11).
It looked like the St. Anne's win would be straightforward when they added the first three points on the re-start, with a Ben Moore effort sandwiched between two Mark Furlong frees.
However, they gave far too many opportunities to Ted Kinsella to convert placed balls, and it meant that Askamore had the gap down to six (2-17 to 0-17) with ten minutes left.
It was significant that they didn't trouble netminder Barry though, apart from one dash across the line after a Gavin Sunderland cross deflected off Tomkins, and most fitting that Simpson should complete his hat-trick in added time following a long ball from Diarmuid O'Keeffe, having bridged that gap between 1999 and the present day.
St. Anne's: Redmond Barry; Páraic O'Keeffe, Tomás Cullen, Finn O'Driscoll; Kevin Hannigan, Diarmuid O'Keeffe, Aidan Rochford (0-1); Seamus Mythen (0-2), Mark Furlong (capt., 0-9, 6 frees); Jess Codd (0-2), Ben Moore (0-1), Jonathan Fogarty (0-2); Joe O'Connor, David Kavanagh (0-1), Francis Simpson (3-2). Subs. - David O'Connor for Kavanagh (51), Andy Kennedy for J. O'Connor (55).
Askamore: Brian Hayden; David Travers, Frank Lancaster, Tommy Devereux; Tom Kavanagh, Patrick Nolan, James Lancaster; Tom Hayden (capt.), Shane Tomkins (0-3); Tom Byrne, Billy Nolan (0-1), Gavin Sunderland (0-1); Ted Kinsella (0-13, 10 frees), Conor Levingstone (0-1), Conor Travers. Subs. - Pádraig Byrne for C. Travers (35), Fionn Fortune for D. Travers (41), Martin Hayden for Devereux, inj. (51).
Referee: David Jenkins (Gusserane).