Roche to the rescue!
Fethard force draw with saints after last-gasp point
Mick Roche scored a sensational point with the second-last puck of the game to send the Top Oil Intermediate 'A' hurling championship final to a replay at O'Kennedy Park, New Ross, on Saturday.
Fethard 0-12 St. James' 0-12
St. James' looked to have cleared the danger from Mark Wallace's dropping long-range free when Matthew O'Hanlon caught the ball and worked it out to Robbie Barron. However, Roche picked up the resulting clearance and chose the perfect moment for the truest strike of his life.
The right wing-back probably wasn't the man most Fethard fans would have wanted taking a pot-shot from far out on the right wing, just inside the '65, but some men thrive on such situations and Roche swatted it like he was having a tap-around after training.
It came at the end of a game that had only increased in tempo and intensity the longer it went on. Apart from a brief few minutes when St. James' pulled three clear midway through the second-half, this tie had all the hallmarks of a dramatic finish.
Had Roche not held his nerve in the third minute of added time, Kevin O'Grady would have been the Ramsgrange hero. The county footballer burst to life in the second-half, scoring all six of his points in the final 30 minutes.
The score every member of the large St. James' following would have remembered, had it not been for Roche's heroics, was O'Grady's dead ball in the 61st minute. After Mark Molloy's line ball into the goalmouth was fumbled behind for a '65, the superb forward held his nerve from just to the right of the posts to make it 0-12 to 0-11.
It looked like the winner, but Fethard and Roche would ensure otherwise.
St. James', who were looking for their fourth different grade hurling title since winning Junior 'D' (now Junior 'B') in 2009, would have pinpointed Minor Mikie Dwyer as one of the main dangers to their plans.
Attempting to stop Dwyer getting clean possession in space is one thing, but doing it is another. There was less than two minutes on the clock when the Good Counsel student picked up possession and tapped over to open his account.
Matthew O'Hanlon was operating from half-back in this contest, a little deeper than at some stages this season. His influence was clear in an excellent display and it was his free, from his own '65, that levelled the scores.
Fethard were playing with a light breeze at their backs but it wasn't a massive advantage. Nevertheless, they went ahead again in the seventh minute when Wallace pointed following a foul on Joe Sutton - although the Mogue's might have preferred the advantage with Dwyer heading for goal.
Andrew Walsh was felled as Shane Murphy tapped over his first dead ball of the afternoon. Parity lasted two minutes as Wallace split the uprights with his second at the other end.
John Tubritt picked out Mikie Dwyer and he registered again with a tidy finish. That score was quickly followed by another Wallace point after Ciarán Dwyer was impeded, and all of a sudden the men in red led by 0-5 to 0-2.
St. James' didn't hang around waiting for a comeback to materialise. Instead they forced themselves back into the game by upping the tempo and hitting the target enough to get back to five-all by the 22nd minute.
Murphy scored a 55-metre free but missed two '65s in this spell, and it eventually cost him free-taking responsibilities. Alan Walsh scored two points in as many minutes, both from close range.
The second was a fantastic team score, starting with John McDonald in goal and working through Robbie Barron, Graeme Molloy and Andrew Walsh before it was tapped over.
Still, when Dwyer was fouled shortly after, Wallace nailed his fourth free.
No score was forthcoming in the final seven minutes of the half and Fethard went in with a narrow lead (0-6 to 0-5).
The third quarter belonged to St. James'. O'Grady levelled the game in the 32nd minute and added another two minutes later to give his team their first lead.
Wallace countered after a foul on Graham O'Grady but it only proved a momentary respite. O'Grady registered after Daniel Keating was impeded, and then Alan Walsh went close to an elusive goal when drilling into the side-netting from Shane Murphy's pass.
A lovely O'Grady score and a point on the turn from Graeme Molloy gave Ramsgrange a 0-10 to 0-7 lead heading into the final quarter. Yet, the game started to change when Mikie Dwyer was tripped and Wallace pulled one back.
Richie Waters began a move that ended with Ciarán Dwyer popping over in the 50th minute. Moments later the same corner-forward levelled the game again, this time from a Garrett Foley feed (0-10 each).
A Wallace '65 with three minutes left gave Fethard their fifth lead of the clash but it would be their last. O'Grady's points in the 58th and 61st minutes looked like they would be enough until Roche ensured that his side lived to fight another day.
St. James': John McDonald; Brian Molloy, Jason Barron, David Doyle; Paul Barron, Matthew O'Hanlon (0-1 free), Liam Murphy; Mark Molloy (capt.), Robbie Barron; Daniel Keating, Graeme Molloy (0-1), Alan Walsh (0-2); Andrew Walsh, Shane Murphy (0-2 frees), Kevin O'Grady (0-6, 3 frees, 1 '65). Subs. - Donal Barron for S. Murphy (57), also Tomás Walsh, Mark Myler, Jack O'Brien, John Ryan, Greg Doyle, Robert Murphy, John Power, Peadar Murphy, Tom Crosbie, John Crosbie, Luke Murphy, Adam Long.
Fethard: Seán Foley; Martin Power (joint capt.), Rúairí Tubrid, Richard Waters; Mick Roche (0-1), Kevin Rowe, John Tubritt; Garrett Foley, Mark Wallace (joint capt., 0-7, 6 frees, 1 '65); Joe Sutton, Graham O'Grady, Seán Donohoe; Ciarán Dwyer (0-2), Mikie Dwyer (0-2), Chris Molloy. Subs. - Daire Barden for Donohoe (40), Daniel Mullan for Molloy (54), also Eddie Power, Mikey Banville, John Rice, Ricky Rowe, Niall Roche, Alan Boland, Peter Mullan, Paul Foley, Nathan Hayes, Shane Tubrid, James Dillon, Seán Sutton, Martin Doyle, Bryan Power.
Referee: Seán Whelan (St. Martin's).