Senior hurling returns to Gorey town
Naomh Eanna young guns pip Ballymurn by one point
Senior hurling will return to the ever-expanding town of Gorey for the first time since 2005 next season after Naomh Eanna just about got the better of Crossabeg-Ballymurn in a closely-fought The Courtyard Ferns Intermediate championship final in Innovate Wexford Park on Saturday.
Naomh Eanna 1-15 C'Beg Ballymurn 2-11
Super-sub David O'Brien made a valuable contribution with three priceless points as the north county side edged the verdict by the minimum - the same margin as ten years ago when Duffry Rovers ended their involvement in the top flight four seasons after their last Intermediate triumph.
A replay was required before Naomh Eanna won the only other meeting of these clubs at this stage of the competition in 1974, and for a long time it was looking like a repeat was on the cards as the margin between them rarely strayed above the one- or two-point mark.
However, the Gorey lads were three clear (1-10 to 1-7) near the end of the third quarter when Crossabeg-Ballymurn's cause wasn't helped by the dismissal of a forward.
The very promising Gary Molloy, just 17 years old, fouled Oisín Foley on the sideline under the stand and was booked, but not before Eoin McDonald retaliated needlessly. The number twelve was already on a yellow card from the 23rd minute, so his inevitable departure left the Over The Water side with a tall order.
And to give them their due, the sending-off brought out the very best in them as three points without reply drew them level with twelve minutes to go and set up a tense finish.
Seamus Carroll dropped back around the middle third and did a lot of hard work, while wing-back Paddy Devereux also figured prominently and registered a fine point from distance in the 46th minute (1-10 to 1-8).
Niall Murphy converted a free after a Gorey defender overcarried under pressure, and a brilliant pass outfield from the endline by his brother, Barry, left Conor Devereux with all the time in the world to equalise.
Naomh Eanna needed to steady the ship fast, and Pádraig Doyle did just that when he converted a long-range free after a foul on his stylish and economical brother, Seán.
The marksman then turned provider, working hard to win the ball on the right wing before feeding Gearóid Cullen who made it 1-12 to 1-10 with less than nine minutes to go.
Crossabeg-Ballymurn moved Pádraig Foley on to his county colleague Conor McDonald at that stage when the latter was at full-forward, having alternated between there and the '40 where he finished the game.
A Niall Murphy free made it a one-point difference again before four tense scoreless minutes followed when the prospect of a draw heightened.
However, Naomh Eanna made a determined push for home, with their tough, tight contests in the two previous rounds against Oulart-The Ballagh and Askamore undoubtedly standing to them.
Two and a half minutes of normal time remained when two of the three Doyle brothers, Pádraig and Aodhán, combined to feed David O'Brien for a precious point. The anxiety mounted on both sides as two Conor McDonald wides were sandwiched between misses at the other end by Pádraig Foley and Billy Roche.
Surprisingly, just two added minutes were announced when more was expected, and a mere ten seconds of that spell had elapsed when David O'Brien latched on to the break from a Naomh Eanna puck-out and soloed clear before kicking his third point (1-14 to 1-11).
Half a minute later he provided the assist as Conor McDonald struck what would prove to be the insurance point, although the Gorey substitutes who lined the sideline in anticipation of the final whistle still had a nail-biting finish to endure.
Oisín Foley lofted the ball into the danger zone where Conor Devereux gathered it before being taken down by Naomh Eanna captain Brendan Travers at the expense of a yellow card.
Niall Murphy, later selected as the sponsors' man of the match, drilled the penalty to the net past Barry Kinsella - the only survivor from the last Naomh Eanna Intermediate triumph in 2001 - but the full-time whistle was blown by referee David O'Leary on the puck-out with the stopwatch reading 32 minutes and 35 seconds.
A minute's silence had been observed beforehand for the late Mrs. Elizabeth Roche, grandmother of Crossabeg-Ballymurn's full-back, Billy.
The Wexford District team had first use of the wind blowing towards the Clonard end, and it was a generally nervous first-half from both sides with so much at stake.
Crossabeg-Ballymurn had double the amount of wides as their rivals in that period (8-4), and they went in at the break trailing by 1-6 to 1-4 after conceding a late goal. Conor McDonald had grabbed the first point after an earlier effort came back off the post, with Niall Murphy replying from an 85-metre free before two placed balls from Pádraig Doyle put the Gorey side clear.
Crossabeg-Ballymurn responded swiftly with a superb catch and point from Oisín Foley tight to the right touchline, but McDonald's second left Naomh Eanna ahead by 0-4 to 0-2 before the first goal arrived.
Oisín Foley floated in a high ball in the 14th minute which wasn't dealt with by Barry Kinsella, and Niall Murphy poked it towards goal before his brother, Barry, got the final touch to direct it to the net.
Although Pádraig Doyle quickly levelled from a free, well-taken points from Bill Eviston and Niall Murphy left last year's Intermediate 'A' champions ahead by 1-4 to 0-5 by the 25th minute.
Naomh Eanna continued to clip at their heels though, with Conor McDonald forcing a good save out of Mark Dempsey which led to a pointed '65 for Pádraig Doyle before even better followed for the eventual winners.
Conor Hughes fed Pádraig Doyle on the left and his astute delivery was perfect for Conor McDonald to latch on to before jinking clear of Billy Roche and firing to the net (1-6 to 1-4).
Crossabeg-Ballymurn, who deployed Pádraig Foley for a long time at midfield after a swap with Bill Eviston, fell into greater arrears on the re-start when Conor McDonald (free) and William Cullen added points, with Mark Dempsey making a fine diving save to deny McDonald in between.
Pádraig Foley (free) and McDonald swapped points before the Murphy brothers pulled back two for Crossabeg-Ballymurn, Niall's after a lovely sidestep in the right corner, and Barry's after good use of the advantage rule by the referee (1-9 to 1-7).
A pivotal moment followed as David O'Brien was introduced for Naomh Eanna, and a point with his very first touch was a taste of things to come.
It wasn't plain sailing from that point on, far from it, with Gorey hitting seven wides after the break compared to four for the losers.
However, they held their nerve to claim a fourth Intermediate title for the club after previous wins in 1974, 1990 and 2001, leading to a night of celebrations in their Clonattin complex.
Crossabeg-Ballymurn, who weren't too far off the mark, have a chance to raise the spirits again when they take on St. Joseph's in Friday's Joyces Expert Intermediate 'A' football championship final in St. Patrick's Park, Enniscorthy.
Naomh Eanna: Barry Kinsella; Brendan Travers (capt.), Peter Travers, Tom Stafford; Lee Kinsella, Seán Doyle, Gary Molloy; Eoin Conroy, Dara McDonald; Gearóid Cullen (0-1), Pádraig Doyle (0-5, 4 frees, 1 '65), Conor Hughes; William Cullen (0-1), Conor McDonald (1-5, 0-1 free), Aodhán Doyle. Subs. - David O'Brien (0-3) for W. Cullen (40), John O'Brien (Ramsfort) for D. McDonald (52), also Joseph O'Connor, John Stafford, Simon Doran, Fionn Doyle, Darragh Hughes, Darren Kelly, Ross Murphy, Jack Cushe, Niall Kirwan.
Crossabeg-Ballymurn: Mark Dempsey; Martin Redmond, Billy Roche, Matty Sludds; Paddy Devereux (0-1), Pádraig Foley (0-1 free), Alan Byrne; Bill Eviston (0-1), Conor Devereux (0-1); Oisín Foley (0-1), Sam Kelly, Eoin McDonald; Seamus Carroll, Niall Murphy (1-5, 1-0 pen., 0-3 frees), Barry Murphy (capt., 1-1). Subs. - David Jackman for Kelly (43), also Noel Scallan, Andy Butler, Mark Campbell, Cormac O'Rourke, Liam Kehoe, Michael Eviston, Paul Roche, Conor Shovlin, David Kehoe, Luke Redmond, Dylan Ring.
Referee: David O'Leary (Rathnure).