Tuesday 23 January 2018

Shelly saves a valuable point

Alley and Ferns in thriller

Alan Aherne

Barry Kenny of Buffers Alley bursts out of defence as Derek Thorpe (Ferns) looks on
Barry Kenny of Buffers Alley bursts out of defence as Derek Thorpe (Ferns) looks on

If only every Pettitt's Senior hurling championship game could be as entertaining as this one.

Buffers Alley 3-14 Ferns St. Aidan's 1-20

Ferns St. Aidan's were mere minutes away from bouncing back from a first round loss to Faythe Harriers with a morale-boosting Group B win in Bellefield on Saturday, but substitute Kevin 'Shelly' Roche saved the day for Buffers Alley as his solo goal 21 seconds into added time ultimately secured a draw.

It was definitely a case of a point gained for the Alley and a point lost for Ferns, but it was a heart-warming contest for neutrals given the urgency and commitment displayed by both sides.

The Buffers Alley forwards had run riot seven days earlier in the rout of Shamrocks, and it left one wondering were they really that sharp and would they fare as well against stronger opponents?

Well, they answered in the affirmative in the first-half as they surged into a 2-10 to 0-10 lead, hitting just three wides in the process. It was left to Ian Byrne's sharp-shooting to keep Ferns in touch as he picked off eight points from his marvellous 1-14 tally, six from frees.

The sides were deadlocked four times in total in a first quarter which ended on 0-6 each, but the Alley added three more points from Keith Burke (free) and Andrew Kenny (free and play) before chalking up their first wide.

Ian Byrne pulled the gap back to 9-7 before in-form Alley forward Tomás O'Leary - scorer of 1-6 against the Shamrocks - latched on to the rebound when Burke's first effort was saved to find the net in the 23rd minute.

If the Ferns defending was a little lax for that score, it was even worse nearly six minutes later when Paul O'Leary found his namesake, Tomás, unmarked inside the cover with a handpass and the number 15 easily doubled his goal tally (2-9 to 0-9).

Ferns, who had James Tonks restored to the heart of their defence and Paul Morris looking ginger enough owing to his knee injury, had serious ground to make up. However, they were right back in contention within seven minutes as Ian Byrne punished the Alley on two more occasions for their constant fouling (19-10 was the free count) before grabbing an opportunist goal.

Referee Gearóid McGrath, making his Senior debut here after re-locating from Dublin, threw in the sliothar in the left corner and it evaded the first pair before Byrne latched on to it and broke though to narrow the gap to the minimum (2-10 to 1-12).

An inspiring placed ball from Byrne from inside his own half gave Ferns the lead in the 44th minute, with the quality of the play highlighted then by two super points in quick succession at either end from Andrew Kenny and Jonny Dwyer.

Keith Burke brought the Alley level from a free before Ferns hit for home with points from Christopher O'Connor, another Byrne placed ball and Tommy Dwyer (1-19 to 2-13).

Goalscorer Tomás O'Leary then got his marching orders after a second yellow card and Declan Byrne took up the role of spare man in the Ferns defence. The red and whites looked to have done just about enough as they led by three points entering added time after an exchange of frees between Andrew Kenny and Ian Byrne.

However, Kevin Roche had other ideas as he latched on to a favourable break some 50 metres out on the left flank and soloed through without being challenged. He was upended eventually, but only after planting the ball in the net for a dramatic equaliser.

There was one late scare for the Alley when Darren O'Brien fumbled a Niall Maguire delivery which was scrambled to safety, but they were definitely the happier of the two camps when this high-octane encounter finally drew to a close.

Buffers Alley: Darren O'Brien; Seán Murphy, Willie Doran, Barry Kenny; Paudie Reidy, Ciarán Kenny (capt.), John Farrell; Pat Kenny (0-1), Bobby Kenny (0-1); Seán Og Whelan, Shane Grannell (0-1), Andrew Kenny (0-5, 2 frees); Paul O'Leary, Keith Burke (0-4 frees), Tomás O'Leary (2-2). Subs. - Kevin Roche for Bobby Kenny, temp. (28-29), Roche (1-0) for Whelan (HT), James Foley for Burke (53).

Ferns St. Aidan's: Michael Walsh; Niall Maguire, Pádraig Ryan, Declan Byrne; Ciarán Roberts, James Tonks, Gavin Bailey (0-1); Tommy Dwyer (capt., 0-1), Jonny Dwyer (0-2); Benny Jordan (0-1), Paul Morris, Paddy Moroney; Derek Thorpe, Ian Byrne (1-14, 0-12 frees), Christopher O'Connor (0-1). Subs. - John Breen for Thorpe (38), Tomás Hawkins for Jordan (60+1).

Referee: Gearóid McGrath (St. James').

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