Tuesday 17 September 2019

Shels showed superiority after break

Holders fail to score from play as black and ambers take spoils in local derby

The Shelmaliers squad which captured a sixth Under-21 Premier crown since 2003 and third in the space of four years
The Shelmaliers squad which captured a sixth Under-21 Premier crown since 2003 and third in the space of four years
Crossabeg-Ballymurn, who relinquished their crown to neighbours Shelmaliers on Sunday and lost an Under-21 football game for the first time since 2013
Pádraig Foley goes highest for Crossabeg-Ballymurn as Shelmaliers duo Glen Malone and Graham Staples look on along with rival defender Martin Redmond

Alan Aherne

Shelmaliers laid claim to the local bragging rights in St. Patrick's Park, Enniscorthy, on Sunday when they reclaimed the Greenstar Under-21 football Premier championship crown after a one-year lapse with a double-scores victory over holders and neighbours Crossabeg-Ballymurn.

Shelmaliers 0-8 Crossabeg-Ballymurn 0-4

The black and ambers trailed by one point at half-time but clearly carried the greater threat in open play, and this shone through on the re-start when they out-pointed their keen rivals 6-1 to collect their third title in four years.

It was their sixth crown in total, all won since 2003, and the victory places them level on top of the roll of honour with HWH-Bunclody.

Crossabeg-Ballymurn remained in the game up to midway through the last quarter when a brace of points from county Senior Simon Donohoe in just over 90 seconds stretched the gap to 7-3.

There was still a considerable amount of time to go, with five and a half minutes added at the end, but there was no way that the Shels were going to relinquish their grip at that stage.

It was remarkable to note that Crossabeg-Ballymurn failed to score from play, with all four points coming from the boot of free-taker Glen Murphy.

And while the Shels defence must take a great deal of credit for this, in truth the reigning champions lacked any sort of a cutting edge up front and their forwards never functioned as a unit.

That was particularly hard to take for their outstanding full-back Oisín Foley, and high-fetching and athletic midfielder Paddy Devereux, as they were two of the best invididuals on view.

Foley was fouled repeatedly when he raced out and gathered possession, while Devereux went into the clouds to catch some balls while his physical power saw him break tackles at his ease.

While captain Cormac O'Rourke was available after missing the semi-final, Bill Eviston's injury sustained seven days earlier ruled him out while Sam Kelly was again absent from the starting line-up. Those two losses were incalculable to a club suffering its first defeat in the Under-21 grade since 2013.

The inter-parish rivalry ensured that the contest was always interesting, and some good passages of play were witnessed despite the lack of scores. However, it was too stop-start to be deemed a memorable encounter for neutrals at least, with no fewer than 53 frees awarded (29 for the winners).

Shelmaliers also shot 14 wides compared to a mere four from their neighbours, and that gives another indication of their overall superiority.

Still, it took them a long time to really get into their stride, and they won despite failing to score until the 29th minute. Crossabeg-Ballymurn paid the price for not being further than 0-3 to nil ahead at that stage, but the Shels re-shuffled their pack at the interval and never looked back.

Indeed, there was a far better balance to their side after Graham Staples resumed at centre-back, with Eoghan Nolan partnering Glen Malone at midfield, Aaron Murphy going to centre-forward, and Simon Donohoe moving into the full-forward line but with a roving commission.

The introduction of county Junior Tony Smith - playing against his first club - early in the second-half also added to the attacking threat posed by the Shels, and ultimately they kicked five points from play and conceded none to leave nobody in any doubt that they deserved this title.

Two of those four Crossabeg-Ballymurn wides came inside four minutes from Paddy Devereux and Glen Murphy, but the holders continued to press and Murphy pointed them into the lead after a foul on Robert Byrne.

Martin Redmond followed Graham Staples as he drifted outfield, but Eoghan Nolan didn't get a look-in from the very impressive Oisín Foley before he was switched to the '40 in a swap with Conor Hearne.

The third Crossabeg-Ballymurn wide came from an over-cooked Paddy Devereux pass, and the first Shels attack didn't arrive until the eighth minute when Craig Parker missed the target from a free.

Chris Cowman and Colin Cleary added further wides, with Cormac O'Rourke's point attempt coming off the post in between at the other end following an Oisín Foley interception.

Eoghan Nolan did create the game's first goal chance shortly after his move to centre-forward with a pass to Cleary, but the corner-forward's shot was blocked and Foley was fouled as he stooped to gather possession.

Robert Byrne continued to pose problems for Crossabeg-Ballymurn at full-forward, and he was impeded once more in the 17th minute and Glen Murphy made it 0-2 to nil.

A Byrne handpass was intercepted when he seemed set to fashion a goal chance, but a brace of wayward Simon Donohoe kicks didn't help Shels' cause as they still searched for a first score.

Referee James Mullally had been prepared to give the benefit of the doubt for any early transgressions, but he lost patience in a two-minute spell when Glen Malone, Oran Maddock, Eoghan Nolan and Cormac O'Rourke were all yellow-carded.

Glen Murphy converted a third free after the ball was touched on the ground on a defender with Robert Byrne making a nuisance of himself.

The Shels finally took the bare look off the scoreboard in the 29th minute though, with Aaron Murphy finishing a move featuring Graham Staples and Colin Cleary.

And although Glen Malone kicked their sixth wide, it took a fine save from Ben Turner to deny Liam Rockett when he swung his boot at the breaking ball in added time.

The last attack of the half brought the Shels even closer, with Craig Parker knocking over a free after Colin Cleary caught an Eoghan Nolan line ball and was deemed to have been fouled (0-3 to 0-2).

It took Crossabeg-Ballymurn some time to get to grips with their rivals' altered set-up on the re-start, and Conor Hearne availed of the indecision to kick the levelling point after a mere 18 seconds.

Paddy Devereux was unfortunate to see a scoring attempt come back off the post, while the same fate befell Hearne at the other end before recently-introduced substitute Tony Smith picked out Colin Cleary who gave the Shels the lead for the first time in the 39th minute (0-4 to 0-3).

A Hearne pass presented a chance for Liam Rockett whose shot was well saved at his near post by Ben Turner's boot, and the leaders fluffed another great opening early in the last quarter when Cleary and Hearne couldn't make the most of an overlap.

Eoghan Nolan had a growing influence as the game wore on, and when he was fouled in the 50th minute it led to Tony Smith pushing the Shels into a 0-5 to 0-3 lead.

Although the wides mounted for the leaders, Simon Donohoe trusted himself to have a go twice in quick succession despite missing a couple of first-half chances, and Crossabeg-Ballymurn were left to rue the space they afforded him as he split the posts twice.

The woodwork denied the eventual losers yet another point, with Pádraig Foley the unlucky kicker this time around, but at least Glen Murphy managed to grab their sole second-half score from a 57th-minute free (0-7 to 0-4).

The Shels were then reduced to 14 men when Conor Hearne, who had been booked midway through the half, collected a black card for hauling down Foley, and this forced his colleagues to work even harder.

Paddy Devereux caught the free which followed from Glen Murphy but saw his shot cannon off an opponent around a heavily-populated square.

Tony Smith was the last player to fall victim to the curse of the woodwork, from a free, but he made no mistake from his next attempt after Eoghan Nolan caught the kick-out and was fouled.

Crossabeg-Ballymurn needed to strike 1-1 in the three and a half added minutes that remained, but they didn't threaten apart from one half-hit Cormac O'Rourke shot.

It left Shelmaliers the most worthy of winners at the finish, with the victory especially sweet for this particular crew as they lost the Premier Minor final to Starlights by one point in 2013.

Shelmaliers: Aodhán Foley (capt.); Cian Manley, James Cash, Joe Redmond; Jody Donohoe, Simon Donohoe (0-2), Chris Cowman; Aaron Murphy (0-1), Glen Malone; Liam Rockett, Conor Hearne (0-1), Craig Parker (0-1 free); Colin Cleary (0-1), Eoghan Nolan, Graham Staples. Subs. - Seán Keane-Carroll for Cowman (23), Tony Smith (0-2 frees) for Parker (36), Michael Feeney for Rockett (50), also Adam Howlin, Paul McCleane, Kyle Roche, Stephen Rossiter, Mark Power, Stephen McGuire, Dan Campbell, James Doyle, Adam Hearne.

Crossabeg-Ballymurn: Ben Turner; Martin Redmond, Oisín Foley, Conor Gormley; Eoin O'Connor, David Kehoe, Conor Barlow; Paddy Devereux, Pádraig Foley; Cormac O'Rourke (capt.), Conor Maddock, Ronan Devereux; Glen Murphy (0-4 frees), Robert Byrne, Oran Maddock. Subs. - Shane Whelan for Gormley (42), Luke Redmond for Kehoe (50), also James White, Cathal Devereux, Lorcan Leacy, Evan Kinlough, Lorcan Cummins, Robert Murphy, Bill Eviston, Sam Kelly.

Referee: James Mullally (Gusserane).

Wexford People