Six out of seven for Oulart-The Ballagh
Normal service resumed in a clinical and emphatic manner in Innovate Wexford Park on Sunday when Oulart-The Ballagh put some third quarter turbulence behind them to ease away to a magnificent sixth Pettitt's Senior hurling championship title in seven years.
Oulart-The Ballagh 2-15 St.Martin's 0-13
Challengers St. Martin's trailed by 2-6 to 0-6 at the break but made some inroads on the re-start and had the gap whittled down to just three points by the 42nd minute. However, they were destined to add only one more point as Oulart-The Ballagh re-asserted full control with five scores on the trot to drive them to a tremendous twelfth crown since making the breakthrough against the same opponents in 1994.
The deep hurt of last year's surprise quarter-final exit to Glynn-Barntown had spurred the favourites on all year. And while this current team may lack the capacity to completely bury opponents, at the same time it was hard to see them being overtaken even when St. Martin's did manage to reduce that deficit to 2-9 to 0-12.
Oulart-The Ballagh simply held too many aces all over the field, and the club faithful will be delighted to note the involvement of new faces like Kevin Sheridan, Tommy Storey, Peter Sutton, Tomás Dunne and Martin Og Storey in this latest win. It's a welcome bonus to have fresh talent emerging and gelling in with the more experienced campaigners, and it served the victors well on this occasion.
The day couldn't have gone any better for this proud stronghold of the small ball as the Senior camogie and hurling double was completed in less than six hours. And there was a certain air of inevitability about the outcome after St. Martin's conceded two first-half goals, despite that spirited third quarter showing.
In direct contrast to their rivals, it was a thoroughly miserable day for the Wexford District club as their top two adult teams lost by a combined haul of 18 points. The parish was full of hope right up to throw-in time in the football final one week earlier, but the cruel nature of sport decreed that one disappointment would follow the next.
Now their young guns will turn their attention to both Minor deciders, starting with the hurling on Saturday, and despite this loss the future has to promise better things for a club bringing through quality players to the adult ranks at a rate of knots.
Both sides produced surprises at midfield as they lined up for the throw-in, with Rory Jacob partnering David Redmond for Oulart-The Ballagh while regular defender Daithí Hayes accompanied Jake Firman for their rivals. And while Hayes quickly switched to centre-back and Joe O'Connor pushed up, Jacob remained in his new role throughout and exerted a huge influence on proceedings.
Far away from the regular confines of corner-forward where the ball might only arrive every now and then, Jacob clearly relished being in the thick of things and enjoyed a most impressive hour.
Another notable match-up was the decision of the Martin's mentors to deploy Tomás Waters on Garrett Sinnott, and this confined the latter to full-back save for a very brief spell on the right wing. It was unusual to see Waters on the edge of the square and Daithí Hayes further out the field for such a big game, while the placing of Daithí Waters at left half-forward on Michael Jacob was another interesting move.
The current county player was moved to right half-back after the break while substitute Stephen Murphy made a big early impact in the attack on the re-start when he fired over two points which hastened Michael Jacob's removal.
Of course, the huge loss of the injured Jack O'Connor dictated a lot of those individual match-ups from the Martin's. On the whole though, Oulart-The Ballagh's line-out appeared to be more balanced and effective, with the only real gamble being that new role for Rory Jacob which worked an absolute treat.
The lively Des Mythen got the eventual winners off the mark with a fourth-minute point, eschewing the option of going for goal when a Peter Sutton handpass found him in a lot of space. The leveller came from a Ciarán Lyng free after a foul on Rory O'Connor, with the saints availing of the wind blowing into the town end after winning the toss.
Peter Sutton was involved again in the second Oulart-The Ballagh point, exchanging passes with Garrett Sinnott who did the damage in the seventh minute. Just over 30 seconds later the lead was stretched to 0-3 to 0-1 after Nicky Kirwan's clever first touch took Shaun Murphy's delivery away from Willie Devereux and the corner-forward duly split the posts.
Mark Maloney sent a tame effort short to rival netminder Conor O'Leary when Paudie Kelly had ghosted into a good position inside in the eleventh minute, and Harry O'Connor hooked a golden point chance wide moments later as St. Martin's struggled to settle into the scoring rhythm which left Glynn-Barntown for dead in the semi-final.
Indeed, four of their nine wides (Oulart-The Ballagh had eight) arrived in the opening quarter and, while team captain Ciarán Lyng led by example as always with four points from play, he was replaced on the free-taking duties after a miss from 20 metres on the left in the 15th minute.
The puck-out which followed from Conor O'Leary was gathered and pointed by David Redmond, and Oulart-The Ballagh were looking quite comfortable. They were even happier less than 90 seconds later after pouncing for the first goal thanks to a pick-pocketing act that wouldn't have looked out of place on a busy city street in Christmas week.
Centre-back Shaun Murphy, who hoovered up a significant volume of possession, directed another clearance goalwards. Aaron Maddock stopped to gather but was robbed by the deftest of flicks by Peter Sutton. Seconds later Nicky Kirwan had knocked a low shot to the left of Luke White and into the corner of the net, pushing Oulart-The Ballagh into a commanding 1-4 to 0-1 lead.
New free-taker Paudie Kelly was on target with his first attempt for St. Martin's whose opening point from play followed when Joe O'Connor controlled a White puck-out and applied the finish in the 20th minute.
Des Mythen, whose movement all over the forward line kept county Minor Conor Firman very busy, latched on to another Shaun Murphy ball into space in the right corner for his second point. Ciarán Lyng responded immediately from a Mark Maloney pass, regaining his footing after an initial slip which ensured he didn't get a chance to take on the defence (1-5 to 0-4).
Tomás Dunne was introduced for Peter Murphy as the Oulart-The Ballagh mentors sought improvements up front, but their lead was down to three points by the 25th minute after Maloney, Lyng and Kelly all featured in a move which was finished off by Harry O'Connor. Oulart-The Ballagh are past masters at creating goal chances though, and the one which effectively put paid to their rivals' chances really came out of nothing.
Rory Jacob got on the ball under the stand and pumped a long delivery into the right corner. Garrett Sinnott seemed to read its flight a split second before Tomás Waters, and that's all the time he needed to take a couple of steps backwards, gather possession, power past his direct opponent and fire to the far corner of Luke White's net.
It was a devastating blow for the saints and, although rival number 14s Ciarán Lyng and Peter Sutton exchanged points before the break, it was notable that the entire Oulart-The Ballagh tally had come from play as they retired with a 2-6 to 0-6 lead.
St. Martin's resumed with a renewed fire in their bellies thouggh as Lyng swapped passes with Harry O'Connor before picking off a point after 18 seconds.
The captain then provided an assist after a Daithí Waters clearance from his new wing-back role, handpassing to Stephen Murphy who pointed with his first touch.
Placed balls were converted by Nicky Kirwan ('65) and Paudie Kelly (free) before the puck-out after the latter score broke off Tomás Dunne into the path of Rory Jacob who raised a white flag from long range (2-8 to 0-9). St. Martin's were showing signs of improvement though, and Stephen Murphy's second point was even better than his first, finishing from tight to the left sideline after collecting a Paudie Kelly handpass and shipping a shoulder.
His direct opponent, Michael Jacob, was withdrawn and a heavily-strapped Paul Roche came into the fray, with Oulart-The Ballagh responding when Garrett Sinnott sold a lovely dummy and pointed after good work by Eoin Moore and Rory Jacob (2-9 to 0-10).
St. Martin's continued to chip away though, with Ciarán Lyng scoring the kind of point that Hawkeye was invented for before another Paudie Kelly free left just three between them with under 18 minutes left.
This was a critical period of the game, and a Martin's goal, or even another couple of points, would have really shaken things up entering the last quarter.
Neither materialised though, and in actual fact the losers didn't have a single shot in anger at Conor O'Leary's goal all day which is a tribute to the unyielding defence in front of him.
Instead the game petered out to a disappointing conclusion for neutrals, although none of the Oulart-The Ballagh faithful were complaining as they hit six of the last seven points to win with a considerable degree of comfort.
A converted Nicky Kirwan free was their first score for ten minutes, and it was quickly followed by another from Des Mythen who was fed by Peter Sutton after some sloppy Martin's defending.
County final debutant Martin Og Storey was less than five minutes on the field when he won a difficult ball and, with the aid of Kevin Sheridan, set up Peter Sutton for an easy finish (2-12 to 0-12).
There was no response from St. Martin's this time, and instead a trip on Des Mythen was punished by Kirwan before substitute Storey got his own name on the scoresheet with a point that also owed everything to his donkey work on the right flank.
A head-high Paudie Kelly free at the other end was comfortably blocked and the rebound went wide off substitute Seán Stafford. St. Martin's tried to create goal openings without any joy whatsoever against such a resolute defence, and Joe O'Connor's consolation point was their last score and first in more than 15 minutes.
Another foul on the influential Mythen resulted in the last point from a Kirwan free as Oulart-The Ballagh joined neighbours Buffers Alley with a haul of twelve Senior crowns.
Barry Kehoe accepted the Dr. R.J. Bowe Cup from Cormac Pettitt, while Tommy Storey was the choice of the sponsors as man of the match.
Oulart-The Ballagh: Conor O'Leary; Eoin Moore, Keith Rossiter, Barry Kehoe (capt.); Michael Jacob, Shaun Murphy, Kevin Sheridan; David Redmond (0-1), Rory Jacob (0-1); Peter Sutton (0-2), Tommy Storey, Peter Murphy; Des Mythen (0-3), Garrett Sinnott (1-2), Nicky Kirwan (1-5, 0-3 frees, 0-1 '65). Subs. - Tomás Dunne for P. Murphy (22), Paul Roche for M. Jacob (36), Martin Og Storey (0-1) for Dunne (44), Darren Nolan for Sutton (58), Kevin Nimmo for T. Storey (60), also Ben O'Connor, Eamonn Murphy, Anthony Roche, Murtha Doyle, Laurence Prendergast, Anthony Storey, Dennis Morton, Nicholas Cullen, Stephen Doyle, Billy Dunne.
St. Martin's: Luke White; Willie Devereux, Tomás Waters, Conor Firman; Patrick O'Connor, Joe O'Connor (0-2), Aaron Maddock; Jake Firman, Daithí Hayes; Rory O'Connor, Paudie Kelly (0-3 frees), Daithí Waters; Ciarán Lyng (capt., 0-5, 1 free), Mark Maloney, Harry O'Connor (0-1). Subs. - Stephen Murphy (0-2) for Maloney (HT), Joe Coleman for H. O'Connor (43), Seán Stafford for J. Firman (56), also Ken Furlong, Donal Kelly, Ryan Murphy, Edward O'Byrne, Tony Kelly, Ciarán Redmond, Darren Codd, Jack O'Connor.
Referee: Pat Kehoe (Rathgarogue-Cushinstown).