Stars secure Byrne Cup
Starlights 2-9 Ballinastragh Gaels 0-3
Starlights won the 51st edition of the prestigious Jim Byrne Cup with a comprehensive 2-9 to 0-3 victory over Ballinastragh Gaels in Sunday's low-key 13-a-side final played at a chilly St. Patrick's Park, Enniscorthy.
The Gorey District side were back in the decider having lost at the same stage to Dunbrody Gaels last year, and despite Conor Hughes crafting a brilliant opener after one minute, they largely played second fiddle to their more fluid opponents thereafter.
The winners opened their own account when joint captain Lee Jordan pointed off his right peg on two minutes, while the same player fired over with the goal at his mercy to cancel out Ballinastragh Gaels' final lead point of the game from Simon Campbell-Carthy.
And the Enniscorthy lads really enhanced their claims on ten minutes when a lovely pass over cover from Oran Carty found Jordan who punted beyond Garbhan Finn for a 1-2 to 0-2 lead.
The goalscorer knocked over a free soon after, and while captain Robert Murphy curled over a beautiful response for Gaels, a chipped point among a brace from Evan Murphy and another from Ben Kidd ensured that Starlights held sway by 1-6 to 0-3 at the break.
While no other score was forthcoming until the 41st minute, both sides created a real goal chance apiece before then.
Ballinastragh Gaels strung together a lovely move on 28 minutes which saw Murphy and Tom Mordaunt link up, with the latter's shot rebounding out to William Higgins who couldn't quite steer to the net with his palm.
And they were indebted to netminder Garbhan Finn six minutes later when he used his feet to thwart a soccer-style shot at goal from Jordan.
Nevertheless, Starlights closed out the game with the acumen of seasoned veterans. Oran Carty made it 1-7 to 0-3 with a nice point, while Oisín Pepper got in on the act with a score two minutes before the end of regulation time.
And they sprung for an injury-time goal that was a harsh reflection on a valiant effort from Ballinastragh Gaels when Evan Murphy knocked home after he made space for himself at the edge of the square.
It is the fifth time Starlights have secured this tournament founded by the late Seamus Keevans, and they bridge a 19-year gap having last won it in 1999.
Overall, they stand second in the roll of honour, with Shelmaliers leading the way on ten titles.
Incidentally, while Ballinastragh Gaels are the bridesmaids for the second year running, and are yet to bring home the trophy since Kilanerin and Tara Rocks merged at under-age level over a decade ago, Kilanerin have been on the winners' podium once before as a single entity, back in 1992.
Starlights: Anto Larkin (joint capt.); Mick Delaney, Matthew Balfe; Mick McGrath, Seán Breen, Marcus McCarthy; Evan Murphy (1-2), Oran Carty (0-1); Floyd Murphy, Kalem Dobbs, Cian Hanley; Ben Kidd (0-1), Lee Jordan (joint capt., 1-3, 0-1 free). Subs. - Craig Peare for McGrath, inj., Oisín Pepper (0-1) for Dobbs, Jack Kirwan for Peare, Evan Foley (0-1) for Breen, black card, also Matthew Balfe, Dominik Morycki, Aaron Browne, Adam Sheridan, Jack Walshe, Mikey McVeigh, Bill Peare, Danny Breen, Matt Kinnaird, Pat Dwyer, Jack Kehoe.
Ballinastragh Gaels: Garbhan Finn; Ben Morris, Cillian Byrne; Conor Hughes (0-1), Paddy D'Arcy, Simon Campbell-Carthy (0-1); Conor Kinsella, Jason Bolger; Lee Noblett, Robert Murphy (capt., 0-1), Tom Mordaunt; William Higgins, Joe Curtis. Subs. - Jake Kinsella for Higgins, Michael Fortune for Byrne, also Conor Jones, Fintan Staunton, Mikey Higgins, Aaron Whelan.
Referee: Brendan Holohan (Rathgarogue-Cushinstown).