Super saints' rise continues
Walsh grabs two goals as Jimmies defeat neighbours
The incredible rise of St. James' through the hurling grades continued in some style in Innovate Wexford Park on Saturday when they set out their stall in the first five minutes and never relented on the way to a comprehensive replay victory over next door neighbours Fethard in the Top Oil Intermediate 'A' championship decider.
St. James '2-13 Fethard 0-11
It's amazing to reflect on the journey undertaken by the Ramsgrange crew over the past eight campaigns, winners in the lowest adult grade as recently as 2009 and now just one rung on the ladder below Senior.
Such lofty heights must have seemed a long distance away when they defeated Kilmore to clinch what was then known as the Junior 'D' championship (now Junior 'B') a mere seven years ago.
Success in Junior 'C' (now Junior 'A') followed at the expense of the Oulart-The Ballagh third team in 2011, with the Junior crown captured in 2014 with a one-goal dismissal of Taghmon-Camross.
There was temporary disappointment last year when Monageer-Boolavogue pipped them by a point in the Intermediate 'A' final as they sought to add to that memorable first-ever Senior football triumph.
However, that narrow defeat only made them more determined to go one better this time around, and they were looking like winners of this local derby from a very early stage on Saturday.
Leading by 1-8 to 0-4 at half-time, St. James' were assisted by some very poor shooting from their rivals on the re-start. Indeed, Fethard struck the grand total of seven wides in the first nine minutes after the interval, with Andrew Walsh and John Tubritt swapping points in that spell.
The men in red should have been a lot closer though, but they paid the ultimate price for squandering so many opportunities when St. James' struck for the game-clinching goal in the 40th minute.
It was a score manufactured exclusively by the youthful Walsh brothers, as Alan delivered a beautiful low pass on the left to county Minor Andrew who finished clinically for the second time in this replay to push his side into a commanding 2-9 to 0-5 lead.
A good situation improved even more for the saints when Daniel Keating punished a defensive error with a point before Kevin O'Grady converted a free, leaving them with a runaway twelve-point lead near the end of the third quarter.
From that point on, all they had to do was keep their composure, and maintain the high tempo they had set from the off, in order to keep their one-time under-age partners at bay.
And they managed this with a fair degree of comfort despite conceding six of the last eight points registered in a game which was more one-sided than neutrals expected after the teams couldn't be separated in New Ross seven days earlier.
It was notable that those last two St. James' points came from outstanding midfielder and captain Mark Molloy, doubling his personal tally to four. And he completed an impressive personal double by collecting the man of the match award in this particular final for the second year on the trot.
Last year it was merely a consolation prize as Monageer-Boolavogue went home with the Tom Donohoe Memorial Cup. This time around the venue was the same, and the opposition once again wore red, but the key difference was that Molloy was on cloud nine afterwards, leaving the stand with his hands full of honours after delivering a rousing speech.
Fethard joint captain Mark Wallace - playing against his former club - won the toss and opted to play into the breeze blowing in the direction of the Clonard end on an ideal day for hurling.
However, St. James' tore out of the blocks, signalling their intent inside five minutes as Graeme Molloy, Kevin O'Grady ('65), Mark Molloy and O'Grady from play pushed the 2015 runners-up into a 0-4 to nil lead.
Fethard had to feed off scraps, with little or nothing getting beyond Matthew O'Hanlon at centre-back until Mikie Dwyer opened their account in the eighth minute after a good catch from a crossfield Mark Wallace free.
Luke Murphy's subsequent puck-out was caught by Alan Walsh who fed Mark Molloy for his second point, and this pattern was never broken all afternoon; whenever Fethard threatened to do something, it was a cue for St. James' to be even more productive at the other end.
Ciarán Dwyer did pick off a good point from a Wallace feed, but the lively O'Grady made it 6-2 from a free after Martin Power collected the game's only yellow card for a foul on the rampaging Matthew O'Hanlon.
Already struggling, Fethard shipped their biggest blow thus far in the 13th minute when a Mark Molloy delivery was won in the right corner by Shane Murphy who handpassed inside to Andrew Walsh, and the promising teenager arrowed a sweet low shot across Seán Foley into the far corner of the net.
St. James' looked unstoppable when Kevin O'Grady followed up with a pointed free from 85 metres after O'Hanlon was tripped, but their momentum stalled significantly in the second quarter.
Indeed, the eventual winners only added one point throughout that period, courtesy of O'Grady from a Mark Molloy pass in the 30th minute. They also struck five wides in that duration and ended the half with ten in all, although Fethard didn't fare a great deal better in their attempts to reduce the deficit.
Mark Wallace (free) and Ciarán Dwyer from a Wallace pass had pulled back points before that late score by O'Grady, but Fethard still trailed by 1-8 to 0-4 at the interval. It wasn't an insurmountable lead, far from it, but they did themselves no favours with those seven wides in under nine minutes when play resumed.
Andrew Walsh's second goal left no way back for the St. Mogue's men, with a lot of the unsung heroes in the winning line-up ensuring that their forwards were superbly marshalled.
Indeed, only three of their eleven points were scored from play by the starting six forwards, courtesy of the Dwyer brothers, Ciarán (two) and Mikie.
The fact that the other four didn't register between them is a tribute, not just to All Star nominee Matthew O'Hanlon who would be expected to stand out at this level, but also to the Barron brothers, Brian Molloy, Liam Murphy and David Doyle who were collectively very impressive.
They have probably grown accustomed to not getting the headlines at this stage, but they sure know how to defend, denying Fethard even the sniff of a goal chance.
Who knows where this fairytale hurling run will end for the Jimmies? The immediate goal should be well within their grasp though after becoming the first New Ross District club to win the Intermediate 'A' championship which came into being in 2012, namely a Leinster quarter-final on November 5 away to St. Oliver Plunkett's, the Westmeath Intermediate victors, who defeated Wicklow's Kiltegan by 1-24 to 2-9 in Robinstown on Saturday.
St. James': Luke Murphy; Brian Molloy, Jason Barron, David Doyle; Liam Murphy, Matthew O'Hanlon, Paul Barron; Mark Molloy (capt., 0-4), Robbie Barron; Daniel Keating (0-1), Kevin O'Grady (0-6, 3 frees, 1 '65), Graeme Molloy (0-1); Shane Murphy, Andrew Walsh (2-1), Alan Walsh. Subs. - Jack O'Brien for S. Murphy (47), Mark Myler for Keating, inj. (59), Tomás Walsh for Alan Walsh (60+1), also John McDonald, Donal Barron, John Ryan, Greg Doyle, Robert Murphy, John Power, Peadar Murphy, Tom Crosbie, John Crosbie, Adam Long.
Fethard: Seán Foley; Martin Power (joint capt.), Richard Waters, Rúairí Tubrid; Mick Roche, Kevin Rowe, John Tubritt (0-2); Garrett Foley, Mark Wallace (joint capt., 0-6, 4 frees, 1 '65); Ciarán Dwyer (0-2), Daire Barden, Graham O'Grady; Chris Molloy, Mikie Dwyer (0-1), Joe Sutton. Subs. - Daniel Mullan for Waters (39), Seán Donohoe for Molloy (45), also Eddie Power, Shane Tubrid, John Rice, Ricky Rowe, Niall Roche, Alan Boland, Peter Mullan, Paul Foley, Nathan Hayes, Mikey Banville, James Dillon, Seán Sutton, Martin Doyle, Bryan Power.
Referee: Dan Crosby (Kilmore).