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Tuesday 19 November 2019

Super Shels deliver in style

Shelmaliers 4-14 Kilanerin 1-7

Eoin Doyle receiving the cup from Margaret Doyle (Co. Secretary).
Eoin Doyle receiving the cup from Margaret Doyle (Co. Secretary).

Alan Aherne in Innovate Wexford Park

Perfection is rarely attained in any sporting sphere, particularly in a two-horse race, but Shelmaliers came closer than most to pulling it off with a superb display that rendered Saturday's Tom Doyle Supplies Senior football championship final replay in Innovate Wexford Park a one-sided contest from a very early stage.

Kilanerin had simply no answer to the power, athleticism and pace of the new kings of the county as they were attacked from every angle and couldn't cope with the onslaught.

It was a marvellous performance on the whole from the richly-deserving first-time winners who led by 1-6 to 0-1 at the break, before an A.J. Lehane goal just 33 seconds after the re-start effectively made victory a certainty.

At one stage the scoreboard read an incredible 4-10 to 0-3 as the Shels really started to enjoy themselves, and their final winning margin of 16 points was the highest-ever in a replayed decider, and the best in general since Kilanerin themselves inflicted a 1-23 to 0-6 hammering on Horeswood 15 years ago.

The only negative aspect was some wayward first-half shooting from the wind-aided winners, as they chalked up ten wides without any in reply and the overall count read 15-2.

Replays are notoriously difficult to predict, but it's doubtful if anyone could have envisaged the near-total dominance of the Shels who were clearly thriving after getting that first final appearance under their belts.

Official man of the match Eoghan Nolan and his wily midfield partner, Brian Malone, set the tone with their hard running direct at the opposing defence, with Niall Hughes unable to exert the same influence on this occasion despite his best efforts.

Shelmaliers were intent on taking on their rivals at every opportunity and keeping them on the back foot, and that message was received loud and clear too by Simon Donohoe and Glen Malone as their back-up provided from the half-back line made massive inroads.

Giving Ciarán O'Shaughnessy the man-marking duty on Matty Forde also worked a treat, with the maestro held scoreless from play on an afternoon when all bar two points of the Kilanerin tally arrived from placed balls.

In fairness, the service was virtually non-existent, and Forde didn't even have one shot at the posts from open play. O'Shaughnessy won the first 50-50 between them in the seventh minute after a first-time punt forward by Forde's nephew, Seán, and as the half wore on the veteran drifted out to the middle third in a bid to get on the ball and somehow bring his side into the game.

Of course, the further Matty was forced to venture away from the Clonard end posts, the better it was for the Shels, and he was so far back at one stage that he blocked a point attempt by Simon Donohoe between his own 13- and 20-metre lines.

Given the damage he did from that right half-back role in the drawn game, the one thing Kilanerin couldn't afford to do was allow Donohoe to get into the shooting zone again.

Young Páraic Hughes had the task of pinning him down, but disaster struck for the north county side with a mere 62 seconds gone.

The outstanding Eoghan Nolan claimed a mark after Craig McCabe kicked the first of his team's ten wides before the interval, and his forceful run ended with a pass to his right to Donohoe who calmly planted a low shot past Tom Hughes for a dream start.

Kilanerin had won the toss and opted to face the wind first, but this wasn't how it was meant to be from their point of view.

Nolan picked up an injury in that move which forced him to run it off at left corner-forward for a while, but he wasn't deterred in the slightest as a neat A.J. Lehane delivery into space gave him the room to make it 1-1 to nil in the fifth minute.

Although a trip on Niall Breen resulted in Matty Forde getting Kilanerin off the mark midway through the opening quarter, their next score didn't arrive until early in the second-half.

Indeed, they were under so much pressure that they only had one more kick at the posts before the break, and that attempt by Peter Hughes in the 27th minute fell short.

The only thing that stood between the Shels and an unassailable interval lead was their wayward finishing, as poor handling and distribution from their rivals presented them with ample chances.

All the same, 1-6 to 0-1 was still a nice advantage to take into the break after Lehane (free and play), Nolan, captain Eoin Doyle and Lehane again all added to the leaders' haul.

If Kilanerin thought that things couldn't get any worse, then they were in for a rude awakening when play resumed.

With just 33 seconds gone, the gap they were chasing was stretched to eleven points after Glen Malone worked the ball to Lehane to the left of the posts at the Clonard end, and he cut inside before placing a low shot in Tom Hughes' net (2-6 to 0-1).

Craig McCabe added a pointed free after a foul on Eoghan Nolan, before Peter Hughes finally kicked one of just two Kilanerin scores from play - and their first in nearly half an hour of action - in the 35th minute.

Simon Donohoe replied swiftly before setting up Brian Malone to make it 2-9 to 0-2, with Seán Forde pulling one back from a free before the Shels really started to enjoy themselves.

Glen Malone and Conor Hearne combined to set up Ross Banville for a cracking goal finished high to the right corner, with the victors' youngest player following in the footsteps of his father, John, who was full-forward on the sole title-winning Fethard side 20 years ago (3-9 to 0-3).

The post denied Craig McCabe goal number four after an Eoin Doyle pass before Banville added a point following a one-two with Donohoe, and the Shels were in dreamland after their lead was widened to a game-high 19 points in the 45th minute.

A swift breakaway movement as Kilanerin tried to push up saw the ball go through the hands of Eoin Doyle and Conor Hearne before Eoghan Nolan capped his magical performance with a coolly-taken goal.

What happened after that was merely academic, with Niall Hughes and Matty Forde (free) kicking Kilanerin points before substitute Jody Donohoe and Glen Malone added their names to the list of Shels marksmen (4-12 to 0-5).

Forde drilled a consolation penalty goal straight down the middle in the 56th minute after the otherwise impressive James Cash seemed to lose the flight of a high hit-and-hope delivery by Wexford's sole All Star and pushed Niall Hughes in the process.

After further consolation pointed frees from Forde and substitute Bobby Hughes, it was entirely fitting that the last word should go to the impressive new champions.

Substitute Tommy Barron, a great servant over the years, powered through for a fine point before Craig McCabe blazed an added time penalty over the bar after another replacement, Seán Keane-Carroll, was hauled back, but the miss didn't make any difference in the overall scheme of things.

Shortly before, with the action still going on, Kilanerin boss Pat Forde had sportingly shaken hands with Craig's shrewd and understated father Benny, the mastermind of this fine success, on the sideline to acknowledge that his side had lost to a considerably better team on the day.

Shelmaliers now join that elite group with Senior titles to both codes in their club's name, and they have an immediate new focus as Meath champions St. Peter's of Dunboyne will visit Innovate Wexford Park for the first round of the AIB Leinster Club championship on Sunday.

Shelmaliers: James Gordon; Andre O'Brien, Ciarán O'Shaughnessy, James Cash; Simon Donohoe (1-1), Glen Malone (0-1), Graham Staples; Eoghan Nolan (1-2), Brian Malone (0-1); Aidan Cash, Eoin Doyle (capt., 0-1), Ross Banville (1-1); A.J. Lehane (1-3, 0-1 free), Craig McCabe (0-2, 1 free, 1 pen.), Conor Hearne. Subs. - Jody Donohoe (0-1) for Banville (51), Páraic O'Leary for Hearne (55), Seán Keane-Carroll for Lehane (55), Tommy Barron (0-1) for Staples (57), Brian Murphy for Doyle (58), Cian Manley for O'Brien (60), also Graham Lawler-Ryan, Dan Campbell, Liam Rockett, Conor Walsh, Craig Parker, Eoin O'Leary, Robbie Staples.

Kilanerin: Tom Hughes; Rhys Owley, Colm Kavanagh, Aidan Jones (capt.); Mark Boland, Gavin O'Toole, Denis Jones; Niall Hughes (0-1), Niall Breen; Peter Hughes (0-1), Dean O'Toole, Páraic Hughes; Seán Forde, Matty Forde (1-3, 1-0 pen., 0-3 frees), Conor Devitt. Subs. - Mark Gethings for S. Forde (18), Seán Forde (0-1 free) for Gethings (HT), Bobby Hughes (0-1 free) for D. Jones (34), Emmet O'Toole for Peter Hughes (43), Ben O'Connor for Boland (43), Edward Hughes for Kavanagh, inj. (47), also Stephen Hughes, Lee Owley, Patrick Fortune, Richard Hughes, Gearóid O Súilleabháin, Cathal O'Reilly.

Referee: Seán Whelan (St. Martin's).

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