Vols capture fifth Junior title
Troy Murphy's perfect timing went a long way towards deciding the outcome in Innovate Wexford Park on Saturday when he pounced for the decisive goal as Volunteers recorded a double scores victory over Shamrocks in a dour all-town battle in the Enniscorthy Farm Systems Junior football championship final.
Volunteers 1-7 Shamrocks 0-5
The sides were deadlocked on 0-3 each nearly six minutes into the second-half when Peter Walsh sent in a delivery from the left which hung invitingly under Thomas O'Brien's crossbar. And the Vols full-forward jumped and managed to do enough to force the ball to the net without fouling the Shamrocks netminder, giving his side the impetus to drive on and capture this title for the first time since 2008.
Indeed, they played their brightest football during that third quarter, with half-time substitutes Eoin McCarthy and Donal O'Connor making immediate impacts at midfield and right corner-forward respectively.
McCarthy had caught the throw-in, and the delivery which followed from Stephen Burke was won by O'Connor. He duly earned a free which Peter Walsh tapped over to equalise, and once that Murphy goal quickly followed there was no looking back for the Vols.
Just a minute after taking the lead, there was a carbon copy of sorts when Walsh directed another kick into the square, with the only difference this time being that Murphy's fist directed it over rather than under the bar.
Walsh followed up with a wide but the subsequent kick-out down the middle was won by Keith Kearney who returned it over the bar with interest. All of a sudden that unanswered 1-3 had pushed the John Street crew into a 1-5 to 0-3 lead, and the recovery hopes of Shamrocks were dealt another serious blow in the 40th minute.
A few shapes were thrown away from the action as Kearney kicked a wide, and when order was quickly restored a straight red was brandished to John O'Connor of Shamrocks, along with yellows for his team-mate, Anthony Wallace, and teenage Vols wing-back Mikey Lawlor.
Shamrocks top marksman Emmet Quirke did manage to kick a good pointed free off the ground to give his side their first score of the second-half in the 44th minute, but they squandered a couple of gilt-edged goal chances too.
Both fell to Seán Wildes who had moved from midfield to full-forward. Team captain Karl Cullen put a lovely pass at his feet as he faced John Cody in a one-on-one situation in the 49th minute, but his first-time shot was weak and it was comfortably saved.
Nearly two minutes later he was given another chance after good approach work by Jack Moorehouse and Ronan Gahan, but the shot was blazed wide and at that stage the Templeshannon side must have realised it wasn't going to be their day.
The Vols had restored the five-point gap in between, with international snooker player Shane Bates cued up by Peter Walsh and finishing as comfortably as if he was potting the last black after a big break.
The leaders struck a couple of wides to bring their tally to eleven over the next scoreless ten minutes, but they remained comfortable throughout that period. Peter Walsh calmly converted a free with just over 60 seconds of normal time left to make it 1-7 to 0-4, and they were in defensive mode for the remainder of the game.
Full-back Mick Murphy, one of their strongest performers, took one for the team so to speak when he was black-carded for hauling down John Kavanagh. It was followed by a red as he had been booked 16 minutes before, but the free that arose was driven wide by Colin Sheehan, one of eight misses in all from the Enniscorthy men.
Emmet Quirke lobbed in another free which was cleared, while his attempt on goal was deflected over the bar via a defender deep into added time. Moments later referee James Mullally called a halt to proceedings and that sweet feeling of county final victory was savoured by the Vols who christened their new jerseys in some style.
A mere five scores had been recorded in a first-half featuring six wides apiece and a lot of nervous play, although both defences were in solid form. While John O'Connor had the first miss for the Shamrocks, the Vols were the bigger offenders with four wasted efforts before Emmet Quirke got the eventual losers off the mark from a ninth-minute free.
O'Connor missed a scoreable free before a strong run by Vols full-back Mick Murphy led to Peter Walsh's equaliser in the eleventh minute, with Stephen Burke the link man in between. A high kick from Troy Murphy then edged the Vols ahead for the first time, but they didn't score again in the 20-plus minutes before the interval.
Shamrocks were unlucky not to grab a goal in the 20th minute when John O'Connor fired a stinging shot from the left towards the far post. Netminder John Cody was beaten and the woodwork came to his rescue, but it did give the men in the hoops some impetus as Emmet Quirke levelled from another free before good work by Seán Wildes set up Maurice Casey for the first of just two points they managed from play.
They retained that 0-3 to 0-2 lead up to half-time, but the Vols were the dominant force on the re-start and thoroughly deserved their victory and promotion to Intermediate 'A' ranks for 2016. The Fergie Duff Memorial Cup commemorates a former Vice-Chairman of the County Board, and it was presented to long-serving Volunteers stalwart Anthony Walsh by the current occupant of that role, Noel O'Keeffe.
The captain was one of six playing survivors from the triumphant team of 2008 along with Alan Donovan, Keith Furlong, Aidan Roche, Donal O'Connor and Eoin McCarthy, who was between the posts seven years ago. Substitutes Jason Kehoe and Paul Daly were also part of both squads while Peter Walsh didn't play in 2008 but was a member of the panel.
This victory gives the Vols outright leadership on the Junior football championship roll of honour with five titles, as they were level on four before Saturday with town rivals Sarsfields, Ballyhogue and the old Taghmon club. Prior to 2008 they had captured this crown in 1909, 1936 and 1937.
Four Shamrocks men remained from their last Junior success (and second in all) ten years ago: the Weafers, Mick and Eddie, Anthony Wallace and Colin Sheehan.
Volunteers: John Cody; Brian Sheridan, Mick Murphy, Anthony Walsh (capt.); Jason Kearns, Alan Donovan, Mikey Lawlor; Stephen Burke, Keith Furlong; Ciarán Hillery, Keith Kearney (0-1), Peter Walsh (0-3, 2 frees); Eoin O'Shea, Troy Murphy (1-2), Shane Bates (0-1). Subs. - Eoin McCarthy for Donovan (HT), Donal O'Connor for O'Shea (HT), Craig Kearney for Bates (51), John Browne for Lawlor (52), Aidan Roche for T. Murphy (56), also Dylan Lawlor, Paddy Glover, Paul Daly, Tom Murphy, Jason Kehoe, Aaron McGuire.
Shamrocks: Thomas O'Brien; Ricky Murphy, Mick Weafer, Podge Dwyer; Eddie Weafer, Anthony Wallace, Philip Freeman; Seán Wildes, John Kavanagh; Ronan Gahan, Emmet Quirke (0-4, 3 frees), Karl Cullen (capt.); Barry Dobbs, John O'Connor, Maurice Casey (0-1). Subs. - Jack Moorehouse for Dobbs (49), Colin Sheehan for Casey (49), Robert Moorehouse for Cullen (52), Shane Larkin for E. Weafer (58), also Aaron O'Toole, Rhys Dunne, Craig Dwyer, Lar McDonald, Brandon O'Connor.
Referee: James Mullally (Gusserane).