Wall kicks late winner in derby
Gusserane 0-13 St. James' 0-12
The rivalry and intensity of the exchanges between the New Ross District clubs is one of the main attractions of the Tom Doyle Supplies Senior football championship, and another absorbing encounter was served up in chilly O'Kennedy Park on Saturday when Sam Wall's injury time point granted Gusserane a narrow Group B win over near neighbours St. James'.
The 2016 titleholders just about prevailed against the victors of 2015, but it was a game of swaying fortunes and it most definitely could have gone either way.
First round losses to Starlights and Shelmaliers respectively meant that the two points on offer were a precious commodity even at this early stage of the season.
And although Gusserane squandered the double scores 0-10 to 0-5 lead they held in the 38th minute, having been 7-1 ahead at an earlier stage, they dug deep to reel off the last three points after St. James' had hit seven on the bounce in an inspired spell of dominance.
Both sides were missing some key figures, with Gusserane's 2016 captain, Graeme Cullen, in Australia while long-term injury victim Adrian Flynn was anxiously patrolling the sideline.
As for St. James', they were even worse off given that Kevin O'Grady is out of the country, Jamie Myler has transferred to Horeswood, and Matthew O'Hanlon didn't tog out once again owing to a knee injury.
A similar ongoing problem meant that ex-Wexford and Leinster stalwart Graeme Molloy could only make a late appearance at full-forward, so in the circumstances they were unlucky not to leave the New Ross venue with at least a draw.
Gusserane kicked into the dressing-room end first and surged into a 0-7 to 0-1 lead by the 26th minute, with some of their point-taking from distance of the highest quality.
A Tommy Walsh free had cancelled Cillian Kehoe's opener which arrived after 32 seconds, but the O'Rahilly's reeled off the next six scores thanks to Seán Ryan, Páraic Conway, John Roche, Conway again, Mark Rossiter, and Ryan with his second.
St. James' steadied the ship before half-time as Darragh Lyons pointed a couple of frees off the ground, with the first ending their 24-minute barren period.
However, they could have been even closer than 7-3 in arrears at the break, as Lyons didn't get enough height into a third attempt before a handy point was squandered when a close-in free in search of a goal was intercepted by Eoin Ryan, one of four young newcomers to this level for the winners along with substitutes Tommy Ryan, Kevin O'Donohoe and Donal Kiely.
St. James' kept the momentum going on the re-start with points from Greg Doyle (a beauty from distance) and free-taker Lyons.
The momentum swung back in Gusserane's favour though, and Mark Rossiter was the key figure.
He converted a straightforward free before striking a brilliant point under pressure, and then he planted a beautful long pass into the chest of Seán 'Mini' Ryan who curled one over with his left peg to make it 0-10 to 0-5 in the 38th minute.
What followed was a complete transformation as St. James' enjoyed an exciting purple patch, with Brian Molloy very prominent at midfield while half-time substitute Adam Parle added a focal point to their attack.
The Ramsgrange side kicked seven points on the trot between the 40th and 52nd minutes, three from the inspired Molloy as well as contributions from Lyons (two frees), Louth inter-county hurler Mark Molloy, and Parle.
Jason Barron had a goal chance in that period too after catching a crossfield Brian Molloy free from the right, but he was tackled as he kicked and that enabled Micheál Ryan to make the save.
Gusserane looked in serious trouble, but they rallied the troops again and edged over the line with three unanswered points in the last five minutes plus added time.
Shane Cullen knocked over a free, and Cillian Kehoe's mark from the kick-out was vital as it started a move that ended with Kehoe kicking the equaliser from a Seán Ryan pass.
Both sides missed a chance apiece - an effort from Kehoe that dropped short followed by a Jason Barron wide - before the winner arrived at the end of the first of three added minutes.
Gusserane waited patiently to create an opening before Páraic Conway found Sam Wall in a pocket of space to the right of the posts, and his sole score of the evening warmed the hearts of the blue and gold faithful sheltering from the biting cold in the stand.
Gusserane: Micheál Ryan; Jack Burford, Mark O'Neill, Eoin Ryan; Liam Dillon (capt.), Gavin Sheehan, Adrian Redmond; Mark Rossiter (0-3, 1 free), John Roche (0-1); Cillian Kehoe (0-2), Kenneth Cahill, Sam Wall (0-1); Seán Ryan (0-3), Shane Cullen (0-1 free), Páraic Conway (0-2). Subs. - Tommy Ryan for Roche, temp. (22-23), Ryan for Dillon, inj. (HT), Kevin O'Donohoe for Roche (34), Donal Kiely for E. Ryan (47), Roche for Rossiter, inj. (54).
St. James': John Ryan; Paul Barron (capt.), Greg Doyle (0-1), Robbie Barron; Darragh Lyons (0-5 frees), Jason Barron, David Doyle; Brian Molloy (0-3), Brendan Doyle; Daniel Keating, Alan Walsh, Mark Molloy (0-1); Tommy Walsh (0-1 free), Shane Murphy, Donal Barron. Subs. - Liam Murphy for T. Walsh (29), Adam Parle (0-1) for A. Walsh (HT), Graeme Molloy for D. Barron (47), Brian Kennedy for L. Murphy, black card (55), Michael O'Grady for Keating, inj. (58).
Referee: Anthony Tobin (Geraldine O'Hanrahans).