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Saturday 18 November 2017

Pure hurling class!

Greenstar Premier U-21 Hurling Championship Finals: St Martin's 4-27 Naomh Eanna 2-14

Dean Goodison at Bellefield

Andrew Egan (sponsor) and St. Martin's captain Mikey Coleman
Andrew Egan (sponsor) and St. Martin's captain Mikey Coleman
The victorious St. Martin's team after their magnificent victory over Naomh Eanna in the Greenstar Premier Under-21 'A' hurling final
The Naomh Éanna team who lost out to St Martin's in the Under-21 'A' final

Fearlessness is where it starts and it builds from there because this type of performance is simply impossible when there's any inhibition present. It's an inner confidence you cannot talk yourself into, it's years of striving for perfection.

St Martin's victory in the Greenstar Premier Under-21 Hurling Championship final in Bellefield on Monday last was painfully beautiful to watch. Painful because Naomh Eanna are a good, hard working bunch being massacred, beautiful because hurling doesn't get more clinical than this.

While St Martin's were rightly talked up, overwhelming favourites after cantering to the final with big, commanding victories, it shouldn't be forgotten that Gorey had also played three matches en-route and were averaging just one point a game less.

They beat a good Oylegate-Glenbrien side in the semi-final and were worthy of their spot in the decider. What they didn't have, evidently, was the defence to stop a barrage of scores being taken for all angles and distances. Who does?

There were questions asked about the amount of St Martin's players in the Wexford Under-21 squad this summer but those were always either based in jealousy, ignorance or, worse again, both.

These guys are superb, they have been that way for a long time and they likely will be for the next decade or so. Get used to it, because this St Martin's side is going to backbone a Senior contender for the foreseeable future.

In a team flush with quality that performed to this level, it's probably foolish to start picking out individual performance. That said, Jake Firman had a monstrous showing in midfield for the champions.

There were several factors beyond St Martin's control that saw the performance dip against Rathnure. On the playing side of things not having Darren Codd in that game was really emphasised by his superb showing in this game.

And what about Rory O'Connor. People will talk about the goals and they were really well taken majors. However, his third point of the game, when he skirted the sideline, letting his body drift out but keeping the ball in before nailing the point off his left side is what he's all about - producing moments that others can't.

For as hard as Gorey battled as a team, one man really stood out. Darragh Hughes was exceptional, both in the middle third and later when he went inside - bringing back memories of his fellow clubman Billy Byrne with some of his high fielding.

It was 0-5 to nothing after six minutes as Firman and Joe Coleman grabbed a couple each. That advantage increased to 0-10 to 0-2 at the end of the first quarter with Harry O'Connor scoring a lovely point and Aaron Maddock registering from inside his own half.

There were goal chances at both ends early in the second quarter. Joe Coleman dropped Mikey Coleman's clever ball, got his pulled shot away but it trickled wide. At the other end Dylan Byrne made a fantastic saves from Sean Delaney and then Hughes' free.

Three Rory O'Connor points helped the Piercestown based side into a 0-16 to 0-5 lead after 24 minutes. Gorey closed to nine when Delaney pointed when getting a rare opportunity in acres of space on the left.

But St Martin's finished the half with a flurry of scores. The crucial goal came in the 28th minute and was cruel on Naomh Eanna. Jake Firman, probably going for the long-range point, slightly under-hit it but Ross Murphy couldn't hold it and it dribbled to the net.

Accuracy was not a problem for St Martin's with the breeze, they fired just six wides with their 20 scores and were full value for the 1-19 to 0-6 interval lead. In truth, the game was over as a contest but Gorey certainly didn't approach the second half with that mentality.

That said, it took Rory O'Connor just four minutes to net twice. The first was a clinical low finish from Mikey Coleman's clever pass, the second was a rasping drive to the top, right corner after Jake Firman found him in space on the left wing.

Aodhan Doyle drifted in behind to net a little too easily from Ross Murphy's booming clearance as Gorey set about having their best spell of the game with a couple of points from Niall and Darragh Hughes following a short time later.

An almost unbelieveable ten minute spell without a score for St Martin's ended with a Joe Coleman free and with eight minutes to go Mikey Coleman found the net from another fine, searching Kyle Firman pass (4-24 to 1-13).

Darragh Hughes caught and netted from Jack Cullen's long ball down field and his side could have added other majors. However, Dylan Byrne was excellent between the posts, stopping a string of late shots on goal.

All-in-all the margin of victory was a fair one as this is a special St Martin's team. This was the club's third victory in four years at Under-21 level and their performance in the Senior grade this year suggest that it's starting to translate into adult performance too.

ST MARTIN'S: Dylan Byrne; Michael Codd, Conor Firman, Eoin O'Leary; Ben Maddock, Aaron Maddock (0-1), Joe O'Connor; Harry O'Connor (0-1), Jake Firman (1-4); Barry O'Connor (0-2), Darren Codd (0-3), Rory O'Connor (2-5); Conor Coleman, Joe Coleman (0-9, 5 frees), Mikey Coleman (1-2, capt.). Subs. - Kyle Firman for H. O'Connor (45), Johnny Hamilton for O'Leary (49), Tony Kelly for B. Maddock (49), Padraig Rossiter for M. Codd (52), Jack Devereux for C. Coleman (55), also, Callum Quirke, Philip Dempsey, Brad Cohen, Adam Cantwell.

NAOMH EANNA: Ross Murphy; Shane Stokes, Daniel Sunderland, Eoin Molloy; Gary Molloy, Jack Cullen (0-1), Jack Cushe; Aodhan Doyle (1-0), Niall Hughes (0-2); Seamus O'Donnell, Darragh Hughes (1-8, 0-3 frees, 0-2 65's), John Doyle (0-1); Sean Delaney (0-2), Gearoid Cullen (capt.), Charlie McGuckin. Subs. - Eoin McGuckin for O'Donnell (50), also, Ben Egan, Evan O'Dwyer, Nathan Byrne, Eddie O'Brien Murphy, Michael Molloy, Alan McPartlan, Eoghan Kennedy, Cillian Donohue, Larry Cullen.

REFEREE: John O'Loughlin (Monageer-Boolavogue)

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