Fethard hold off late Blackwater revival to book spot in decider
FETHARD, having been in control for so long, had to withstand a late Blackwater scoring surge before eventually emerging with a two-point victory from this entertaining Under-21 hurling Roinn 1 championship semi-final at Taghmon on Thursday last.
Having led for the entire 60 minutes, Fethard nearly slipped up in a tense finish. Leading by six points (1-13 to 1-7) with two minutes of normal time remaining, they seemed content to protect their lead, but in a nervy finish conceded two points, before Shane O'Leary crashed home a goal from a 25-metre free two minutes into additional time.
With just two points separating the sides, Fethard still had some defending to do, as O'Leary dropped a free dangerously into the goalmouth, but somehow the defence stood firm, managing to scramble the ball to safety as referee Brendan Martin sounded the long final whistle much to their relief.
While Fethard always seemed the more likely winners, Blackwater blew a number of scoring opportunities, particularly from frees, as Dean Wright's insistence on seeking out goals from placed balls came back to haunt them, while he also sent two scoreable second-half frees wide of the posts.
But in the end the ability of the Fethard attack to finish their moves clinically separated the sides. Now Fethard can look forward to a final clash with Ferns St. Aidan's which should produce an extremely fitting climax to the campaign.
Fethard enjoyed a dream start as inside 30 seconds Alan Swan swept through the defence to power the ball to the net, giving his side a lead they were never subsequently to lose. The same player added a point three minutes later before Blackwater opened their account through a sixth-minute Dean Wright pointed free.
Seán Purcell reduced the deficit further with a point but Fethard responded with five unanswered points through John Tubritt, Darren Foley from a long free, Graham O'Grady and two excellent efforts from Ciarán Dwyer, leaving them leading by 1-6 to 0-2 after 20 minutes.
Two minutes later Blackwater hauled themselves back into the game. Dean Wright had a 25-metre effort for goal deflected into the path of Shane O'Leary who shot first-time to the net. Wright followed with a pointed '65 before Mossy O'Brien closed the first-half scoring with a point, leaving just two separating the sides (1-6 to 1-4) at the interval.
Given their opening half display it was no surprise when O'Grady extended his side's lead within four minutes of the re-start with two pointed frees, before Diarmuid Murphy opened his side's second-half account with a fine point from midfield.
But Fethard continued to control matters until Blackwater's late scoring surge came ever so close to providing a dramatic finish.
Fethard: Kieran Furlong; Seán Donohoe, Cathal Walsh, Martin O'Hara; Daire Barden, Darren Foley (0-1 free), Noel Colfer; Edmond Power, John Tubritt (0-2); Conan Murphy, Graham O'Grady (0-6 frees), Jeff Barry; Alan Swan (1-1), Peter Mullan, Ciarán Dwyer (0-3). Sub. - Niall Roche for Murphy, inj.
Blackwater: James Donohoe; Dara Walsh, Richard Blake, Ian Curran; Gavin O'Toole, Kevin O'Brien, Kevin O'Toole; Diarmuid Murphy (0-1), Joey Murphy; Seán Purcell (0-1), Dean Wright (0-3, 1 free, 1 '65), Jack Sheridan (0-1); Mossy O'Brien (0-1), Shane O'Leary (2-1 frees), Dara Buckley.
Referee: Brendan Martin (Ballyhogue).