Castletown win after late scare
Castletown 2-11 St. Anne's 0-15
When impressive county player Donnacha Holmes slotted the ball under Paul Brennan's body and to the net in the 46th minute, it looked like Castletown had the points in the bag from this Tom Doyle Supplies Senior football championship Group A opener in Innovate Wexford Park on Saturday.
It stretched their lead to 2-10 to 0-9 after an even first-half, with the gaps starting to appear inside five minutes of the re-start when his Wexford colleague, Ben Brosnan, goaled to establish a 1-8 to 0-8 lead.
However, Castletown were left hanging on at the end, as strong-finishing St. Anne's hit six of the last seven points in a comeback inspired by a forceful substitute.
The previous night had seen Seán Kelly partner fellow Mayo man Ross Kenny as centre-halves with Wexford F.C. in their 1-1 draw at home to Cobh Ramblers.
He was sprung from the bench by the saints after that Brosnan goal, and proved a thorn in Castletown's side thereafter with his direct running and strength in possession.
Kelly struck four of those last six points, three from frees, whereas the victors only registered once after that Holmes goal when influential substitute Andrew Merrigan picked off his second point in added time, over 15 minutes later.
Castletown gave a Senior debut to last year's dual county Under-17 player, Liam Coleman, at midfield, while it was also noteworthy to see long-time forward James Holmes deployed in the half-back line, racing forward for two points before succumbing to injury.
Still, of even more interest was the presence on the sideline of ex-Irish rugby international Shane Byrne, who is one of manager Paul Bealin's selectors along with Jack Kavanagh and Joe O'Sullivan.
Castletown opted to face the breeze first and found themselves in arrears by 0-4 to nil after eleven minutes courtesy of Redmond Barry, Liam Rochford, Seán Gaul ('45), and Barry once again.
A Jody O'Shaughnessy goal attempt had been saved after a mere 29 seconds following a strong run by Donnacha Holmes, while Finn O'Driscoll sent a low shot left and wide at the other end.
Castletown settled once Donnacha Holmes opened their account in the 13th minute, the first of five points on the trot as Jonathan Bealin (free), James Holmes (two) and Ben Brosnan followed suit.
The latter also fisted wide after a defence-splitting move featuring Bealin, Liam Coleman and Jody O'Shaughnessy in that spell of dominance, but St. Anne's survived and were back on level terms (0-7 each) by the break.
Liam Rochford and Jonathan Bealin swapped points on the re-start before Conor Carty's free from the right was gathered by Donnacha Holmes who set up Brosnan for a well-taken goal.
Brosnan and Robbie Brooks went on to mess up another gilt-edged chance before Liam Coleman picked out Holmes whose goal should have ended the contest (2-10 to 0-9).
Seán Kelly and company thought otherwise, and the outcome could have been different as substitute Andy Kennedy had a low drive well saved by Anthony Masterson in the 53rd minute.
Last-gasp attempts from Diarmuid O'Keeffe and Kelly were also blocked before Castletown could finally relax with two hard-earned points in the bag.
Castletown: Anthony Masterson; Peter Devine, Danny Gardiner, Frank Roche; James Holmes (0-2), Conor Carty, Pierce Maxwell; Stephen Maloney, Liam Coleman; Jody O'Shaughnessy (capt.), Jonathan Bealin (0-3, 2 frees), Donnacha Holmes (1-2); Brendan Halpin, Ben Brosnan (1-2), Robbie Brooks. Subs. - Ross Bealin for Halpin, inj. (11), Andrew Merrigan (0-2) for J. Holmes, inj. (38), Richard Farrell for Brooks (58).
St. Anne's: Paul Brennan; Páraic O'Keeffe, Tomás Cullen (capt.), Finn O'Driscoll; Mikey O'Brien, Seán Gaul (0-4, 3 frees, 1 '45), Diarmuid O'Keeffe; Ben Moore, David O'Connor; Mikey Fogarty, Mark Furlong (0-1), Liam Rochford (0-2); Redmond Barry (0-3), Paddy Miskella, Dylan O'Brien. Subs. - Jess Codd for M. O'Brien (26), Seán Kelly (0-4, 3 frees) for Moore (35), Andy Kennedy (0-1) for D. O'Brien (52).
Referee: John Carton (Monageer-Boolavogue).