Saturday 19 January 2019

Kilanerin are back

Kilanerin 2-9 St. Martin's 0-14

Paudie Kelly of St. Martin’s under pressure from Dean O’Toole and Denis Jones
Paudie Kelly of St. Martin’s under pressure from Dean O’Toole and Denis Jones

Alan Aherne

Kilanerin are just one hour away from completing an Intermediate and Senior football double in successive years for the third time in their history after surviving a late St. Martin's onslaught to advance to the Tom Doyle Supplies championship final in Innovate Wexford Park on Sunday.

It was frantic stuff in the closing stages as last year's runners-up registered the last two points to reduce the deficit to the minimum and, in truth, they had ample opportunities to force a replay.

However, one very bad wide from in front of the posts, a cheap giveaway of possession from a line ball, and the wrong option taken from their last chance, meant that St. Martin's must carry the tag of the nearly men in this grade for another year.

At least they have the defence of the Pettitt's Senior hurling crown to concentrate on, but it looks like they will continue to be a difficult team to beat in football, before ultimately falling short, unless they are willing to devote more time to the game at the business end of the season.

Kilanerin, in contrast, make no secret of their preference for the big ball, and it's a major achievement to make it to the Senior final at the first attempt and thus follow in the footsteps of their successful teams of 1974 and 1993.

St. Martin's took a calculated risk by winning the toss but opting to face the elements first, and they left themselves with a lot to do as they trailed by 2-4 to 0-5 at half-time.

Their decision not to deploy a sweeper was highly surprising given the presence of Matty Forde and Conor Devitt in a two-man full-forward line, and every time Kilanerin broke the vast empty spaces ahead of them were clearly evident from the stand.

Still, lady luck did play a part in a tonic early goal for the team appearing in a first semi-final since 2010 as, when a Páuric Hughes point attempt came back off the post in the second minute, it fell into the arms of veteran Forde who placed the ball in the net.

That lead should have been doubled in an instant, with Niall Hughes getting a touch on Luke White's kick-out and knocking it into the path of midfield colleague Niall Breen.

He in turn found Forde who was hauled down for a penalty by Willie Devereux, but Niall Hughes couldn't convert the spot kick as White dived to his left and kept it out.

Ciarán Lyng opened the St. Martin's account with the first of his five points from play, but Matty Forde set up his nephew, Seán, for a response before Jamie Carty converted a free (1-1 to 0-2).

Matty Forde and Conor Firman exchanged points, but it was notable that Kilanerin were never behind in this game even though their rivals got to within one for the first of just two times when Barry O'Connor registered in the 15th minute (1-2 to 0-4).

The ground opened up in front of Mark Boland as he availed of a Niall Breen handpass to restore the two-point gap, and Seán Forde then stepped up to curl over a fine left-footed free from the right corner.

And the latter duo combined for the second goal in the 21st minute, with Breen soloing into a dangerous position before off-loading to young Forde who calmly picked his spot for a finish that his prolific uncle would have been proud of (2-4 to 0-4).

St. Martin's almost replied quickly when Ciarán Lyng and Jack O'Connor combined to put Barry O'Connor through, but Tom Hughes advanced smartly to smother his shot.

Jamie Carty did convert a free to narrow the gap to five at half-time, and when the action resumed he formed one-third of a trio of big men in the full-forward line along with Barry O'Connor and Daithí Waters.

The latter had switched with Jack O'Connor, and it was clear early on that an old-style route one approach was the preferred Martin's tactic as captain Aaron Maddock let fly with long kicks at every opportunity.

Early points followed from Carty and Lyng, the latter after Barry O'Connor skimmed the crossbar with a shot, before Seán Forde responded for Kilanerin in the 34th minute (2-5 to 0-7).

O'Connor and Matty Forde exchanged pointed frees, but St. Martin's were finding it difficult to break down an opposing defence packed with bodies.

Lyng sold a lovely dummy before making it 2-6 to 0-9 in the 42nd minute, only for Peter Hughes to hit back immediately.

Lyng and Ben Maddock left two between the sides, but a super crossfield pass by Conor Devitt created the space for Dean O'Toole to tap over with ten minutes left (2-8 to 0-11).

The excellent Lyng, now closer to goal as Daithí Waters drifted out, saw his fifth point cancelled by substitute Lee Owley with his first touch, but most of the last six minutes plus three extra featured St. Martin's on the attack.

Jamie Carty and substitute Darren Codd made it a one-point game, but Ryan Murphy missed a great chance for the leveller.

A Bobby Hughes free dropped short at the other end, with Matty Forde having departed eight minutes earlier, and that led to one last chance for St. Martin's.

However, when a defender got a hand to Kyle Firman's cross from the left corner that was intended for Ciarán Lyng, the final blast of John Carton's whistle was sweet music to the ears of the Kilanerin faithful who will switch to cheering on Tara Rocks in the Top Oil Intermediate 'A' hurling semi-final next Sunday.

Kilanerin: Tom Hughes; Aidan Jones (capt.), Colm Kavanagh, Rhys Owley; Denis Jones, Gavin O'Toole, Páuric Hughes; Niall Hughes, Niall Breen; Mark Boland (0-1), Seán Forde (1-3, 0-1 free), Dean O'Toole (0-1); Peter Hughes (0-1), Matty Forde (1-2, 0-1 free), Conor Devitt. Subs. - Emmet O'Toole for Boland (37), Bobby Hughes for P. Hughes (49), Lee Owley (0-1) for M. Forde (53).

St. Martin's: Luke White; Joe O'Connor, Willie Devereux, Philip Dempsey; Conor Firman (0-1), Aaron Maddock (capt.), Paudie Kelly; Daithí Waters, Ben Maddock (0-1); Peter Barry, Ciarán Lyng (0-5), Jake Firman; Jamie Carty (0-4, 2 frees), Jack O'Connor, Barry O'Connor (0-2, 1 free). Subs. - Patrick O'Connor for Barry (HT), Mark Maloney for Joe O'Connor (40), Darren Codd (0-1) for J. Firman (43), Ryan Murphy for B. Maddock (57), Kyle Firman for C. Firman (58), Mikey Coleman for Dempsey (58).

Referee: John Carton (Monageer-Boolavogue).

Gorey Guardian