Third time lucky for St Anne's
Greenstar Under-20 Premier 'B' Championship Final: St Anne's 3-13 Hollow Rovers 1-8
St Anne's gained some ample reward for their rich contribution to the hurling year as a whole when they availed of a storming start to shake off a subsequent Hollow Rovers revival and capture the Greenstar Under-20 Premier 'B' championship crown in St. Patrick's Park, Enniscorthy, on Saturday.
It was a case of third time lucky for the boys in blue as they atoned somewhat for their defeats in the Senior and Junior 'B' deciders, and it was a particularly welcome end to a long year for the players who had featured in those campaigns.
Darragh Furlong and Kevin Breen both lined out in the Senior championship, while Barry Roche, Brian Kavanagh, Andy Kennedy, Dylan O'Brien, Kyle Kennedy and Conor Ryan had played with their second string in two rousing tussles with Rathnure.
In another notable link, it's an encouraging sign for the ongoing prosperity of the club to note that all five Under-20 mentors were Senior players, namely Liam Rochford, Mark Furlong, Tomás Cullen, Kevin Whelan and Páraic O'Keeffe.
St. Anne's stormed into a 1-6 to nil lead after 16 minutes, and it didn't require any special powers of observation to work out why Hollow Rovers were so ring-rusty in the early stages.
Their big semi-final victory over Rathgarogue-Cushinstown occurred as long ago as September 4 - 80 days to be precise - whereas St. Anne's had been in action just one week earlier and had the added benefit of extra-time into the bargain before they accounted for Na Fianna.
The excellent Dylan O'Brien - who finished with 2-4 from play to his name - needed a mere 48 seconds to post their opening point, and his two fellow sharpshooters quickly got in on the act.
All bar one goal of the winning tally came from O'Brien, Darragh Furlong and Kyle Kennedy, and the Hollow defence found it very difficult to cope with the threat they posed even though full-back Eric Nolan did make a number of clearances.
Furlong (free), Kennedy and Furlong (play) made it 0-4 to nil before the latter moved into the left corner to gather a fine pass into space from Kevin Breen.
The full-forward - with number 12 on his back - duly headed for goal and it took a fine reflex save from Mark Quigley to knock his goalbound attempt over the bar.
However, the netminder was picking the ball out of his net two minutes later, after a stroke of good fortune aided St. Anne's.
County Minor Justin Moran was undoubtedly aiming for a point when he let fly from long range on the left, but when the ball dropped short close to the right-hand post, its flight was misjudged by Quigley and ended up in the net (1-6 to nil).
Even at that early stage, the game was in danger of drifting away from the Hollow, who had lost last year's Division 2 final to neighbours HWH-Bunclody by five points.
The Duffry Rovers and Marshalstown-Castledockrell combination knuckled down and really grew into the game though, so much so, in fact, that they held St. Anne's scoreless for the remainder of the half while reducing the gap by 1-4 in the process.
Michael Kinsella's focus in recent weeks had been on his involvement in the National Senior boxing championships, but the mentors were sufficiently worried to introduce him to the half-forward line at the end of the first quarter.
County Under-20 Diarmuid Doyle was another notable non-starter and, while his first act upon entering the fray was to collect a yellow card for a dig at Eoin Ryan, he showed his quality before the break with a trademark goal.
Four points had already been pulled back by Gearóid Doyle (two frees plus a '65) and the Hollow's other county man, Cian Fitzhenry, before the Enniscorthy District side rattled the net in the 29th minute.
Doyle played a neat pass into the path of his namesake, Diarmuid, who showed a clean pair of heels to Eoin Ryan as he turned smartly and gave Jack Donovan no chance from close range (1-6 to 1-4).
They may have looked very convincing in the early stages, but St. Anne's were in a battle at that stage and finally responded on the re-start with their first score in 18 minutes when Kyle Kennedy picked off his second point.
Darragh Furlong then earned and converted a free before Cian Fitzhenry stooped to grab a Barry Doyle pass and fire over a sweet point in one swift movement (1-8 to 1-5).
Diarmuid Doyle collected a crossfield Fitzhenry pass on the next Hollow attack and was soloing forward with menace before losing possession, and the ball was quickly transferred towards the dressing-room end where the on-form Kyle Kennedy left St. Anne's four points to the good.
Fitzhenry and Dylan O'Brien swapped points, with the latter doing superbly to split the posts despite being under heavy pressure from two opponents.
Darragh Furlong latched on to the break from an O'Brien line ball to make it 1-11 to 1-6, and the outcome was well and truly decided when St. Anne's pounced for a second goal in the 53rd minute.
O'Brien did untold damage after moving from centre-forward to the edge of the square, and when he caught a long delivery from the impressive Brian Kavanagh, there was no way he was going to be stopped from finding the net.
A fourth point from play by the stylish Fitzhenry was followed by a successful free from Darragh Furlong, and the third time lucky theme continued when St. Anne's goaled again in the 56th minute.
The circumstances were somewhat similar, as this time it was a Conor Ryan delivery that was won by the rampant Dylan O'Brien.
One had to feel for Hollow goalkeeper Mark Quigley, though, because he made point-blank saves, not once but twice, from O'Brien before the Anne's top scorer finally rattled the net at the third attempt (3-12 to 1-7).
Just for good measure, the talented number 11 picked off a point to bring his personal haul to 2-4, with a late consolation response from Diarmuid Doyle arriving deep into added time.
Prior to that, referee Stephen Burke had been busy with his red card, having gone through his first county final up to that stage without any major talking points.
However, a late dispute saw him dismiss Barry Doyle (Hollow Rovers) and Justin Moran (St. Anne's), before Kyle Kennedy was also sent-off one minute later for a wild pull. Only Moran could have grounds for feeling hard done by, and I certainly didn't see him doing anything to merit dismissal either before or after the helmet was pulled off his head.
He had dispossessed Doyle with a quality flick very close to my own vantage point, and if he did make contact with his opponent on his follow-through, it looked unavoidable to me and there didn't appear to be any malicious intent.
For the record, Burke awarded the sides 13 frees apiece, while St. Anne's struck ten wides and the Hollow had six as the curtain came down on the domestic Under-20 hurling campaign for 2019.
St. Anne's: Jack Donovan; Michael Carroll, Andrew Walsh, Eoin Ryan; Justin Moran (1-0), Brian Kavanagh, Barry Roche; Kevin Breen, Andy Kennedy (capt.); Philip Rawson, Dylan O'Brien (2-4), Kyle Kennedy (0-3); Cillian Byrne, Darragh Furlong (0-6, 3 frees), Conor Ryan. Subs. - Gary Sinnott for Rawson (51), Luke Redmond for Carroll (55), Karim Byrne for C. Ryan (60+1), also Killian Brennan-Roche, Paddy White, Seán Staples, Luke Kelly, Jake Walsh, Peter Cleary, Barry Stone, Noel Browne, Ryan Finnegan, Dylan Kavanagh.
Hollow Rovers: Mark Quigley; Jamie Roban (capt.), Eric Nolan, Ken Doyle; Mark Morris, John Dunne, Alan Doyle; Seamus Doyle, Cathal Roche; Seán McLoughlin, Barry Doyle, Aaron Smith; Tom Lambert, Gearóid Doyle (0-3, 2 frees, 1 '65), Cian Fitzhenry (0-4). Subs. - Michael Kinsella for Smith (15), Diarmuid Doyle (1-1) for Lambert (25), also Conor Coleman, Darragh O'Gorman, David Kinsella, Ryan Quigley, George Kenny, Jack Foley.
Referee: Stephen Burke (Volunteers).