All Blacks bridge gap
Billy Browne Cup Final: All Blacks 2 Wexford Bohs 'b' 1
A stunning goal from Cormac Bates set All Blacks on their way to a hard-fought victory over Wexford Bohs in the Billy Browne Cup final in Ferrycarrig Park on Sunday.
The midfielder's sweet strike in the 18th minute lit up the venue, and when David Moore doubled their tally moments later they looked to be well on their way to victory.
All Blacks bridged a 26-year gap since their last success in this competition in 1993, but in the end they had to do it the hard way after Bohs halved the deficit through an Alan Flood penalty early in the second-half and threw everything at them in search of an equaliser.
Bohs actually began the game on the front foot, with Robbie O'Connor firing a free-kick straight at goalkeeper Eoin Cummins early on, and in the eighth minute Luke O'Neill ran on to a through ball from Eddie Pitman, but after going around the netminder his effort from an acute angle was blocked.
The Drinagh side threatened again two minutes later, with Alan Flood meeting an O'Neill cross with a downward header that bounced off the turf, forcing Cummins to tip over for a corner.
However, All Blacks took the lead out of the blue with 17 minutes on the clock and it was a goal worthy of any occasion.
Cormac Bates picked up the ball 30 yards from goal, made space for the shot and arrowed a glorious strike to the corner of the net, giving goalkeeper Rhys Doyle absolutely no chance.
The celebrations had barely died down when they added their second two minutes later.
Man of the match Jason Pettit delivered a perfectly-weighted pass from inside his own half into the danger zone, and the alert David Moore was on to it like a flash, deftly touching the ball past the netminder.
All Blacks were passing the ball around with confidence in the opening 45 minutes and Bohs rarely looked like breaking down their defence.
However, that all changed quickly just over a minute after the change of ends, with Peter Goldsmith mistiming a challenge and bringing down the tricky Luke O'Neill for a penalty.
Alan Flood took the responsibility and was coolness personified as he calmly rolled the ball to the net to put Bohs right back in it.
All Blacks came close to responding in the best possible way when Adam Devereux saw his effort blocked by the goalkeeper, but as the half wore on they understandably began to try to protect their advantage as Bohs started to pour forward.
Eddie Pitman's shot was saved at the near post by Cummins on the hour mark, while Robbie O'Connor fizzed a powerful long-range effort narrowly off target eight minutes later.
The All Blacks netminder was forced into a fantastic save with 71 minutes on the clock when a shot from substitute Shane Bergin looked destined for the corner of the net, while All Blacks had a chance to put the game to bed when Cormac Bates put John Codd in the clear, but he dragged his effort wide.
All Blacks were breathing a sigh of relief with five minutes remaining when Luke O'Neill did brilliantly on the left before teeing up Eddie Pitman, but he skied his effort over the bar.
Wexford Bohs continued to press forward to try to force extra-time, but All Blacks safely navigated the eight minutes of injury time and referee Fran Sinnott's final whistle was sweet music to their ears.
All Blacks: Eoin Cummins, Niall Moore, Jason Pettit, Peter Goldsmith, Justin Morgan, David Moore, Shane Goff, Cormac Bates, Conor Breen, Adam Devereux, John Codd (capt.). Subs. - Greg Troy for D. Moore (65), Shane Mythen for Goff (81), Mark Byrne for Pettit, inj. (87), also Mark Doyle, Mark Whelan, Seán Hogan, Fionn Byrne, Adrian Murphy, Kevin White.
Wexford Bohs: Rhys Doyle, Ryan Byrne, Gary Hall-Roche, Martin Frayne, Ben Walsh, Stuart Hayden, Robbie O'Connor, Ian Farrell (capt.), Eddie Pitman, Luke O'Neill, Alan Flood, Subs. - Shane Bergin for Hayden (52), Mikey O'Ryan for Byrne (63), Michael O'Rourke for Frayne (77), Cian Whelan for O'Connor, also Aaron McMahon, Paul Dempsey, Darragh Hayes.
Referee: Fran Sinnott. Assistant referees: Peter O'Rourke and Pat Sinnott. Fourth official: Seamus Kelly.