Depleted Martin’s on top
St Martin's 1-20 Shelmaliers 0-14
St. Martin's may have been depleted, but they still relished the challenge laid down by Shelmaliers before eventually emerging with a deserved nine-point victory in this entertaining EEW ACHL Division 1 semi-final in Piercestown on Friday.
When James Cash was straight red-carded ten minutes from the end for what appeared to be a helmet infringement, the home side led by three points, and were looking comfortable as they had through the previous 50 minutes.
And with a numerical advantage they powered their way through the closing stages to take what was an impressive victory in the end.
While St. Martin's drive and composure saw them dictate the pattern of the game for the most part, Shelmaliers' battling qualities kept them in contention for a long time.
Really though, they were striving to stay with their opponents through the 50 minutes, but they seldom looked like mounting a winning challenge, since the goal they so badly needed eluded them throughout.
Glen Malone after 30 seconds and Jake Firman exchanged opening points, before St. Martin's took up the scoring, as that early score was the only time that Shelmaliers led in the game.
Joe Coleman went on to show real accuracy from placed balls, leaving his side leading by 0-6 to 0-4 at the end of the opening quarter.
The sides were level on three occasions through the opening period, with the first-half finishing with an exchange of points between Conor Hearne and Jake Firman, leaving the home team leading by 0-9 to 0-7 at the interval.
Hearne brought the sides back level with two early second-half pointed frees, but with Coleman continuing to punish every indiscretion coupled with a long-range Daithí Waters point, St. Martin's led by 0-15 to 0-12 entering the closing ten minutes.
Three unanswered points followed through Coleman (free), Ciarán Lyng and Jake Firman to extend their side's lead to six points, with the destination of the final spot really decided six minutes from the end with their goal.
Darren Codd collected a Willie Devereux crossfield ball and crashed a great shot to the net from 21 metres, with the result now a foregone conclusion as Shelmaliers began to struggle with that numerical disadvantage.
As a result of this victory, St. Martin's have now set up a mouth-watering final clash with great rivals, Oulart-The Ballagh, who received a walkover from Ferns St. Aidan's.
That game was originally fixed for Innovate Wexford Park on Friday, but it has been moved since to St. Patrick's Park in Enniscorthy because the main country ground is unavailable.
Oulart-The Ballagh will be going for four titles in a row in this encounter, having defeated Glynn-Barntown by 0-20 to 1-14 in last year's Division 1 final.
Twelve months earlier, they accounted for the same opposition by 2-22 to 0-20 in the decider, while they were also victorious by 2-18 to 1-16 when they last took on St. Martin's at this stage in 2016.
The Oulart-The Ballagh second string have also qualified for the Division 3 final against Craanford.
St. Martin's: Luke White; Tony Kelly, Paddy O'Connor, Shane Walsh; Daithí Waters (0-1), Willie Devereux, Mark Maloney; Harry O'Connor, Paudie Kelly; Jake Firman (0-4), Joe Coleman (0-11, 8 frees, 1 '65, 1 line ball), Darren Codd (1-0); Conor Kelly (0-1), Mikey Coleman (0-2), Ciarán Lyng (0-1). Subs. - Michael Codd for C. Kelly, Sam Audsley for Codd, Zac Firman for M. Coleman.
Shelmaliers: Adam Howlin; Andre O'Brien, Aidan Cash, Chris Cowman; Conor Walsh (0-2), Glen Malone (0-1), Benny Barron; Ciarán Walsh, Eoin Doyle (0-1); Brian Malone, Ciarán O'Shaughnessy (0-1), James Cash; Conor Hearne (0-7, 6 frees, 1 '65), Ryan Hanrahan, William O'Shaughnessy (0-1). Subs. - Johnny Campbell for Ciarán Walsh, Aaron Murphy (0-1) for Hanrahan, Kevin O'Leary for W. O'Shaughnessy.
Referee: Philip Murphy (Faythe Harriers).
New Ross Standard