Martin's emerge kings from tight derby
Pettitt's Senior Hurling Championship Final: St Martin's 1-15 St Anne's 1-13
St Martin's justified heavy pre-match favouritism to claim a fourth Pettitt's Senior hurling championship crown since the breakthrough year of 1999 in Innovate Wexford Park on Sunday, but they were pushed all the way by neighbours St. Anne's who were a mere two points in arrears at the finish.
Their second title in the space of three years remained in doubt until the bitter end, with their goal from Jake Firman with the second-last puck of the opening half worth its weight in gold.
The combined excellence of the defensive sextet - restricting the six starting Anne's forwards to just one point from play - was another crucial factor in a victory that came under serious threat midway through the second-half.
That goal had left St. Martin's with an interval lead of 1-10 to 0-7, and their six-point lead was still intact after the first four scores on the re-start were shared.
However, St. Anne's started to build serious momentum as they attacked the Clonard end goal with relish approaching the end of the third quarter.
Chief marksman Diarmuid O'Keeffe brought the deficit down to four from a brace of placed balls, but the score that really roused the crowd to life was Mikey Fogarty's point from a Liam Óg McGovern handpass that made it 1-12 to 0-12 in the 46th minute.
St. Martin's were struggling to stem the tide, and the prospects of a major shock intensified when a Mark Furlong line ball from the left led to his younger brother, Darragh, being fouled for a penalty.
It was a huge moment in a final that was always interesting without ever reaching a high standard, and fortune favoured St. Martin's on two fronts.
Mark Furlong aimed for the right corner with his strike, but it slammed off the post and flew across the face of goal before Daithí Waters eventually made a clearance.
The fact that a St. Martin's defender had clearly enroached before the ball was struck was missed by the match officials, and that was a surprise given that rookie Senior final referee Dan Crosby was assisted by two inter-county referees as linesmen in Justin Heffernan and Brian O'Leary.
It should have resulted in a re-take, but the underdogs didn't get the break they needed at a critical stage of the game.
Joe Coleman and Kevin Whelan went on to exchange wides, before a dangerous delivery by Diarmuid O'Keeffe was batted to safety by composed Martin's netminder Luke White in the 52nd minute.
Mikey Fogarty then saw an attempt drop short, while Coleman had a brief sniff of a goal chance but the threat was quickly dealt with by a vigilant Anne's defence.
Almost eight scoreless minutes ended with a cool finish from Darren Codd after fine work in the build-up by Patrick O'Connor, Ciarán Lyng and Aaron Maddock, with the latter delivering the final short pass.
That made it 1-13 to 0-12 with six and a half minutes remaining, but there was another big moment just around the corner as St. Anne's pounced for a goal to set up a rousing finish.
A scramble developed around the square after Diarmuid O'Keeffe sent in another teasing ball approaching the 57th minute, with the recently-introduced David O'Connor in the thick of it before it squirmed out into the path of Aidan Rochford who first-timed it to the net.
That made it a one-point game, and it was the time for St. Martin's to really show their mettle.
Ciarán Lyng struck their twelfth and final wide before some of the tension lifted when Joe Coleman split the posts from a 90-metre free after a foul on Patrick O'Connor (1-14 to 1-12).
The St. Anne's crowd were on their feet with 30 seconds of normal time left when Liam Óg McGovern took off on a solo run, but he was closed down and Aaron Maddock got the ball away before play was halted for an injury to Willie Devereux.
That was chiefly responsible for the four added minutes that were announced stretching to nearly six, and there was a crucial intervention from Jack O'Connor after Luke White came out of his goal to re-start the game with an indirect free.
The county man plucked the ball from the air and was awarded a free after being surrounded on all sides, with Joe Coleman doing the needful again to make it 1-15 to 1-12.
There was still time for St. Anne's to perhaps force a replay, and they had a chance when Diarmuid O'Keeffe stood over a placed ball close to the right sideline roughly 50 metres out.
He opted to send it over rather than lobbing it into the goalmouth though, presumably aware that an additional two minutes were going to be played.
One late foul on McGovern saw him launch the ball downfield in quest of the required winning goal at that stage, but impressive Martin's captain Willie Devereux emerged with the ball and the final whistle sounded to the great relief of his charges.
It had been a difficult build-up for the champions, with Rory O'Connor's ultimately unsuccessful quest to have his suspension lifted continuing until the morning of the game.
Darren Codd came in to replace him and moved out to the '40 in a straight swap with Jack O'Connor within seconds of the throw-in, and it wasn't long before the favourites took the lead.
Indeed, just twelve seconds had elapsed when a clearance by Willie Devereux found Jake Firman, and he duly split the posts on a day when he ended as the final's leading scorer from open play with 1-2.
Diarmuid O'Keeffe responded with the first of his eleven points, and one of ten from placed balls, while opposing free-taker Joe Coleman then got off the mark after Kenny Cloney was booked for hauling down Ciarán Lyng.
That Anne's opener had arrived after no advantage accrued when Redmond Barry didn't get sufficient power behind a goalbound shot.
And the survivor from their double triumph of 2000 had an even better opening in the seventh minute when Mark Furlong sprayed a crossfield pass to his brother, Darragh.
He beat Mark Maloney on the turn and popped the ball into the path of Barry, cutting in from the right, but Luke White darted off his line to smother the shot and concede a '65 that was missed by O'Keeffe.
The St. Martin's defence may have looked vulnerable in those early stages, but in fairness they settled down thereafter as the O'Connors, Conor Firman, Daithí Waters, Maloney and their excellent leader, Willie Devereux, ensured that St. Anne's were restricted to just 1-3 from play.
However, Devereux was penalised for charging which led to the leveller from O'Keeffe, only for Jack O'Connor to catch a Firman clearance and make it 0-3 to 0-2 for his side in the tenth minute.
Mikey Coleman then availed of an accurate delivery into his path by Daithí Waters to take it in his hand on the bounce and fire over, while Joe Coleman shot a neat point from the right sideline as the lead was extended to three.
Darragh Furlong pulled one back in the 13th minute, after an initial block on Liam Rochford by Mark Maloney, but that proved to be the sole score registered by a starting Anne's forward in the entire game.
This was in stark contrast to a Martin's attack with all six hitting the target, and their next point was a fine combined movement as Mikey Coleman finished off a Ciarán Lyng handpass from an initial crossfield delivery by Joe Coleman.
St. Anne's managed to stay in the hunt all the same, with O'Keeffe converting a free before Aidan Rochford picked him out in acres of space to loft over his sole score from play (0-6 to 0-5).
There was a significant upping of the stakes by their more fancied rivals between the 19th and 22nd minutes, with four quickfire points from Jack O'Connor, Darren Codd, Joe Coleman (free) and Jake Firman creating some daylight for the first time.
The ever-alert Diarmuid O'Keeffe attempted to catch the opposing defence off guard in the 23rd minute with a short free to Liam Óg McGovern who turned into the outstanding Joe O'Connor and had to leave the field temporarily with a blood injury.
O'Keeffe tapped over the free that followed, and he added another just over 90 seconds into the four added minutes.
One of the St. Anne's targets would have been to stay with their opponents for as long as possible, and they certainly ticked that box.
However, the last thing they needed was to concede a cheap goal in the dying embers of the half, but that's exactly what transpired and it had a huge impact on the eventual outcome.
A Darren Codd delivery should have been dealt with in an authoritative manner by the Anne's defence, but some dithering ensued before Mikey Coleman made a connection on the ball.
And when it broke into the path of Jake Firman, he let fly on the ground to beat Paul Brennan and leave St. Martin's with an interval lead of 1-10 to 0-7.
The underdogs resumed with Aidan Rochford at left half-back on the lively Firman, Mikey Fogarty pushed up to centre-forward, and county colleagues McGovern and O'Keeffe at midfield.
The latter gave them hope with early points from a '65 and a free respectively, but Joe Coleman hit back before Ciarán Lyng became the sixth and last Martin's attacker to score from a Willie Devereux delivery (1-12 to 0-9).
At that stage, it looked like the leaders would be able to keep their keen rivals at arm's length, but the spirit of St. Anne's ensured that the closing quarter developed into a serious contest.
The St. Martin's forwards were sucked outfield, with centre-back Aaron Craig latching on to a lot of loose balls to get their rivals on the move.
Unfortunately, St. Anne's have a horrible record of missed penalties in both codes this year, and that returned to haunt them as a brave effort ultimately fell short.
St. Martin's will be glad of the three weeks to recover and prepare for the AIB Leinster Club semi-final, and they will more than likely be travelling to Nowlan Park for a tilt at All-Ireland holders Ballyhale Shamrocks unless they are surprisingly dethroned by Clonkill of Westmeath next Sunday.
The winners hit twelve wides compared to seven from St. Anne's, and they earned ten of the final's 21 frees on an afternoon when 5,956 supporters attended the county's biggest hurling occasion.
St. Martin's: Luke White; Conor Firman, Joe O'Connor, Mark Maloney; Daithí Waters, Willie Devereux (joint capt.), Patrick O'Connor; Aaron Maddock, Harry O'Connor; Jake Firman (1-2), Darren Codd (0-2), Joe Coleman (0-6, 5 frees); Ciarán Lyng (0-1), Jack O'Connor (0-2), Mikey Coleman (0-2). Subs. - Michael Codd for Maloney (54), Kyle Firman for D. Codd (56), Eoin O'Leary for P. O'Connor (59), Ben Maddock for M. Coleman (60+3), Jack Devereux for J. Firman (60+5), also Callum Quirke, Philip Dempsey, Adam Cantwell, Sam Audsley, Shane Walsh, Conor Coleman, Conor Kelly, Zac Firman, Paudie Kelly (joint capt.), Rory O'Connor.
St. Anne's: Paul Brennan; Páraic O'Keeffe, Tomás Cullen, Kenny Cloney; Kevin Whelan, Aaron Craig, Mikey Fogarty (0-1); Diarmuid O'Keeffe (0-11, 8 frees, 2 '65s), Aidan Rochford (1-0); Liam Rochford, Liam Óg McGovern, Mark Furlong; Darragh Furlong (0-1), Redmond Barry, Jonathan Fogarty. Subs. - David O'Connor for McGovern, temp. (25-31), O'Connor for J. Fogarty (56), also Paddy Miskella, Kevin White, Kevin Breen, Seán Gaul, Finn O'Driscoll.
Referee: Dan Crosby (Kilmore).
New Ross Standard