Friday 27 April 2018

Martin's treble makes history

St. Martin's 1-9 Rathgarogue-Cushinstown 1-7

Brian O'Neill is challenged by Seán Stafford of St. Martin's
Brian O'Neill is challenged by Seán Stafford of St. Martin's
Jubilant St. Martin's captain Luke White lifts the cup
The St. Martin's squad and mentors after creating a notable piece of G.A.A. history with their third successive county title in consecutive grades on Saturday

Alan Aherne

A significant piece of local G.A.A. history was made in a rain-sodden Innovate Wexford Park on Saturday when St. Martin's became the first club ever to win three football championship titles in successive grades over consecutive years.

A magical campaign thus far for the men in maroon continued as they overturned an interval deficit of 0-6 to 0-2 to add this crown to the Under-21 and Junior 'A' hurling honours captured earlier in the month.

However, it's their unique feat in clinching those Junior 'B', Junior 'A' and Junior football championships one after the other that marked this out as an extra-special day in the annals of the association.

In doing so they went one better than Adamstown who lifted the Junior and Intermediate titles of 1995 and 1996, only to just miss out on the treble when they lost the Senior decider of 1997.

This amazing run began for St. Martin's when they were comfortable victors over St. James' in the Junior 'B' final of 2015, and they had a point to spare over HWH-Bunclody in last year's Junior 'A' decider.

Saturday's victory was a fitting way to mark the 60th anniversary of their last success at this level too, with that 1957 success the club's second after first claiming the title in 1938.

Of course, those two wins were achieved by the club's first team at the time, and the fact that the 'seconds' have done the business over the past three seasons makes the achievement all the more impressive.

Spare a thought for a gallant losing side from Rathgarogue-Cushinstown who were also pipped at the last hurdle by Crossabeg-Ballymurn following a replay in 2014.

They seemed to be well placed to add to their sole previous Junior championship in 1980 at half-time when they held that four-point lead, but St. Martin's drew on all their reserves of experience to claim the silverware.

The game's key moment arrived in the 54th minute, shortly after the Wexford District side had taken the lead for the first time.

Influential substitute Adam Cantwell toed the ball into the arms of Jack Devereux in the left corner at the town end, and the latter's under-hit point attempt was dropped by netminder Jonny Kelly.

As soon as the ball hit the ground though, the closest umpire signalled to his colleague to raise the green flag before Kelly cleared it and, despite protests from Rathgarogue-Cushinstown, the goal stood.

Ciarán Redmond was another replacement to make a massive impact for the winners, and he followed up with his third point from a James Boggan pass to make it 1-9 to 0-7.

And though Rathgarogue-Cushinstown were understandably aggrieved by the concession of that goal, in the cold light of day they will no doubt accept that the penalty that subsequently earned them a lifeline was of the generous variety.

It was awarded with 15 seconds of normal time left when referee Paddy Brady deemed that Danny Martin Carroll was held as he tried to win Bernard Furlong's delivery close to goal.

Eoin Porter stepped up to the spot kick and the promising county Minor tucked it into the bottom left corner to make it a two-point game less than one minute into added time.

It was frantic stuff thereafter before the final whistle arrived, with Porter lobbing a free into the goalmouth that was cleared before Kyle Firman made a vital interception 30 seconds later and was impeded.

Rathgarogue-Cushinstown came forward again, with Bryan Cody fouled as the game move into its fifth added minute. This time Daire Bolger directed the free goalwards in the hope that someone would get a touch for the green flag required at that stage, but netminder Nicky Greene knocked the ball into Firman's path and the game duly ended.

In hindsight perhaps the losers should have tapped over that first free in added time given that a second scoreable one followed, especially given the two-minute gap between both. They probably had more time to salvage a replay than they realised.

And certainly, nobody in the neutral corner would have begrudged them a draw on a difficult afternoon for football marred by constant slipping and sliding.

County Under-21 Tadhg Cody was an immense loss to the Rathgarogue-Cushinstown line-up through injury, although they opened brightly after his brother, Matthew, won the toss and opted to avail of the elements first.

Daire Bolger pointed them into the lead with just over one minute gone after a foul on Peadar Cody, and the scorer then doubled the margin from an Eric Cummins pass on the next attack.

St. Martin's hit back in the sixth and seventh minutes courtesy of Diarmuid Byrne and Kyle Firman, but they didn't register again until early in the second-half as Rathgarogue-Cushinstown enjoyed a slight advantage.

It took them a while to transfer it into scores though, with nearly 17 barren minutes following before Daire Bolger converted another free after a foul on veteran Ollie Bolger, shortly after missing a more straightforward-looking chance.

Their sole marksman up to that point then turned provider, setting up the elusive Jason Dunne for a well-worked score under heavy pressure.

Brian O'Neill's high kick from just outside the 'D' then split the posts before the leaders lost defender Patrick Murphy to a black card for an off-the-ball trip on Jack Devereux.

St. Martin's eventually broke upfield again but without success, as Conor Coleman kicked their second wide from a free before Diarmuid Byrne passed to Darragh Rossiter whose first-time shot off the ground didn't trouble netminder Jonny Kelly.

Eric Cummins made it 0-6 to 0-2 for Rathgarogue-Cushinstown in the 29th minute after a one-two with Peadar Cody, and they went in at the interval with that four-point gap after a couple of late wides brought their tally to six.

St. Martin's made a significant change at half-time with the introduction to the full-forward line of Ciarán Redmond, a performer who put his experience of previous Senior campaigns to effective use.

Darragh Rossiter went to centre-forward with Brian Berney operating from midfield, and a trio of converted Diarmuid Byrne frees had the gap down to the minimum by the 43rd minute.

The scorer's mark after that second point also led to a goal chance as Jack Devereux fed Redmond, but he pulled his shot low to the left and wide.

Rathgarogue-Cushinstown had been under severe pressure, but they enjoyed a welcome respite in the 44th minute when Jason Dunne kicked a very good point from a pass by the recently-introduced Garrett Browne.

And the last quarter had just started when Dunne and Peadar Cody combined to present Eric Cummins with a goal chance, but a brilliant diving block by Pádraig Rossiter saved the day for the saints.

A foul on Diarmuid Byrne led to Ciarán Redmond kicking a left-footed free before another substitute left a significant mark on proceedings.

It wasn't a day for long foot passes, but Adam Cantwell disproved that theory with an accurate ball to Conor Coleman who controlled it expertly before racing away to knock over the leveller (0-7 each).

Seven minutes of normal time remained when Darragh Rossiter picked out Redmond to swing over the lead point, and that fortuitous Jack Devereux goal followed to put St. Martin's firmly on the road to their place in the history books for a feat that might never be matched or bettered again.

St. Martin's: Nicky Greene; Pádraig Rossiter, Mark Maloney, Tony Kelly; Kyle Firman (0-1), Kevin Price, Eoin O'Leary; Luke White (capt.), James Boggan; Conor Coleman (0-1), Brian Berney, Diarmuid Byrne (0-4, 3 frees); Darragh Rossiter, Jack Devereux (1-0), Seán Stafford. Subs. - Ciarán Redmond (0-3, 1 free) for White (HT), Adam Cantwell for Stafford (46), Eoghan Rackard for Byrne (54), Donal Kelly for Devereux (60+4), also Brad Cohen, Philip Waters, John Coleman, Johnny Hamilton, Adrian Ryan, Martin Whelan, Callum Quirke, Richard Devereux.

Rathgarogue-Cushinstown: Jonny Kelly; Robert Murphy, Patrick Murphy, Bryan Cody; Peadar Cody, Eoin Porter (1-0 pen.), Eoghan Whelan; Bernard Furlong, Danny Martin Carroll; Daire Bolger (0-3, 2 frees), Brian O'Neill (0-1), Ollie Bolger; Jason Dunne (0-2), Matthew Cody (capt.), Eric Cummins (0-1). Subs. - Neil Merrigan for P. Murphy, black card (27), Garrett Browne for Merrigan, inj. (41), Aaron Ryan for O. Bolger (49), Ian Kennedy for Whelan (58), Brendan Fitzpatrick for Cummins (58), also Mark Carroll, Ricky McGrath, Liam O'Shea, Luke O'Connor, John O'Keeffe, Seamus Bourke, Shane O'Connor, Fionn Slattery, Tadhg Cody.

Referee: Paddy Brady (Réalt na Mara).

New Ross Standard