Friday 19 January 2018

Peter's have an extra bit

ALAN AHERNE In Stradbally

ST. PETER'S (WEXFORD) 2-14 ST. MEL'S (LONGFORD) 3-7 (AET) CHARACTER PROVED as important as ability in determining the outcome in Bill Delaney Park, Stradbally, on Wednesday last when St. Peter's (Wexford) dug deep to overcome traditional stronghold St. Mel's (Longford) by four points after extra-time in an absorbing Leinster Colleges Senior football 'A' championship first round clash.

Success wasn't sealed until the very last attack of the 80-plus minutes when an attempted clearance by netminder Dylan McGoey was charged down and big midfielder Conor Devereux was on hand to fire the breaking ball into a gaping net. It sparked off wild scenes of jubilation among mentors Brian Malone, Shane Roche and Mick Caulfield, the substitutes and the vocal supporters who strangely had no opposition from Mel's students on the grass bank.

And it was no more than the Leinster Under-14 champions of four years ago deserved, with seven survivors from that team of 2009 starting from a total of eleven on the panel.

The wind-aided Peter's owned possession for practically all of the first-half, but their mental strength was severely tested in a ten-minute spell on either side of the interval when they conceded 3-2 without reply. There was no sign of panic though, and the Summerhill side got back on track with a goal from the brilliant Kevin O'Connor and ultimately lasted the pace better than their Longford rivals who had lost the North Leinster league final recently.

In contrast, Peter's went one better and won the South Leinster crown, and the fact that extra-time was needed before dismissing Good Counsel (New Ross) in that tie definitely stood to them on Wednesday.

The eventual winners operated with a two-man full-forward line in the first-half featuring Kevin O'Connor and Andy Butler as Donal Shanley drifted outfield. The gifted O'Connor has talent to burn, and it was clear for all to see in this tie as he kicked three sweet points from play off his left in the first-half alone. Whether he advances in his soccer career or sticks to Gaelic games, it looks like the Curracloe lad will be making headlines for a long time to come.

The impressive fielding of Crossabeg-Ballymurn duo Conor Devereux and Pádraig Foley was another prominent feature as Peter's surged ahead by 0-8 to 0-1 after 26 minutes, with Jack Pettit, Jamie Carty and Conor Devereux also registering points from play while O'Connor converted one free and Donal Shanley did likewise from a '45.

However, much of that good work was undone just before the break when Mel's, who opened their account from a 22ndminute Larry Moran free, hit 1-1 without reply. The goal could have been avoided, as over-elaboration in the left corner resulted in a turnover and a free which saw the opposition's two best players combine, with Killian Farrell quickly finding Moran who drilled a low shot to the corner just out of Dylan Owens' reach.

When Moran added a pointed free it was hard to credit that Peter's only led by three points at half-time (0-8 to 1-2) given their earlier dominance. And it got worse, much worse, on the re-start as Farrell pointed a free after 41 seconds before the leaders conceded two goals in less than three minutes.

Polish attacker Krispin Pliszczynski finished the first on the rebound after Larry Moran crashed a piledriver off the crossbar, and the latter then exchanged passes with full-forward Paddy Kiernan who fired home from close range to leave Mel's ahead by 33 to 0-8.

It left Peter's playing catch-up, but they responded as Kevin O'Connor sent over two frees, with one from Moran sandwiched in between. The key score in the comeback arrived in the 46th minute when a high ball by Donal Shanley from the right broke invitingly for the deadly O'Connor who crashed it to the net (1-10 to 3-4).

Nearly eleven exciting scoreless minutes followed before Killian Farrell restored the Mel's lead from a free, but fouls on lively substitute Jake Firman and Kevin O'Connor were then punished as the latter fired Peter's ahead again (1-12 to 3-5). They couldn't hold on though, with a super longrange point from Larry Moran in the 62nd minute forcing extra-time with the secondlast kick (1-12 to 3-6).

Peter's had the wind again in the first period and picked off two unanswered points courtesy of Shanley and O'Connor from frees. Killian Farrell pulled one back two minutes into the final period, but any likelihood of a replay was ruled out emphatically with that late goal from Conor Devereux as the Wexford side survived a strong challenge which should stand to them in the next round against another traditional heavyweight, St. Patrick's of Navan.

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