Clonard rally withstood to take title
BLACKWATER WITHSTOOD a late Na Fianna Clonard rally to take the Permanent TSB Wexford District Junior ‘B’ hurling championship crown in the Ferns Centre of Excellence on Wednesday.
The champions looked to be cruising when they took a 2-11 to 1-4 lead approaching the end of the third quarter, but they lost their way as the second-half wore on and the town team almost found a punishing surge.
Before the late wobble, Blackwater had shown all the quality that made them warm favourites for this title beforehand. They played with good energy and were reasonably economical on their way to building a lead.
They did the basics well against an energetic Na Fianna outfit and their class on the ball made it difficult for the Clonard crew to keep pace.
Denis O’Brien’s accuracy also proved key, as the Blackwater success rate from frees was far superior to their opponents and had a major impact on the end result.
Na Fianna Clonard showed the type of guts one would expect from them. It was more sheer will and want that got them back into the game when all else wasn’t working.
They got off to the perfect start, netting from Richie Kearney within 30 seconds. However, it didn’t lead to a string of scores, as instead Blackwater settled into the task and with points from Gavin O’Toole, O’Brien (twice) and James Dooley they took a 0-4 to 1-0 lead.
Lee Smith fired Na Fianna Clonard level at the water break but O’Brien drilled low to the net after the resumption and Blackwater followed it with three of the next four - with Conor Sutton also getting his name on the scoresheet - to move 1-7 to 1-2 ahead.
Na Fianna Clonard registered what appeared to be two very important Smith frees before the interval to leave them within three at the change of ends.
However, they didn’t score for 14 minutes after the resumption as Johnny O’Toole majored and Denis Carroll, O’Brien (two) and Dooley all pointed to make it 2-11 to 1-4.
David Beary drove home a low shot at the second attempt to give Na Fianna Clonard hope, and when a Dylan Carty net-rippler was followed by a Smith free with two minutes of normal time left, just a goal separated the sides.
However, Blackwater managed to hang on and a couple of injury-time O’Brien frees gave them the title.
Blackwater: Robert O’Leary; Paddy Cullen, Eoin O’Neill, Kevin Purcell; Gavin O’Toole (0-1), Brian Dooley, Kevin O’Brien; Richard Blake, Kealan Fikentscher; Josh Culleton, Denis Carroll (0-1), John O’Toole (1-0); James Dooley (0-2), Denis O’Brien (1-8, 0-8 frees), Conor Sutton (0-1). Subs. - Wayne O’Connor for Culleton (31), Alan Malanowski for Blake (44), Robert McGuinness for J. O’Toole (60+8), also Adam Cullen, Anthony Roche, Ian Curran, James Cullen, Kerill Sutton, Ross Berry, Lar Lacey, Adam Murphy, Seamus Walsh, Harley Dunne, Joe Neville, Jason Wallace, Michael Byrne, Conor Byrne, Declan O’Leary, Paul Murphy, Seamus Murphy, Mark Donoghue, Brendan Quirke, M.J. Kelly, Bryan Mooney, Eoin Buttle.
Na Fianna Clonard: Kyle Turner; Aidan Roche, Sam Watters, Daryll Power; Stephen Burke, Mark Kavanagh, Colm Browne; Shane Bates, Aaron McGuire; Mark O’Connor, George Cullen, Lee Smith (0-5 frees); David Beary (1-0), Richie Kearney (1-0), Dylan Hynes. Subs. - Aaron Pitman for O’Connor (40), Dylan Carty (1-0) for Hynes (41), Seán Phelan for Roche (44), Chris Kehoe for Kearney, inj. (60+6), also Ger Lynch, Alan Benson, Alan Marrinan, Junior Reville, Paddy Carberry, Luca Forte, Jack Matthews, Conor Dobbs, Darren Dempsey, Gary Cullen, Caolan Kehoe, Kevin Malone, Pierce O’Connor.
Referee: Seán Whelan (St. Martin’s).