Buffers Alley 2-21 Faythe Harriers 0-16
AN EXCEPTIONAL campaign was crowned by a top-class performance in Chadwicks Wexford Park on Wednesday, as Buffers Alley became inaugural winners of the Panda Under-19 hurling Premier championship at the expense of Faythe Harriers.
A number of clubs didn’t buy into the merits of this new competition, while others genuinely struggled to field teams.
However, in the case of the Alley, mentors Shane Grannell (manager), Darren O’Brien, John O’Sullivan and Mick Farrell knew they had a group capable of going places, and the hard work of the collective on and off the field was clear for all to see in this emphatic victory.
Having already accounted for four under-age hurling strongholds in Oulart-The Ballagh, Naomh Éanna, Shelmaliers and Glynn-Barntown respectively, this was the icing on the cake, and nobody can dispute the fact that the Monamolin and Kilmuckridge lads were worthy champions.
They already had one hand on the trophy when they led at half-time by 2-11 to 0-7, but the true gauge of their ability was still to be seen.
That only really shone through when they responded with such defiance to a gutsy revival from the Harriers during the third quarter.
The town team recorded six points in a row after the Alley initially scored first after the interval, and they must have felt they were on the right track when the margin was narrowed to a more manageable 2-12 to 0-13 by the 45th minute.
The momentum enjoyed by the Alley for much of the first-half had been lost, but they regained it in style with a run of five points on the trot between the 46th and 53rd minutes.
Free-taker Eoin O’Meara was responsible for four of those scores, while the sole effort from play was a real gem. It involved the entire starting half-forward line, with Brian O’Meara and Shamey O’Hagan involved before Michael Butler split the Clonard end posts, and it highlighted the top-notch teamwork of the victors.
Faythe Harriers found themselves in a rob Peter to pay Paul-type situation at half-time. Trailing by ten points, their decision to move dangerman Luke Murphy from midfield to full-forward was perfectly understandable, because goals – and preferably as early as possible – were realistically required in order to have any hope of an all-out comeback.
However, the supply to Murphy was limited and he only added one point to his two struck beforehand. Much of the credit for that must go to the no-nonsense defending of the Alley’s assured full-back line, with Jack Twomey on the edge of the square receiving ample support from Niall Furlong and the towering Seán Kirwan.
The game started at a marvellous pace, with two well-prepared sides sharing eight points in a mere six minutes and 20 seconds.
They were level on three occasions in that spell, with Jason Gordon (two frees) and Luke Murphy (two) scoring for the Harriers while Shamey O’Hagan, Eoin O’Meara, Cormac Walsh and Edward Harney replied for the Alley.
The Gorey District lads had first use of the wind blowing into the town end, and they secured a decisive breakthrough in the ninth minute.
A delivery from midfield by Cormac Walsh broke kindly into the path of his brother, Tomás, and he made no mistake to push his side into a 1-4 to 0-4 lead – one that wouldn’t be relinquished.
They had a let-off when the Harriers mishit a scoreable free, and this enabled them to push on as O’Hagan pointed again in between two successful O’Meara frees to create a gap of six by the 20th minute.
Harriers corner-forwards Eoghan Cassin and Eoin Hartigan both registered neat points, but the Alley had their eye in from distance as centre-back Edward Harney (who did a fine job on Darby Purcell, his county Minor colleague from last year) and midfielder Cormac Walsh both raised white flags (1-9 to 0-6).
The biggest blow of all for the Harriers arrived in the 26th minute, when they were unable to clear the ball after full-back Cillian Twomey blocked Jack Redmond.
Brian Doran made a nuisance of himself and seemed to be the last Alley player to connect with the ball, although it was probably a defender’s unlucky touch that finally knocked it over the line for a scrambled goal.
It was 2-11 to 0-7 at half-time, after further points from Doran and Jack Redmond were sandwiched by one from a Jason Gordon free, and the outcome was clearly in the Alley’s hands.
However, it’s very difficult to maintain that level of control for a full game, and they had to contend with a valiant Harriers comeback when the action resumed.
Jack Redmond did record the opening point of the new half as well as the last one of the first period, but their rivals stormed into the game with a run of six scores on the trot between the 33rd and 45th minutes.
Luke Murphy got his last point before earning a free that Jason Gordon converted, and the latter added two more while Darby Purcell also contributed.
However, the best score of the lot, and the one that really got the Harriers supporters behind their team, arrived in the 43rd minute.
Calum Corcoran delivered a diagonal ball from the left flank to Darragh Browne, and his handpass teed up wing-back Emmet Gahan who split the posts from distance.
The Alley had endured 14 scoreless minutes before free-taker Eoin O’Meara finally ended that sequence at the start of the closing quarter, and they went on to close out the game in eye-catching fashion.
Redmond, substitute Pádraig Kinsella, O’Meara and Cormac Walsh all added points from play before the finish, and it’s clear that their supply lines are very well stocked as this group is brimming with potential.
That can only augur well for their immediate future in the adult ranks.
Buffers Alley: Callum Whelan-Byrne; Niall Furlong, Jack Twomey, Seán Kirwan; Adam Doyle (capt.), Edward Harney (0-2), Tomás Whelan; Cormac Walsh (0-3), Eoin O’Meara (0-8, 6 frees); Michael Butler (0-1), Shamey O’Hagan (0-2), Brian O’Meara; Tomás Walsh (1-0), Jack Redmond (0-3), Brian Doran (1-1). Subs. – Kevin Doran for B. Doran (49), Dylan McEvoy for T. Walsh (56), Pádraig Kinsella (0-1) for B. O’Meara (58), Stephen Furlong for Redmond (60+1), Darragh Prendergast for Butler (60+1), also Adam Back, Eoin Fenlon, Colin Kinsella, Cian Dobbs, Fiachra Fortune, Ciarán Murphy, Brandon Murphy, Oisín Kirwan, Dan Doyle, Jay Hearne, John Burke.
Faythe Harriers: Tírnan Doyle; Evan Murphy, Cillian Twomey, Alex Kirby; Emmet Gahan (0-1), Alex Boggan (capt.), Calum Corcoran; Luke Murphy (0-3), Eoin Doyle; Darragh Browne, Darby Purcell (0-1), Eoin Halligan; Eoin Hartigan (0-2), Jason Gordon (0-8, 7 frees), Eoghan Cassin (0-1). Subs. – Oliver McMahon for Halligan (HT), Darragh Kirwan for Kirby (59), Noah Whelan for E. Doyle (59), Jack Corcoran for Hartigan (59), Cormac Doyle for Purcell (59), also Dale McGrath, Finn Jager, Mark Tormey.
Referee: Matty Kinnaird (Rapparees).