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Fabulous Ferns topple champs Rapparees to reach Wexford Senior hurling final

Extra-time drama after apparent Kelly point waved wide

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Kevin Foley (Rapparees) shaking off Corey Byrne-Dunbar of Ferns St. Aidan's.

Kevin Foley (Rapparees) shaking off Corey Byrne-Dunbar of Ferns St. Aidan's.

A determined Oisín Pepper (Rapparees) trying to burst past Eoin Murphy (Ferns St. Aidan's).

A determined Oisín Pepper (Rapparees) trying to burst past Eoin Murphy (Ferns St. Aidan's).

Diarmuid Doyle (Ferns St. Aidan's) is tackled by Anthony Roche (Rapparees).

Diarmuid Doyle (Ferns St. Aidan's) is tackled by Anthony Roche (Rapparees).

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Kevin Foley (Rapparees) shaking off Corey Byrne-Dunbar of Ferns St. Aidan's.

wexfordpeople

PETTITT’S SENIOR HURLING CHAMPIONSHIP

Ferns St. Aidan’s 1-23 Rapparees 0-25 (AET)

The excitement was off the charts in sun-baked Chadwicks Wexford Park on Sunday as Ferns St. Aidan’s put a horrible third quarter behind them to dethrone Rapparees after extra-time in a pulsating finish to the second Pettitt’s Senior hurling championship semi-final.

A nine-year gap since their last appearance on the biggest day was bridged in the process, and it was evident how much it meant to them at the final whistle as substitutes and supporters swarmed on to the field to embrace their heroes.

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Rapparees went down fighting to their immense credit, but they will wonder how they let it slip after leading by 0-16 to 0-10 with less than seven minutes of regulation time remaining.

Even more so, they will be asking serious questions as to why a long-range strike by excellent wing-back Jack Kelly didn’t result in a point at the death.

Ferns sharpshooter Ian Byrne had converted a free to leave his team trailing by 0-17 to 1-13, with Rapparees netminder Anthony Larkin resuming quickly and Kelly receiving the ball in space on the left flank.

From my vantage point, his shot looked to have gone over the bar at the town end, and supporters behind the ball on the uncovered stand side were even more adamant afterwards.

There was no reaction whatsoever initially from the umpires – looking into a strong sun – and then it was waved wide.

The equaliser that forced extra-time arrived when Ferns captain Declan Byrne, who was introduced at the start of the last quarter, drove the ball into a packed goalmouth, with Ian Byrne latching on to it and firing over after a sharp turn.

The point arrived more than seven minutes into additional time, and at a stage when Ferns were down to 14 men. An extra five had been announced initially, but a delay ensued for treatment to Oisín Pepper after defender Conor Scallan was red-carded for a high challenge close to the main stand as the excitement intensified.

While a lot of the play had been pretty uninspiring beforehand, that all-action finish certainly provided ample compensation, and the best was yet to come.

Indeed, the standard of score-taking in the first period of extra-time – with James Tonks returning as the 15th Ferns man – was off the charts given the sweltering conditions and the effort already expended.

The teams shared ten points in that spell that ended 1-19 to 0-22, and it looked like it would be impossible to divide them.

Similar to the second-half of regulation time, Rapparees were attacking the town end again, but Ian Byrne drew first blood from a free before the outstanding and inspiring Darragh Pepper replied.

Oisín Pepper then had an effort on goal stopped and, with no advantage accruing, a free was awarded for an earlier foul on Nick Doyle and the impressive Ryan Mahon duly nudged the Rapps into a 0-19 to 1-15 lead.

An incredible sequence of scoring followed in an all-action ‘blink and you’ll miss it’ spell. Corey Byrne-Dunbar levelled, only for Anthony Roche to reply instantly from an Oisín Pepper pass.

Niall Murphy teed up Paul Morris to make it 1-17 to 0-20, and 45 seconds later Darragh Pepper posted a brilliant point under heavy pressure.

Ian Byrne equalised before effective substitute John Breen hit a fine lead score from a James Lawlor clearance, but Darragh Pepper’s third extra-time point ensured they remained deadlocked at the break (0-22 to 1-19).

Rapparees – who missed the injured Alan Tobin out of their midfield engine room – started to falter on the restart as Ferns gained a telling edge with three points inside five minutes.

Ian Byrne pointed two frees, the second one after Liam Ryan made a fine catch in his own square but then spoiled it with a stray short pass.

When a Christopher O’Connor handpass located Diarmuid Doyle to make it 1-22 to 0-22, Ferns were looking good, but Rapparees showed a burning desire in a bid to become the first Enniscorthy town team to reach back-to-back finals since Shamrocks in 1970.

Darragh Pepper earned a free for Ryan Mahon to convert before he hit his fifth point from play, and the leveller arrived after Jack Kelly was fouled deep in his own half.

Ryan Mahon hit it crossfield to the unmarked Anthony Murphy, and the Senior newcomer showed nerves of steel with a cool long-range strike that just about made it over the bar (0-25 to 1-22).

The winner arrived directly from the puck-out, with Paul Morris securing possession close to the left sideline and striking a beauty between the town-end posts.

However, Rapparees came agonisingly close to forcing parity, as a James Peare strike was bravely blocked before the breaking ball arrived to veteran substitute Tomás Mahon, but his second wide was followed by the long whistle from referee Barry Redmond.

The holders had shown serious intent from the off, surging into a 0-4 to 0-1 lead after 13 minutes thanks to points from Liam Ryan, Ryan Mahon (free) and Kevin Foley after an initial exchange between Oisín Pepper and Ian Byrne.

It was 0-6 to 0-2 at the water break, after Corey Byrne-Dunbar’s first score led to responses from Mahon and Ryan, who was eager to surge forward into advanced attacking positions at every opportunity.

The brief half to proceedings seemed to do Ferns the world of good, because they resumed with three scores from Ciarán Roberts, Chris Turner and Ian Byrne (free) to make it a one-point game.

And although Rapparees kept their noses in front at all times and led by 0-9 to 0-8 at the break, they missed out on a golden opportunity to crash home a goal in the 29th minute.

Kevin Foley was upended for a penalty by the yellow-carded Niall Murphy and, after receiving treatment, perhaps he wasn’t the best candidate to take it. Certainly, his strike to the right and wide was out of character, and Rapparees went on to have a let-off in additional time when Corey Byrne-Dunbar opted to take a safe point when a goal looked on the cards.

The third quarter was a disaster for Ferns, as they shot eight wides without scoring whereas the Rapps reeled off five points from Ryan Mahon (free), Lenny Connolly, Kevin Foley (two) and Ricky Fox.

Ferns had to wait until the 49th minute for their opening second-half point, from an Ian Byrne free. And although Diarmuid Doyle added one from play, Rapparees halted their march when Ben Edwards made a vital interception after the short puck-out that followed went awry.

Ryan Mahon (’65) and Lenny Connolly made it 0-16 to 0-10, but the turning point arrived in the 55th minute.

Ferns had introduced Christopher O’Connor and John Breen to form a two-man inside attacking line, with Paul Morris and Ian Byrne drifting outfield after both had alternated on the edge of the square beforehand.

And the experienced Breen was the man of the moment when he finished off a Patrick Breen pass with a goal that filled Ferns with new-found hope (0-16 to 1-10).

Ian Byrne (free) and Paul Morris tacked on points, with Darragh Pepper nailing his first before the game moved into additional time and Ferns were soon reduced to 14 players.

Getting the two points that forced extra-time has to be fully commended in the circumstances but, after St. Anne’s had good reason to be aggrieved one week earlier, this time around Rapparees appear to have equally sound grounds for annoyance after that late unrewarded strike from Jack Kelly.

Ferns St. Aidan’s: James Lawlor; Ciarán Roberts (0-1), Niall Murphy, Conor Scallan; Rory Scallan, Eoin Murphy, James Tonks; Tommy Dwyer, Patrick Breen; Chris Turner (0-1), Paul Morris (0-3), Jonnny Dwyer; Corey Byrne-Dunbar (0-3), Ian Byrne (0-12, 9 frees), Ryan Nolan. Subs. – Diarmuid Doyle (0-2) for Nolan, inj. (30+2), Benny Jordan for J. Dwyer (43), Declan Byrne (capt.) for Tonks (47), John Breen (1-1) for T. Dwyer (53), Christopher O’Connor for Turner (53), James Tonks (15th man for extra-time), Tommy Dwyer for R. Scallan (71), Turner for Tonks, inj. (80), Jonny Dwyer for Breen (80+2).

Rapparees: Anthony Larkin; Kevin Courtney, Liam Ryan (0-2), Dillon Redmond; James Peare, Ben Edwards, Jack Kelly; Anthony Roche (0-1), Kevin Foley (capt., 0-3); Ricky Fox (0-1), Nick Doyle, Ryan Mahon (0-9, 6 frees, 1 ’65); Lenny Connolly (0-2), Oisín Pepper (0-1), Tommy Foley. Subs. – Orán Carty for Redmond (HT), Darragh Pepper (0-5) for Carty (55), Tomás Mahon for Courtney (70), Anthony Murphy (0-1) for Roche (74).

Referee: Barry Redmond (Na Fianna Clonard).


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