First adult hurling crown since 1992 was fully deserved
A RUN of six points without reply between the 33rd and 47th minutes went a long way towards guiding St. Fintan’s to Permanent TSB Junior ‘A’ hurling championship glory at the expense of the Oylegate-Glenbrien second string in Chadwicks Wexford Park on Sunday.
The men from Ballymore and Mayglass may have trailed by the minimum when their rivals grabbed the first score after the interval, but their display for the remainder of the third quarter was first rate and they never looked back.
Even when Oylegate-Glenbrien grabbed the game’s only goal – a clinical close-range strike from Fiachra Hourihane in the 55th minute – there was no sign of panic from the south county side whose advantage was reduced to two points as a result.
Indeed, their rivals didn’t register again, whereas the saints struck the last three points of a well-contested game courtesy of free-taker Jim Rossiter, the hard-working Eoin O’Callaghan, and strong starter and finisher Donal Shanley to clinch the title.
It was a sweet way to end their first appearance in an adult hurling final since the Junior ‘B’ success of 1992, and their prize is a return to Junior ranks for the first time since their relegation in 2006.
Team captain Jim Rossiter, one of three county footballers on view along with wing-forwards Shane Pettit and Donal Shanley, worked like a Trojan for the victors, and it was wonderful to see him up on the podium to accept the silverware after his well-documented battles with serious injury.
He also collected the man of the match award, although he must have been run very close for that accolade by outstanding wing-back Jack O’Leary, who was the best player on the field in my opinion.
There was an excellent scoring balance to the winners’ attack, with all six starters contributing from play – one apiece from the half-forwards, plus a brace each for the full-forwards. And then, for good measure, they could call on livewire substitute Jamie Codd to nail a couple of points on an afternoon that he must have enjoyed every bit as much as any of his Cheltenham successes.
Indeed, it was interesting to see gifted jockey Codd doing his stuff on the field, watched from the centre of the stand by racehorse trainer Jim Bolger – a staunch supporter and sponsor of Oylegate-Glenbrien. Normally their paths might cross at Leopardstown or the Curragh, but it was Chadwicks Wexford Park on this occasion for a game played in poor weather and underfoot conditions.
Oylegate-Glenbrien had won last year’s quarter-final clash of the teams after extra-time, but St. Fintan’s started better here after winning the toss and playing into the town end first.
Niall Moore got them off the mark before Jim Rossiter doubled the lead in the fourth minute from a Conor Day handpass, although the boys in blue were quickly back on level terms.
A Rory Sludds pull across goal found Ciarán O’Brien whose shot was deflected over the bar by a defender, and the leveller followed from the first of Fergal Doran’s four successful frees in the ninth minute.
The Enniscorthy District side were only denied the lead goal by a wonderful reflex save from Richard Rowe at the expense of a fruitless ’65, with the agile netminder diving to his left to deny Fiachra Hourihane after good approach work from Patrick Cullen and captain Eoin O’Mahoney.
Kevin Cosgrave was kept on his toes at the other end by an Eoin O’Callaghan drive after the full-forward gathered a Jack O’Leary line ball from the left.
Conor Day ended almost eleven minutes without a St. Fintan’s score when he pointed them back in front in the 15th minute, and they led by 0-4 to 0-2 at the water break after O’Callaghan followed his good example.
Oylegate-Glenbrien switched wing-backs Andrew Fitzhenry and Shane Lambert for the second quarter, with the latter now tasked with curbing Donal Shanley, although St. Fintan’s were able to call on two different forwards to extend their advantage.
Shane Pettit controlled a Frank Staples clearance with his stick before firing over. And a super catch and point followed from Niall Moore, after a lovely head-high delivery at pace from Jack O’Leary who was the most prominent of a very strong half-back line along with the tigerish Staples and Edmund Cleary.
Oylegate-Glenbrien did well to rally in the lead-up to half-time, hitting five of the last six points to go in at the break on level terms (0-7 each).
It was their best sustained spell in the game, starting with a Fergal Doran free that went over via a post before he converted another after a foul on Fiachra Hourihane.
Eoin O’Mahoney added his team’s third point on the trot and, although David Moore did stop the rot for St. Fintan’s, the last two scores of the half were registered by Oylegate-Glenbrien’s Ciarán O’Brien and another Fergal Doran placed ball (0-7 each).
Niall Moore missed a handy free for the Wexford District men just before half-time, and it was notable that their entire tally at that stage had been registered from open play, in comparison to three points for their rivals.
Oylegate-Glenbrien needed just 16 seconds to edge ahead on the restart, with Eoin O’Mahoney finishing off a Robert O’Connor delivery, and their large following on such a big day for the club must have entertained high hopes at that stage.
However, they were gradually extinguished over the next 15 minutes, with St. Fintan’s drawing level through wing-back Edmund Cleary from an Adam Devereux handpass before moving into overdrive.
Niall Moore was a little premature in going for goal from a 20-metre free, with Kevin Cosgrave and John Lambert combining to turn his shot around the post, although Jim Rossiter did give the eventual winners a 0-9 to 0-8 lead from the ’65.
David Moore’s last act before being substituted was to grab his second point from a delivery by Eoin O’Callaghan, who did a lot of vital work after moving to the half-forward line for the second period.
Jamie Codd entered the fray for the other Moore, Niall, at the same time, and he quickly developed a prosperous telepathy with defender Richie Kelly.
He got the ball in his hand for the first time from the corner-back’s pass, and dispatched it over the bar, and then he did the exact same thing from a similar source to leave St. Fintan’s ahead by 0-12 to 0-8 at the last water break.
Jim Rossiter widened the gap to five from a free before Patrick Cullen ended a scoreless spell for Oylegate-Glenbrien that had lasted just over 18 minutes.
Rossiter was momentarily dazed with an injury, but there was no sign of any after-effects as Eoin O’Callaghan fed him with a handpass from the throw-in to resume play and he darted forward for a fine solo point (0-14 to 0-9).
There was a major moment of concern for the leaders in the 55th minute, when a Fergal Doran ’65 broke at the feet of Fiachra Hourihane who lashed the sliothar first-time to the net.
A two-point lead going into the closing stages of a final can be fraught with danger, but not this time as St. Fintan’s stood tall when the pressure was at its greatest.
A foul on Shane Pettit was punished by Rossiter, via the right-hand post, before a Donal Shanley handpass directed Eoin O’Callaghan into open ground and he wisely opted to take his point (0-16 to 1-9).
Only a fine tackle by Robert O’Connor denied Shanley a possible goal, but he did have the last word scoring-wise deep into the four added minutes when he caught a Rossiter free and turned sharply before splitting the Clonard end posts.
Manager Liam Pettit, from neighbours Our Lady’s Island, has done a wonderful job in shaping this team into winners, leading a shrewd backroom team that also featured Jack Murphy, John Wright Snr., Wayne O’Leary, and Wexford’s new Garda Chief Superintendent, Anthony Pettit.
St. Fintan’s: Richard Rowe; Richie Kelly, Brendan Hughes, Peter Goldsmith; Edmund Cleary (0-1), Frank Staples, Jack O’Leary; Jim Rossiter (capt., 0-5, 2 frees, 1 ’65), Adam Devereux; Shane Pettit (0-1), Conor Day (0-1), Donal Shanley (0-1); David Moore (0-2), Eoin O’Callaghan (0-2), Niall Moore (0-2). Subs. – Johnny Kelly for D. Moore (40), Jamie Codd (0-2) for N. Moore (40), Liam Crowley for Day (54), also Eoin Cummins, Shane Sinnott, Tom Cullen, John William Rowe, Ed King.
Oylegate-Glenbrien: Kevin Cosgrave; John Lambert, Daithí O’Mahoney, Aidan Murphy; Andrew Fitzhenry, Bryan McCormack, Shane Lambert; Fergal Doran (0-4 frees), Robert O’Connor; Ciarán O’Brien (0-2), Patrick Cullen (0-1), Conor Doyle; Fiachra Hourihane (1-0), Eoin O’Mahoney (capt., 0-2), Rory Sludds. Subs. – Pierce Murphy for O’Brien (39), Brian Doran for A. Murphy (46), also Adam Roche, Dean Reck, Tomás Stamp, Pádraic O’Connor, Cathal Mernagh, Joseph Whelan, Cameron Clarke, Barry Doyle, Ryan Cullen, Mikie Kelly, David Philips.
Referee: John O’Loughlin (Monageer-Boolavogue).