ST. MARTIN’S 0-29 ST. ANNE’S 2-23 (AET)
ST. MARTIN’S WIN 2-1 ON PENALTIES
ELEVEN MONTHS after being on the wrong side of history, fortune favoured St. Martin’s on this occasion when they claimed a 2-1 penalty shoot-out success over neighbours St. Anne’s in a rain-lashed Chadwicks Wexford Park on Saturday to advance to the final four of the Pettitt’s Senior hurling championship.
Last year, in the preliminary quarter-final, with the same referee in charge, and by the same 2-1 scoreline, the men from Piercestown and Murrintown lost to next Sunday’s opponents, Naomh Éanna, in the first-ever conclusion of this nature to a competitive game in Wexford.
Personally, I wasn’t a fan of it then, and nothing that unfolded on Saturday caused me to alter that view.
After giving their all in the most trying of conditions, there was something hollow about a game of such importance being decided by the lottery of a shoot-out.
And it shouldn’t have come as a big surprise that so many of the penalties were poorly struck, given the awful weather players had to endure.
Only three out of ten were scored once again, although the first attempt was probably the best of the lot as Joe Coleman rattled the net for St. Martin’s.
Dylan Byrne then dived to his right to deny Mark Furlong, before Jack O’Connor’s head-high strike didn’t trouble Redmond Barry.
Byrne – who emerged as the Martin’s hero – then saved from Diarmuid O’Keeffe, while the next efforts from Kyle Firman and Darragh Furlong were also kept out.
With St. Martin’s leading 1-0 after three rounds, David Codd was denied by Barry before the Anne’s veteran turned from shot-stopper to scorer as they finally got off the mark, with his effort barely trickling into the right corner of the net.
It was down to the last two, with Willie Devereux planting a confident strike past Barry before a mis-hit Liam Rochford effort was comfortably saved by Byrne.
It was certainly a good evening for the St. Martin’s netminder, but he also inadvertently played a role in the huge talking point to emerge from the game.
In the 39th minute, with St. Anne’s behind by 0-15 to 1-9 after pulling back an early second-half goal, Aidan Rochford broke through and, in real time and from my vantage point to the rear of the stand, he appeared to strike a low shot off the post at the town end.
However, his hand signal in the immediate aftermath seemed to suggest that he felt it was a goal, and this prompted a frame-by-frame look at the footage later.
And that showed, beyond any doubt, that his shot had in fact crossed the line before rebounding out off the goalkeeper’s bag of hurls, placed on the ground and facing outwards, directly beside the post.
It has added a layer of controversy since to a game that never really developed into the type of top-rate contest that we were hoping for, although the conditions clearly didn’t help in that regard.
And while there was satisfaction at the finish for St. Martin’s, it was tempered to a degree by the sad experience of the returning Rory O’Connor who barely lasted ten minutes in the heat of battle.
Introduced at the start of the fourth quarter with his side leading by 0-16 to 1-11, he pulled up at the end of his first straight-line solo run, with the knee injury that led to his withdrawal against Clare in Thurles rearing its ugly head again.
It was such a shame to see this gifted hurler limping off with his head down, but that sight no doubt served as extra motivation for his colleagues to get the job done and return to the semi-final for the first time since their last outright success in 2019 over Saturday’s opponents.
St. Martin’s won the toss and utilised the wind blowing towards the town end first, and there wasn’t much between the sides until David Codd, Jake Firman and Kyle Firman struck the last three points of the half to create some daylight (0-12 to 0-6).
Liam Óg McGovern had given St. Anne’s the lead after 40 seconds with the first of his four points from play, two per half. He posed a constant threat at full-forward and ensured that St. Martin’s captain Conor Firman had his hands full, but he lacked support and was only backed up by free-taker Mark Furlong with four points in the first-half scoring stakes.
In contrast, a Martin’s side that led by 0-7 to 0-4 at the end of the first quarter enjoyed contributions from Joe Coleman (placed balls and play), Mikey Coleman and Jack O’Connor (two) before those last three points were added by three new marksmen, with eight wides thrown in for good measure in that opening half.
McGovern and Joe Coleman (free) exchanged points on the restart before the game got the boost it was crying out for in the 35th minute.
An Andy Kennedy delivery broke around the square, and Jonathan Fogarty drilled first-time to the net for St. Anne’s to reduce the gap to 0-13 to 1-7.
Momentum built as Mikey Fogarty and Mark Furlong (free) added points, although the leaders hit back via Mark Maloney and Joe Coleman from play before that much talked-about incident involving Aidan Rochford and the goal that wasn’t given.
St. Martin’s were able to maintain a gap of two to three points before a run of three scores on the trot between the 54th and 57th minutes – with a Liam Rochford effort in between two Mark Furlong frees – brought St. Anne’s level heading for home (1-15 to 0-18).
Joe Coleman (free) and Mikey Fogarty went on to exchange points, before Jake Firman and another Coleman placed ball from distance left St. Martin’s with a 0-21 to 1-16 lead entering the three additional minutes.
The resilience of last year’s runners-up shone through however, as Mark Furlong converted another free before hitting the leveller from play after good work by Liam and Aidan Rochford (1-18 to 0-21).
Joe Coleman could, and probably should, have won it for St. Martin’s when he stepped up to take a late free a mere 45 yards out at the Clonard end, but his strike tailed off to the left and extra-time was required.
St. Anne’s looked to be well placed midway through the first period when – after losing the toss and playing into the elements – they hit the first three points from substitute Dylan O’Brien and Mark Furlong (play and free).
However, St. Martin’s had drawn level by the break (0-24 to 1-21), after Willie Devereux pointed with his first touch before Joe Coleman – who showed admirable character to put that late miss behind him – added a brace from play.
After an early exchange between the free-takers on the restart, St. Martin’s struck four of the next five points and seemed to have one foot in the penultimate round.
Joe Barrett provided assists for substitute Aaron Maddock and Kyle Firman before scoring himself, and the latter then stretched the lead to 0-29 to 1-23 with just over 40 seconds of actual time remaining.
However, there was another twist at the death, with St. Martin’s initially keeping out a hit-and-hope Mark Furlong free before conceding another one 20 metres out, to the left of the posts.
This time Furlong drove it through a sea of bodies, and it made it as far as the square with a couple of deflections before a defender inadvertently kicked the sliothar into his own net.
With the score reading 2-23 to 0-29, the town end played host to another penalty shoot-out under the supervision of James Owens in a repeat of late August last year, when Naomh Éanna took the spoils.
After being bitterly disappointed on that occasion, perhaps the Gods were being kind on St. Martin’s as they savoured the winning feeling here. And now they can look forward to getting another crack at Gorey on Sunday in a semi-final that may very well be every bit as close as that 2021 clash.
St. Martin’s: Dylan Byrne; Patrick O’Connor, Conor Firman (capt.), Philip Dempsey; Joe Barrett (0-1), David Codd (0-1), Diarmuid O’Leary; Mark Maloney (0-1), Jake Firman (0-2); Luke Kavanagh, Jack O’Connor (0-2), Mikey Coleman (0-1); Kyle Firman (0-3), Joe Coleman (0-15, 10 frees, 1 ’65), Jack Devereux (0-1). Subs. – Rory O’Connor for M. Coleman (46), Zac Firman for Devereux (54), Daithí Waters for R. O’Connor, inj. (57), Aaron Maddock (0-1) for Maloney (ET), Willie Devereux (0-1) for O’Leary (68), Mikey Coleman for Kavanagh (72).
St. Anne’s: Redmond Barry; Kenny Cloney, Tomás Cullen, Liam Schokman; Eoin Ryan, Diarmuid O’Keeffe, Brian Kavanagh; Aidan Rochford (capt.), Andy Kennedy; Mikey Fogarty (0-2), Mark Furlong (1-15, 1-13 frees), Andrew Moran; Liam Rochford (0-1), Liam Óg McGovern (0-4), Jonathan Fogarty (1-0). Subs. – Dylan O’Brien (0-1) for Kennedy (41), Conan Philips for Kavanagh (47), Darragh Furlong for Moran (59).
Referee: James Owens (Askamore).