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Ross Banville finds his range as Shelmaliers see off St Martin’s in Wexford Senior hurling opener

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Kyle Firman of St. Martin’s under pressure from Eoin Doyle (Shelmaliers). Photograph: John Walsh.

Kyle Firman of St. Martin’s under pressure from Eoin Doyle (Shelmaliers). Photograph: John Walsh.

Kyle Firman of St. Martin’s under pressure from Eoin Doyle (Shelmaliers). Photograph: John Walsh.

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Shelmaliers 3-15 St. Martin’s 1-16

Ross Banville found his range as the second-half progressed to fire Shelmaliers to an opening round victory over St. Martin’s in Group B of the Pettitt’s Senior hurling championship in Bellefield on Tuesday.

Not everybody seemed too enamoured about Banville continuing on dead-balls after he missed wide left with the first three of the second-half, but all of them were pretty close and management trusted the process.

It paid dividends as he was perfect in the remainder of the game, knocking over five frees and adding 1-1 from play as the 2020 champions stuttered to a victory that probably should have been a little easier.

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They did a lot of the hard work in the first-half, despite trailing by a point at the break (1-9 to 2-5). Although ahead, a St. Martin’s side minus Rory O’Connor did plenty of damage to their own cause in the opening 30 minutes; their performance had too much rust, it was untidy across the board, and consistent cohesion was lacking.

Passes were missing their target and too often didn’t even seem to be in the vicinity of anyone. Defenders were getting drawn to the ball sometimes four and five at a time and it left free runners all over the place.

In truth, Shelmaliers could have had a hatful of goals in the first-half but, more by their own wastefulness than magnificent defending they only managed two. It left the Piercestown and Murrintown side right in it, despite having to turn into a significant breeze.

To their credit, St. Martin’s put in a far better second-half showing, dispite losing it by six points. Most of that damage was done from the 59th minute onwards and when breaking this down they should be most satisfied with the spell leading up to the final embers.

Shelmaliers were the opposite, as they did their best work in the first-half and really should have gone in ahead. While their opponents showed rust in their inter-change, the Shels’ failings were more prevalent near to goal, although Dylan Byrne was brave and alert between the sticks for St. Martin’s too.

They looked leggy in the second-half, when St. Martin’s were hitting harder, running harder and appeared to be working harder. The Hollymount crew also seemed to be in protective mode, with St. Martin’s finding it way too easy to sweep up loose possession in their half-back line.

One felt that the Martin’s were there for the taking and a more aggressive approach would have been prudent. On the flip side the result speaks for itself, and not a single person in the club would have turned down a five-point win before throw-in.

St. Martin’s got off to the fast start with the breeze as the Shels found their feet. After three points from Jack O’Connor, easily his side’s best performer on the night, Mikey Coleman made the most of a defensive error to register the opening goal.

The Shels responded in seconds, as Paul Hearne played a nice ball across the face of goal. Aaron Murphy plucked it out of the air, took it on and gave Byrne absolutely no chance with a cracking finish.

With Daithí Waters and Luke Kavanagh on target, St. Martin’s still held the lead until almost their whole defence got drawn to Eoghan Nolan in the 20th minute. He flipped to Conor Hearne, who played in an unmarked Dylan O’Neill for the second Shels major (2-4 to 1-5).

Banville made it a three-point lead but St. Martin’s did finish the half with a flourish. O’Connor bookended the four points to bring his tally to five, while Kyle Firman and Darren Codd also registered to make it a one-point lead for their side at the change of ends.

With Banville looking for his radar, Paul Hearne scored the only point of the first eight minutes of the second-half for Shelmaliers. At the other end O’Connor and Firman pointed to keep the scoreboard ticking over.

Their lack of frees in scoring range was starting to grate on St. Martin’s as the third quarter progressed, and frustrations were running high when Dylan O’Neill took plenty of steps to release Banville to make it 3-8 to 1-11 in the 42nd minute.

For a good 15 minutes after, St. Martin’s dominated the territory but didn’t get the scores their play deserved. Every time they got closer a free at the other end stalled the momentum and they never did get back on terms.

There was just a point in it when Mark Maloney lofted over in the 56th minute, but Shelmaliers scored five points from the 59th minute onwards, with Banville getting three and the super-sub Joe Kelly adding the last two to round out the game in style.

Shelmaliers: Adam Howlin; Simon Donohoe (capt.), Aidan Cash, Jody Donohoe; Conor Walsh, Glen Malone, Eoin Doyle; Aaron Murphy (1-0), Conor Hearne (0-1); Seán Keane-Carroll (0-2), Graham Staples, Ross Banville (1-9, 0-6 frees, 0-1 ‘65); Dylan O’Neill (1-0), Eoghan Nolan, Paul Hearne (0-1). Subs. - Luke Roche for Nolan (45), Joe Kelly (0-2) for Staples (46), Aaron Doyle for E. Doyle (57).

St. Martin’s: Dylan Byrne; Joe Barrett, Patrick O’Connor, Philip Dempsey; Conor Firman (capt.), David Codd, Diarmuid O’Leary; Mark Maloney (0-1), Jack O’Connor (0-8, 2 frees, 1 ‘65); Mikey Coleman (1-0), Kyle Firman (0-3, 1 free), Daithí Waters (0-1); Luke Kavanagh (0-1), Conor Kelly (0-1), Darren Codd (0-1). Subs. - Willie Devereux for Kelly (55), Zac Firman for K. Firman (55).

Referee: David O’Leary (Rathnure).


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