Joyces Expert Intermediate 'A' football championship final: Naomh Eanna 1-13 Cloughbawn 0-7
The Naomh Eanna machine marched on happily in Innovate Wexford Park on Sunday when they claimed the Joyces Expert Intermediate 'A' football championship crown for the first time after three previous final defeats with a commanding win over Cloughbawn.
William Cullen's coolly-taken goal with less than four minutes left was the icing on the cake for the Gorey men, as they were the superior side from the off and returned to the second grade with a composed performance.
Cloughbawn now join the victors with the unwanted record of having lost three deciders since this tier of football was introduced in 2012, but one suspects that the disappointment will be quickly forgotten if their hurlers can claim the Intermediate crown next Sunday.
Of course, Naomh Eanna will go into battle in the Senior showpiece immediately afterwards, and the two clubs deserve credit for successfully juggling both codes given the non-stop schedule of games since August.
A mere 25 seconds had elapsed when full-forward Conor McDonald placed David O'Brien for the first Naomh Eanna point, although Cloughbawn made an initial positive response.
Colm Kehoe had a low shot saved and cleared before Martin Kehoe equalised from a Bob Whitty lay-off, but as the game progressed it was evident that the north county side were a lot more adept at creating space for their forwards to exploit.
Wing-back Aodhán Doyle restored their lead in the eleventh minute from a Brendan Travers handpass, and it was the first of six points on the trot as Gorey surged into a lead that they never looked like losing.
Cloughbawn netminder Paul Foley did well to parry a Peter Travers shot before Conor McDonald made it 3-1, and the margin was widened to six by the 24th minute after further points from William Cullen (two), McDonald and Travers.
They also came close to scoring a goal during that spell of dominance, and in truth they deserved one for the sheer quality of a dummy by McDonald in the build-up.
Seán Doyle and Jack Cullen combined before the latter fisted a pass across to McDonald who, realising that David O'Brien was free behind him, left the ball to run on to his corner-forward colleague who crashed it off the crossbar.
Cloughbawn finally showed some signs of life when Bob Whitty ended their 21-minute scoreless spell with a pointed free, and he quickly added one from play from a Harry Kehoe lay-off after Naomh Eanna netminder Barry Kinsella was penalised for delaying a kick-out (0-7 to 0-3).
While a solo point in added time by Charlie McGuckin increased the Gorey lead to five, two incidents beforehand were of crucial importance and neither went in Cloughbawn's favour.
Firstly, the excellent Kinsella made a fine save from Harry Kehoe after a strong solo run by midfielder Páidí Cullen, and then they were awarded a penalty when David Doyle-Murphy appeared to be held as he contested a high ball towards the square from Martin Kehoe.
The latter, also a very experienced soccer player and formerly of Wexford Youths, stepped up to take the spot kick, but he drilled it low to the left and wide.
Although Naomh Eanna deserved that 0-8 to 0-3 interval lead, with all of their points from play and five of the six forwards contributing, those two late goal chances for their rivals highlighted the reality that their task was only half completed.
Cloughbawn came within inches of goaling just 30 seconds into the new half too, but veteran 'keeper Kinsella got down low to his right to stop a well-placed Páidí Kehoe shot after a build-up featuring three Kehoes - Harry, Barry and Martin.
Barry's brother, Colm, pointed the '45 that followed, and the Enniscorthy District side must have been hopeful after a foul on half-time substitute Thomas Foley led to Bob Whitty narrowing the gap to 0-8 to 0-5 in the 37th minute.
Peter Travers steadied Gorey with a point in the course of a fine overall performance, but they had reason to thank Barry Kinsella once more in the 44th minute when he turned a Harry Kehoe piledriver over the bar.
A run of three points on the trot between the 46th and 50th minutes pushed Gorey 12-6 clear, and they were never going to be caught after that.
Jack Cullen and Aodhán Doyle worked the ball crossfield for Charlie McGuckin to split the posts, with Cullen going on to convert a '45 (his team's sole score from a placed ball) before substitute Lee Kinsella created that double scores difference with his first meaningful contribution.
Number one of just two second-half wides, both for Gorey, followed from a David O'Brien free before his corner-forward counterpart, Bob Whitty, enjoyed better luck at the other end (0-12 to 0-7).
Barry Kinsella's kick-out that followed resulted in the game's only goal, with big John O'Brien's mark and quick release to speedy substitute Cathal Dunbar opening up the tiring Cloughbawn defence.
The former Réalt na Mara player spotted William Cullen to his left and delivered a handpass at the opportune time, and the corner-forward slotted the ball beyond Paul Foley to make doubly sure that Naomh Eanna wouldn't be repeating their final disappointments from 2012, 2014 and 2017.
Peter Travers added his third point in added time after a one-two with Lee Kinsella before leading his team up the steps to collect the silverware, a journey they would give anything to repeat next Sunday.
As for Cloughbawn, the Intermediate hurling final will focus the minds quickly, and there will be time later in the year to dissect this latest defeat which followed similar reversals in 2013 and 2016.
Naomh Eanna will be in football action again at a home venue on Saturday, October 27, when they take on Kilkenny Intermediate champions Tullogher-Rosbercon in the first round of the AIB Leinster Junior championship at 1.30 p.m.
Naomh Eanna: Barry Kinsella; Joseph O'Connor, Daniel Sunderland, Seamus O'Donnell; Jack Cullen (0-1 '45), Pádraig Doyle, Aodhán Doyle (0-1); Brendan Travers, John O'Brien; Charlie McGuckin (0-2), Peter Travers (capt., 0-3), Seán Doyle; William Cullen (1-2), Conor McDonald (0-2), David O'Brien (0-1). Subs. - Cathal Dunbar for S. Doyle (41), Lee Kinsella (0-1) for McDonald (47), Gary Molloy for McGuckin, inj. (48), Jack Cushe for D. O'Brien (55), Eoin Conroy for W. Cullen (58), also Kenneth Byrne, Eoin Molloy, Michael Molloy, Simon Doran, Tom Stafford, Conor Levingston, Gearóid Cullen, Darragh Hughes, Conor Hughes, Seán Delaney, Nathan Byrne, Evan O'Dwyer, Ross Murphy.
Cloughbawn: Paul Foley; James Dempsey, Colin Doyle, Stephen Casserly; David Doyle-Murphy, Johnny Cullen (capt.), Gavin Murphy; Barry Kehoe, Páidí Cullen; Kyle Murphy, Colm Kehoe (0-1 '45), Harry Kehoe (0-1); Bob Whitty (0-4, 3 frees), Martin Kehoe (0-1), Páidí Kehoe. Subs. - Thomas Foley for K. Murphy (HT), Barry Carton for P. Kehoe (46), Aaron Byrne for J. Cullen, black card (58), Luke Cummins for Doyle-Murphy, inj. (60+2), also Billy Dunne, David Casserly, Brendan Coleman, Colin Murphy, Stephen Doody, Daniel Dempsey, Barry O'Connor, Callen Morrissey, Garreth Murphy, Billy Wickham, Connal Flood, Cathal Spratt.
Referee: Philip Murphy (Faythe Harriers).