Ballinastragh Gaels 2-12 Oulart-The Ballagh 2-6
After a season in which nothing appeared to be able to separate these two sides, diminutive Cian Hughes popped off the bench to inspire Ballinastragh Gaels to the Enniscorthy Guardian Juvenile hurling Roinn 1 shield title in St. Patrick's Park on Monday of last week.
The Gorey District side were four points down when Hughes trotted onto the field in the 21st minute.
It's true what they say, defending starts from the front, and his influence of chasing down opponents spread throughout his side.
Suddenly there was no easy Oulart-The Ballagh strike of a ball, as everything was contested. In the time remaining, the Enniscorthy District side managed just three points, all from frees, as the Gaels swarmed around determined to complete their double.
They actually started pretty well against the light breeze and eased 0-2 to 0-1 ahead thanks to a brace of points from the ever-dangerous Joe Curtis.
However, things got a little more complicated when Pierce Redmond bundled the ball home after Adam McRedmond's shot caromed off the foot of the post.
Oulart-The Ballagh looked to be coasting when Billy Dunne's long ball forward broke off an unfortunate J.J. O'Neill and was forced home by John Roche.
It helped his side into a 2-2 to 0-3 lead at the end of the opening quarter but slowly the game changed.
Caleb Murphy found his range at the other end of the field to drag his side within a score but there was still time for some magic to end the half. It came courtesy of Curtis as he hauled in a raking diagonal ball from Garbhan Finn, cut inside and rattled the net.
Billy Dunne's free got Oulart-The Ballagh level at the break (2-4 to 1-7), and they might have had another goal or two early in the second-half had the ball broke the right way in either of a couple of goalmouth scrambles.
Slowly, points from Curtis, Robert Murphy, Caleb Murphy and Cian Hughes got Ballinastragh two up with time ticking away. The critical moment, which wrapped up the title for the Gaels, came with four minutes left.
Caleb Murphy did the hard work, breaking out of a tight midfield before firing the ball forward. Hughes judged the flight to perfection, collected in behind the Oulart-The Ballagh defence and raced away to seal the shield for Ballinastragh.
Ballinastragh Gaels: J.J. O'Neill; Conor Jones, Ben Morris, Jake Kinsella; Jason Bolger, Tom Mordaunt, Garbhan Finn; Paddy D'Arcy, Cillian Byrne; Robert Murphy (0-1), Caleb Murphy (0-7, 4 frees), Conor Hughes (capt.); Joe Curtis (1-3), Jordan Kinch, Conor Kinsella. Subs. - Cian Hughes (1-1) for Kinch (21), Seán Hughes for Kinsella (60), also Micheál McGonigle, Mickey Higgins.
Oulart-The Ballagh: Lee O'Connor; Lorcan Nimmo, Jack Corrigan, Aaron Doyle; Darragh Hayes, Billy Dunne (0-3 frees), Aaron Byrne; Martin O'Connor, Chris Lawless; Declan Sinnott, Daire Swords (0-1), Adam McRedmond; Pierce Redmond (1-0), Jim Finn (0-2, 1 free), John Roche (1-0). Subs. - David O'Gorman for Roche (55), Dan Nolan for Redmond (60), also Aaron Kirwan-Doyle, Jake Cox, Berti Finn, Stephen Devitt, Gerard Kennedy, Cian McCormack, Dylan O'Gorman, Edward O'Dowd.
Referee: Ian Plunkett (Marshalstown-Castledockrell).