EEW All-County Hurling League Division 4 final: Faythe Harriers 3-10 Ferns St. Aidan's 1-14
Hard-earned titles always mean a little more than the easy victories after the dust settles.
And, bearing that in mind, the Faythe Harriers Juniors should take a lot of positives from their EEW All-County Hurling League Division 4 final victory over a Ferns St. Aidan's side responsible for five of the game's last six points in St. Patrick's Park, Enniscorthy, on Wednesday.
The Wexford town team had to absorb a lot of late pressure after scoring a cracking third goal in the 51st minute, but their defence stood firm and it was left to veteran centre-back Emmet Keeling to accept the silverware on behalf of his team.
Neither of the finalists had managed a victory in the first two rounds of the championship, but that was a long time ago at this stage, and both will benefit from this tough test before resuming action in the main event this coming weekend.
Faythe Harriers enjoyed a bright start when they goaled inside two minutes, with a long Ciarán Kirwan clearance gathered by Glen Murphy-Butler - one of the stars of last year's Minor-winning side - who soloed in from the left corner before beating Ferns netminder Michael Walsh.
While Anthony Dwyer opened the scoring for the Gorey District side, the next three points were registered by the Harriers as Pádraigh Farrell flicked the sliothar off his hurl and over the bar before Paul Murphy and Glen Murphy-Butler left them with a 1-3 to 0-1 lead.
Ferns hit back in style in the twelfth minute with a well-worked goal. Anthony Dwyer flicked the ball to midfielder Willie Bolger who made ground before handpassing to Pádraig Walsh, and it was somewhat similar to Seamus Callanan's cracking finish in Croke Park three days earlier as the centre-forward connected first-time on the bounce and rattled the net.
Dwyer quickly made it a one-point game from a free before his namesake, Jonny, saw his shot deflect off the upper body of Harriers netminder Adam McDaid before the ball was cleared.
Significantly, the Páirc Charman crew were always in front after that early goal, and a brace of Murphy-Butler frees stretched their advantage to 1-5 to 1-2 before Ryan Nolan converted a '65 for Ferns.
After starting the half on a real high, the Harriers finished it in a similar vein with a second goal that left them with an interval lead of 2-5 to 1-3.
Murphy-Butler and Eoin Roche combined to pick out Conor Kehoe who wasn't able to get a shot away as advancing netminder Michael Walsh wrapped both arms around him, and the penalty that followed was driven low to the left corner of the net by full-forward Pádraigh Farrell.
Ferns had the breeze behind them on the re-start, and they exerted early pressure on the leaders with a brace of pointed frees from Ryan Nolan.
And although Shane Howard hit back for the Harriers, just the bare minimum divided the teams by the 38th minute after captain Brian O'Neill, Jonny Dwyer and Derek Thorpe posted further Ferns points (2-6 to 1-8).
Glen Murphy-Butler (free) and the impressive Pádraig Walsh went on to swap scores before Michael Walsh made a very good save to deny the former as he attempted to bat home a goal.
The key period for the Harriers arrived between the 46th and 52nd minutes when they struck for 1-2 on the trot, with the excellently-crafted goal making all the difference.
Paul 'Spot' Murphy picked off a point before the man better known for his exploits with a bigger ball, both on the Gaelic football and soccer fields, got on the end of a smashing move to make it 3-8 to 1-9.
Long-serving substitute Kevin Gore sprayed the ball down the right flank where Conor Kehoe turned his marker and soloed goalwards before finding Murphy, and his finish to the net was first rate.
When Murphy-Butler earned and converted another free, the Harriers had one hand on the cup, but Ferns really made them sweat for it as they produced a very spirited finish.
Indeed, they hit five points without reply between the 53rd and 62nd minutes from three Anthony Dwyer frees, Pádraig Walsh and a Ryan Nolan free to leave them very close to forcing extra-time.
It took a brilliant point to finally seal the deal for the Harriers just over two minutes into added time, with goalscorer Murphy popping a handpass to Pádraigh Farrell whose strike from the right wing was heading between the posts from the moment it left his stick.
Faythe Harriers: Adam McDaid; Cillian Lawlor, Ciarán Kirwan, Alan Lynch; Conall Ó Crualaoich, Emmet Keeling (capt.), Cillian Gahan; Conor Halligan, Con Ó Donnagáin; Shane Howard (0-1), Eoin Roche, Paul Murphy (1-2); Conor Kehoe, Pádraigh Farrell (1-2, 1-0 pen.), Glen Murphy-Butler (1-5, 0-4 frees). Subs. - Kevin Gore for Halligan (38), Nicky Lawlor for Howard (55), also Dáire Reville, Seán Banville, Fiach Ó Crualaoich, Chris Glover, Tomás Campbell, John Clancy, Paddy Glover, Jack O'Leary, Jake Clancy.
Ferns St. Aidan's: Michael Walsh; Christopher Davitt, Peter Nolan, Brian O'Neill (Clone); P.J. O'Neill, Declan Byrne, Brian O'Neill (St. Aidan's, capt., 0-1); Willie Bolger, Ryan Nolan (0-4, 3 frees, 1 '65); Lee Quigley, Pádraig Walsh (1-2), Jonny Dwyer (0-1); Derek Thorpe (0-1), Edward Walsh, Anthony Dwyer (0-5, 4 frees). Subs. - Jack O'Hagan for O'Neill (Clone, 37), also Christopher O'Connor, Jeff Tobin, Ciarán Doran, Shane Stafford, Conor Doran, Steve Warren, Shane Breen, Liam Murphy, Aaron Cahill, Colm Whelan.
Referee: Brendan Holohan (Rathgarogue-Cushinstown)