Wednesday 18 September 2019

Cyril Farrell: Oulart remove shackles to make it seventh-time lucky

Oulart-The Ballagh captain Barry Kehoe lifts the cup
Oulart-The Ballagh captain Barry Kehoe lifts the cup

Cyril Farrell

After a chance meeting with Barry Kehoe's father before going through the stiles at yesterday's game, I got the sense there was something different about Oulart- The Ballagh.

Some would say they had a lot to lose but they played like a team with everything to gain and it was a joy to see. Six final heartbreaks, four-in-a-row for this crop, would cripple most clubs.

But they removed the shackles and went for broke. I watched the coin toss closely and Kehoe decided to play with the gale. It might have seemed trivial, but it was a clear statement.

They believed in what they were doing and took faith into their own hands. There would be no more hard-luck stories with an efficient defensive set up, led by Paul Roche, Keith Rossiter and Shaun Murphy, held Cuala to just two points in the first half.

It took them a while to build a healthy lead but they hunted in packs and Tomas Dunne's goal on the stroke of half time was a real fillip because five points just wouldn't have been enough.

They were running in on a massive high but the wily Frank Flannery had other ideas. Rather than letting his side go in to the raptures of a large Wexford following, he assembled his troops on the field.

David Redmond, left, and Eamonn Murphy, along with their team-mates, celebrate at the end of the Leinster Club SHC final at Netwatch Dr Cullen Park
David Redmond, left, and Eamonn Murphy, along with their team-mates, celebrate at the end of the Leinster Club SHC final at Netwatch Dr Cullen Park


A five-minute regroup settled things down again. I'm sure he was thinking 'we're going in now and you think you have it won, let's settle down and go again'. It worked a treat.

I thought eight points might even be tricky but Oulart showed a new-found cuteness. They slowed things down a bit, put their stamp on the game and kept the scoreboard ticking over.

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The wides of finals past were nowhere to be seen and they knew if they didn't concede a goal, they were going to be hard to peg back. Once they got the bit between their teeth you could see that Wexford resilience of old.

Cuala fought back and got scores from out the field but I was surprised they didn't throw caution to the wind. Even when they were five or six down near the end, they were still holding two extra men back. Mark Schutte and David Treacy are fine hurlers but it doesn't matter who you have up there when you're completely outnumbered. They worked from the outside but I don't think Conor O'Leary had a shot to save.

Mattie Kenny's men had a mountain to climb. They went just over half way up it, but they couldn't get any closer with old hands like Des Mythen and Nicky Kirwan picking off great scores.

Garrett Sinnott's soft goal sealed the deal and if they'd gone on for another day, they still would have prevailed. There was no way they were losing this one.

I had to laugh after the game, with all the stewards trying to do their duties but there was no way they were going to stop the Wexford crowd stampeding on to the field. It was their day and it was the end of a sporting nightmare for Oulart.

Celebrations will be savage with the whole of Wexford getting behind their champions. Pulling into the car park, I met people from every corner of the county - it was a win for Wexford as much as Oulart. Every time they lost, people were saying they wouldn't win another county title, but these lads wouldn't give up.

They really deserved the win and yesterday highlighted everything good about the club championship. No matter what you win at county, you only have one club. Oulart fought for that jersey, they were willing to die for each other and that was refreshing given some of the comments passed about them.

A young Cuala side can take a page out of Oulart's book and come back stronger, but for the Wexford side, a titanic clash with Na Piarsaigh awaits in the unchartered territory of an All-Ireland semi-final.

I'm looking forward to it already, but Oulart should bask in a famous triumph and enjoy an unusual Christmas feeling as the eternal bridesmaids have finally made their walk down the aisle.

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