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Shelmaliers thriving on small-ball focus as they lay down serious title marker

Wexford SHC: Shelmaliers 0-22 Faythe Harriers 1-12

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Shelmaliers' James Cash gets up close and personal with Faythe Harriers' Wayne Mallon, Paul Murphy and Colm Heffernan during their Wexford SHC quarter-final in Wexford Park. Photo: Sportsfile

Shelmaliers' James Cash gets up close and personal with Faythe Harriers' Wayne Mallon, Paul Murphy and Colm Heffernan during their Wexford SHC quarter-final in Wexford Park. Photo: Sportsfile

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Shelmaliers' James Cash gets up close and personal with Faythe Harriers' Wayne Mallon, Paul Murphy and Colm Heffernan during their Wexford SHC quarter-final in Wexford Park. Photo: Sportsfile

Much of the talk earlier this year was of the impact which ex-Waterford manager Derek McGrath and former Cork boss John Meyler would play in the Wexford SHC, but neither will be involved in this year's final four.

Meyler watched his St Martin's side play second fiddle to Glynn-Barntown on Friday night as they relinquished their crown, while McGrath had little qualms as his Faythe Harriers side struggled to match strides with a dominant Shelmaliers outfit at Chadwicks Wexford Park yesterday.

McGrath, who intimated that he would like to remain in his coaching role with the Wexford town club again next year, admitted that the Lee Chin-led side had some way to travel before being realistic contenders.

"There was a gap, not a chasm, but a gap between I'd say the 'Shels' and Gorey and a few of them. And it was evident from start to finish really. We knew that but we were more hopeful than the performance kind of suggested," McGrath said.

"We kind of need Lee everywhere, we need him inside, we need him outside. They knew that as well, they were well-drilled and well-prepped. They were just tracking him everywhere, they went hard after our key men and it worked for them."

Shels clearly had their homework done with Wexford football stalwart Brian Malone keeping close tabs on Chin throughout as the All-Star forward struggled to leave his mark on the game, while his free-taking was also unusually off-colour.

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Faythe Harriers' Richie Lawlor shoots to score his side's first goal past Shelmaliers' Brian Murphy. Photo: Sportsfile

Faythe Harriers' Richie Lawlor shoots to score his side's first goal past Shelmaliers' Brian Murphy. Photo: Sportsfile

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Faythe Harriers' Richie Lawlor shoots to score his side's first goal past Shelmaliers' Brian Murphy. Photo: Sportsfile

Vinny Parker's side stifled the Harriers' running game with a series of important turnovers ensuring that they held sway throughout, although there was a big scare just on the stroke of the half-time whistle.

With Wexford hurling boss Davy Fitzgerald watching on from the stands, Shels were in total control, 0-10 to 0-5, when Chin provided the killer hand-pass to send Richie Lawlor through for a well-taken goal.

Hauled

Chin was then hauled down minutes later but his all-important penalty attempt rocketed off the post as Shels were able to breathe a sigh of relief before assuming control once again upon the resumption, with Ross Banville, James Cash and Sean Keane Carroll influential up front.

With Model defender Simon Donohoe and Eoin Doyle also bombing out with ball after ball, their goal was not threatened again as a significant hurdle was finally overcome.

"They let themselves down at this stage for the last couple of years, it's 2014 since they last got to a semi-final and they've lost four in that time, so they know that themselves and they delivered," Parker said.

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Shelmaliers' Conor Hearne in action against Josh Sheil of Faythe Harriers. Photo: Sportsfile

Shelmaliers' Conor Hearne in action against Josh Sheil of Faythe Harriers. Photo: Sportsfile

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Shelmaliers' Conor Hearne in action against Josh Sheil of Faythe Harriers. Photo: Sportsfile

"Having the monkey off the back will help them. They're seriously talented and they're at that age where they know that the opportunities only come fairly seldom and that they have to make the most of them.

"They know this is an opportunity. There's no easy team left but we're as good as any other team if we can drive on. The aim was to get in the pot for the semi-final and we're in it."

The Castlebridge side are one of many clubs in the sunny south-east which have a dual mandate, having claimed Wexford SFC honours two years ago - their last hurling title was in 2014 - and Parker feels the new championship format suits them.

"It's a huge benefit having them just hurling and it's a great way to run a championship. The games might be a bit condensed but most of our lads are dual players and it's great to be concentrating on one code," he said.

"It's tough on lads changing codes. Lads are playing every weekend and there's two managers trying to do their thing with the team, so I think it really benefits a dual club."

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Faythe Harriers' Lee Chin hits the post from a penalty. Photo: Sportsfile

Faythe Harriers' Lee Chin hits the post from a penalty. Photo: Sportsfile

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Faythe Harriers' Lee Chin hits the post from a penalty. Photo: Sportsfile

There is a huge added incentive for Shels knowing that hot favourites St Martin's have already bitten the dust and opportunity knocks for silverware over the coming weeks before their focus shifts to the big ball.

"It does blow it open for everyone else. The Martin's are a serious team but they're out of it and it's onwards and upwards for us thankfully," Parker said.

SCORERS - Shelmaliers: R Banville 0-7 (6f); J Kelly (3f), J Cash, S Keane Carroll 0-3 each; J Donohoe, C Hearne, 0-2 each; S Donohoe, C Walsh 0-1 each. Faythe Harriers: L Chin 0-8 (7f); R Lawlor 1-0; W Mallon 0-2; R Kehoe, C Clancy 0-1 each.

SHELMALIERS - B Murphy; S Donohoe, A Cash, J Donohoe; G Malone, B Malone, C Walsh; C Hearne, E Doyle; J Cash, R Banville, S Keane Carroll; C Shaughnessy, E Nolan, J Kelly. Subs: D O'Neill for Banville (49), A Murphy for Shaughnessy (57), A O'Brien for J Donohoe (63).

FAYTHE HARRIERS - J Henebery; A Lynch, B Mulligan, C Byrne; C Heffernan, R Kehoe, P Murphy; M Hanrahan, J Berry; J Sheil, L Chin, W Mallon; C Clancy, G Murphy Butler, R Lawlor. Subs: K Scallan for Hanrahan (35), P Farrell for Murphy Butler (48), C Crowley for Sheil (52), E Kavanagh for Mallon (59).

Ref - J Heffernan (Blackwater).

Irish Independent