First for fabulous Fethard
All-Ireland series awaits after impressive provincial win
A FABULOUS performance inspired by a powerful midfield combination and a supreme work ethic all over the field delivered provincial glory for the Fethard hurlers in Innovate Wexford Park on Saturday when they dealt capably with the John Lockes challenge to become the first-ever Wexford winners of the AIB Leinster Club Junior championship.
A trip to Britain on the last weekend of the month for the All-Ireland quarter-final is the rewarding prize for the seasiders who thundered into their Kilkenny opponents from the off and were worthy winners after an engrossing contest.
And that well-worn phrase, a captain leading by example, was particularly apt as the Fethard success was based around a brilliant exhibition of midfield play from the talented Garrett Foley who had a most capable partner in John Tubritt.
The St. Mogue’s men cleaned up completely in that key sector, and this laid the platform for a victory that has opened up all sorts of exciting possibilities for a team so well prepared by Lorcan and Paul Barden, Kevin Bolger and Matty Hyland.
Fethard welcomed the return of wing-back Richie Waters from a one-game suspension, and they started brightly and never looked back.
The Dwyer brothers wore the opposite numbers to those assigned to them on the match programme, and if it was a ploy to initially confuse John Lockes it worked.
Mikie, wearing 13 rather than 15, picked off two points inside five minutes before the Callan side seemed to realise and switched their corner-backs, with their free-taker James Power (son of former Kilkenny great John) getting them off the mark in between.
A lovely handpassing move between John Tubritt and Mark Wallace ended with Garrett Foley firing over the first of his two points in the seventh minute, and it was clear that Fethard were intent on building on those earlier provincial wins over Naomh Bríd (Carlow) and Erin’s Isle (Dublin) respectively.
John Lockes managed to hit back as Robert Kerwick picked off the first of just four points from play by the 2010 champions, who had beaten Adamstown in that year’s semi-final in Taghmon.
Power equalised from a free in the twelfth minute, but that was as good as it got for the visitors.
Daire Barden caught Seán Foley’s puck-out and sent it swiftly between the posts at the town end for a strong response, with a late tackle on Garrett Foley punished when Mark Wallace converted the free before Eddie Power made it 0-6 to 0-3 at the start of the second quarter.
Fethard won the subsequent puck-out and, when Daire Barden’s delivery came off the fingertips of Lockes full-back Bill McDowell, the alert Graham O’Grady was on hand to force the ball to the net from close range.
It was a tonic score for the wind-aided leaders who were lifted even further as Garrett Foley claimed another point under strong pressure on the left before Wallace nailed another free (1-8 to 0-3).
And although James Power (free) and Dan McCormack responded, a half featuring a mere two wides per team ended on a high for Fethard as a Wallace brace - the first from a free, and the second after a Ciarán Dwyer crossfield pass and a neat dummy - left the reds with a handsome 1-10 to 0-5 half-time lead.
One of the key questions at the interval centred on their ability to maintain such a savage workrate throughout.
And while some sort of John Lockes comeback was perhaps inevitable given their Kilkenny pedigree and the fact the elemenets were in their favour, they didn’t get any closer than four points until a late, late goal reduced the final margin to three.
James Power and Mark Wallace swapped points from frees before the former knocked another one over when play was called back after his goal shot was saved by Seán Foley.
A Ciarán Dwyer handpass picked out Graham O’Grady to make it 1-12 to 0-7 in the 42nd minute, with Power scoring another free before Eddie Power - now at full-forward - nearly got on the end of a low ball from John Tubritt which drifted wide.
Dan McCormack pointed for Lockes, but their discipline wasn’t the best and resulted in a number of frees being brought forward for dissent.
One such decision led to Mark Wallace making it 1-13 to 0-9 at the start of the last quarter, but Fethard’s mettle was really tested after their rivals goaled in the 47th minute.
A dangerous ball from veteran former Kilkenny under-age star John O’Neill was flicked by McCormack into the path of substitute Shane Bergin who buried the ball past Seán Foley from the edge of the square.
Fethard needed a swift response and it came in the form of a Mark Wallace free, but Ryan Bergin’s reply ensured that nothing was decided as the game entered the last ten minutes.
Garrett Foley drove a rising near-post wide from a half-chance for a goal after an Eddie Power handpass, with a key moment following in the 54th minute.
Mikie Dwyer was clipped by corner-back Cathal McGrath as he turned him following a neat Foley pass, but it was a harsh call to dismiss the Lockes man on a second booking.
However, referee Thomas Gleeson, a new arrival at this level, is getting a reputation for being too fond of dishing out the cards, something Fethard had experienced already when he sent-off Richie Waters in the quarter-final.
Mark Wallace pointed the subsequent free to make it 1-15 to 1-10, with Ryan Bergin’s dangerous delivery going wide at the other end before Mikie Dwyer sent over a beauty from a Wallace clearance.
The number 11 had drifted back around his own half-back line after the John Lockes dismissal, and his earlier direct opponent, captain Owen McGrath, picked off a point before Joe Brennan, one of the Callan mentors, was ordered off the sideline and into the stand by the referee.
The 60 minutes had almost expired when Garrett Foley was fouled after winning a Seán Foley puck-out, and Mark Wallace stepped up to stretch the lead to 1-17 to 1-11.
The second John Lockes goal arrived over four minutes into added time after yet another harsh yellow was dished out, this time to Richie Waters.
Ryan Bergin’s 20-metre free somehow beat the eight Fethard men on the line, and it was hearts in mouths time for their supporters when the same player lobbed one last ball around the square.
Thankfully it was cleared towards the right sideline, before the last blast of the referee’s whistle led to joyous celebrations for the new champions of Leinster whose dream year isn’t over yet.
Fethard: Seán Foley; Martin Power, Rúairí Tubrid, Daniel Mullan; Richie Waters, Kevin Rowe, Joe Sutton; Garrett Foley (capt., 0-2), John Tubritt; Eddie Power (0-1), Mark Wallace (0-9, 8 frees), Daire Barden (0-1); Ciarán Dwyer, Graham O’Grady (1-1), Mikie Dwyer (0-3). Subs. - Brian O’Donoghue for Barden, temp. (30-HT), O’Donoghue for Barden (52), Darren Foley for E. Power (60+3), also Jesse Foley, Christopher Molloy, Jimmy Sutton, John Rice, Shane Tubrid, Conor O’Donoghue, Seán Sutton, Ricky Rowe, Ciarán Furlong, Paul Foley, Seán Donohoe, James Dillon, Michael Roche, Bryan Power.
John Lockes: Ian Burke; Brian Kirwan, Bill McDowell, Cathal McGrath; Tony Delaney, Owen McGrath (capt., 0-1), Jason Corcoran; Jack McDowell, Seán Power; Paddy Kennedy, James Power (0-6 frees), Ryan Bergin (1-1, 1-0 free); Matthew Fogarty, Dan McCormack (0-2), Robert Kerwick (0-1). Subs. - Shane Bergin (1-0) for Fogarty (HT), John O’Neill for J. McDowell (34), Conor Murphy for Kennedy (49).
Referee: Thomas Gleeson (Dublin).
The Fethard squad prior to Saturday’s Leinster Club Junior hurling championship victory in Innovate Wexford Park.
The Dwyer brothers, Ciarán and Mikie, outnumbering a John Lockes opponent in Saturday’s final.
Outstanding midfielder Garrett Foley catches with Daire Barden offering support.