Simpson steers Anne
Veteran substitute’s last-gasp point brid
ST. ANNE’S CROSSABEG-BALLYMURN 2-10 1-12
IT WAS a prime case of ‘ the auld dog for the hard road’ in Innovate Wexford Park on Saturday when veteran Francis Simpson was sprung from the bench in added time to grab the winning point for St. Anne’s and send them back into the top flight of hurling in the county after a one-year absence.
The Courtyard Ferns Intermediate championship final looked like producing only one outcome when Crossabeg-Ballymurn never got out of the blocks in the early stages and trailed by 2-6 to 0-4 at the end of a forgettable first-half.
However, a fortuitous goal from a Pádraig Foley free when play resumed kick-started their stirring comeback, and it looked like extra-time might be needed in the gathering gloom when Eoin McDonald helped the ball into the path of Conor Devereux who hit the equaliser in the 60th minute.
Simpson had scored 2-1 and earned the man of the match award on the sole previous occasion when his club won this title, beating Adamstown by 3-9 to 0-8 in 1999 just one year before their remarkable Senior championship double.
And he still knows all the tricks of the score-poaching trade despite turning 40, making him the ideal candidate to pounce for that all-important point to fully atone for the club’s heartbreaking relegation loss to Faythe Harriers last year.
Another substitute, Brian Kavanagh, had a chance beforehand when Andy Kennedy played the ball into his path, but he missed his pick-up in the tough underfoot conditions and the move ended in the 13th and last St. Anne’s wide.
The absence of a fourth official meant that nobody was sure of the additional time to be played by referee Shane Quinn, but we were near the end of the third added minute when Simpson pounced to bridge that 18-year gap.
Diarmuid O’Keeffe was aiming for a point judging from his frustrated body language when it was clear his attempt would drop short. He didn’t need to worry, though, because Simpson beat his marker to the ball in front of the posts and turned on to his left before firing high between the posts for one of the most crucial scores of his lengthy career.
There was still time for plentiful drama though, with a total of seven and a half added minutes played before Crossabeg-Ballymurn’s dreams were shattered.
They didn’t help themselves it must be said, because a free awarded to them at midfield was altered to a throw-in after Conor Shovlin was booked for his reaction which left Diarmuid O’Keeffe with an injury.
The county player’s treatment accounted for a lot of that added time, and there was still one last chance for the Over The Water side.
A frantic scramble of bodies sought possession when the action resumed, and it was like a rolling maul for a spell before referee Quinn signalled that a St. Anne’s man had touched the ball on the ground.
Pádraig Foley stepped up to a tricky free some 60 metres out to the right of the posts, but his attempt drifted left for the eighth Crossabeg-Ballymurn wide and the final whistle followed.
It was a very cruel blow for the Wexford District side as they also lost the 2015 final to Naomh Eanna by the same narrow margin, and they will be left to rue that first-half no-show that cost them dearly.
And even when they got their act together in the second period, they will look back on a couple of golden goal chances that weren’t taken, with experienced netminder Redmond Barry performing heroics for the winners.
I’m sure I wasn’t the only observer to wonder if the one-time dual county Senior would be moved outfield by St. Anne’s for the business end of the campaign, but he showed why he was the ideal candidate to man the posts with one particularly memorable stop from Tony Murphy in the 43rd minute. He was one of three survivors from 1999 to play a key role once again, along with match-winner Simpson and David O’Connor.
There was an interesting development immediately after the throw-in when Diarmuid O’Keeffe moved in from midfield to full-forward. Crossabeg-Ballymurn gave Pádraig Foley the task of policing the All Star nominee, but it didn’t help their cause that he was stationed so close to the posts.
O’Keeffe’s two goals were instrumental in forging victory, although Foley started to clear some balls as the first-half wore on, due in large part to the poor quality of the outfield delivery from St. Anne’s.
However, those drives were only landing in and around midfield in the area where Foley would normally be thriving, and posing an attacking threat in the process.
Crossabeg-Ballymurn changed plans for the second-half, leaving Bill Eviston inside on O’Keeffe before he eventually roved out, with Foley going to centre-back as the side chasing the game started to avail of the elements.
The loss of Ronan Devereux, joining Sam Kelly on the roll call of unavailable players, was another serious blow for the Over The Water men as they went into battle without two of their best young performers.
The only people that will have enjoyed the first-half exchanges were the St. Anne’s followers, because it was fairly poor fare on the whole and they were the dominant force.
Free-taker Mark Furlong pointed them in front before a Jonathan Fogarty delivery in the fifth minute broke into the path of Diarmuid O’Keeffe who pulled sweetly to the net.
The scorer partnered Liam Rochford in a two-man inside line, with talented jockey Mikey Fogarty drifting outfield to leave the optimum space.
Jess Codd had all the time in the world to push his side clear by five points from a well-directed short pass by Aidan Rochford, but Crossabeg-Ballymurn finally responded when Tony Murphy picked out his namesake, Niall, to open their account in the seventh minute (1-2 to 0-1).
A brace of Furlong frees followed for St. Anne’s before they goaled again at the start of the second quarter. Jonathan Fogarty found Liam Rochford who shook off a defender before sending in a low shot, and the rebound from Mark Dempsey’s save was forced home from close range by Diarmuid O’Keeffe (2-4 to 0-1).
Niall Murphy tried to stop the rot with another point, only for Furlong to cancel that out from another Aidan Rochford lay-off.
The first sequence of two Crossabeg-Ballymurn scores in succession followed, with Shane O’Rourke pointing neatly from the left sideline before midfielder Seamus Carroll reduced the gap to seven.
However, Mark F word before the brea in added time, leavin commanding 2-6 to
Crossabeg-Ballym wides count 7-6, and their act together qui a game of it. The lift th the 36th minute when over a free outside th his head-high shot s way to the net past a s
Niall Murphy and points from placed b den only a goal divid Anne’s had a battle o
Liam Rochford ga with a good point fr delivery, but Crossab have goaled on their
Paddy Devereux’s Oisín Foley who ha Tony Murphy, but his the upper body of Re the green flag seemed
Three successive followed before Oisí storming second-half corner-forward, grab
Mark Furlong con but Foley caught su initiated by Bill Evisto again despite the clos Cloney (2-8 to 1-8).
The gap was nar Pádraig Foley’s longit looked like Niall M net from close range Oisín Foley and Con
He was bottled up, get his shot away, wh fate in the follow-up.
A Pádraig Foley ’65 game with five minut momentum was ver abeg-Ballymurn.
Diarmuid O’Keeffe as he wasn’t going t session inside, and h wing to the far post in dividends as it was s Fogarty who fired ov
Forty seconds late the ball in the net at a pull, but the whist already for a foul on drove goalwards fro
Niall Murphy kno
The triumphant St. Anne’s squad after making an immediate return to Senior hurling ranks in Innovate Wexford Park on Saturday.