Simp­son steers Anne

Vet­eran sub­sti­tute’s last-gasp point brid

New Ross Standard - - SPORT - ALAN AHERNE


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.

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