Joy for Fethard with derby win
Wallace sinks former colleagues with late pointed free
THE FABULOUS winning run of Fethard continued in Innovate Wexford Park on Saturday when they qualified for The Courtyard Ferns Intermediate hurling championship final at the first attempt with a one-point win over shattered neighbours St. James’.
Mark Wallace may have started out with the Ramsgrange club, but he is a long-time St. Mogue’s man at this stage and his late intervention was enough to leave the victors just one hour away from being a Senior team once again for the first time since 2001.
Two meetings were needed to separate the sides in the Intermediate ‘A’ final two years ago before St. James’ prevailed, while they also drew in their recent group game in Horeswood, so it was no surprise when another share of the spoils seemed likely with time running out.
Fethard full-back Kevin Rowe did an outstanding job in keeping rival dangerman Shane Murphy, the scoring star of their quarter-final win over Crossabeg-Ballymurn, in a firm grip.
The full-forward had been substituted, but when he was re-introduced in the 56th minute after an injury to Donal Barron, his first task was to convert a free for the equaliser (0-15 to 1-12).
Alan Walsh, the best St. James’ forward, had a brief chance to hit a fifth point but was denied by some last-gasp defending by Richard Waters, and 20 seconds later Mark Wallace came into his own.
Showing out in front for the ball at the Clonard end, he was taken down for a free and duly split the posts with 54 seconds of normal time to go.
Matthew O’Hanlon was presented with a difficult chance to equalise after the puck-out, and his effort from tight to the right touchline drifted narrowly wide on the far side of the posts.
Just two added minutes were played, and when a Michael O’Grady line ball at midfield was cut out by Daire Barden, the fulltime whistle brought joy to the large crowd of Fethard followers who have backed their side to the hilt in London, Croke Park and numerous more mundane places over this glorious twelve months.
In terms of a contest, it took a long time to get going which was no real surprise given the huge prize on offer and the strong familiarity between the participants.
It started to get lively in the ten minutes before the interval, and the break that followed came at the worst possible time as the early stages of the second period also lacked any real spark.
However, that tight finish made up for it, and Fethard won’t mind the tag of underdogs at all as they now prepare to tackle Cloughbawn after their 2-18 to 0-14 loss to the hot favourites early last month.
Once again, Matthew O’Hanlon started at right half-forward, with former county Under-21 Rúairí Tubrid handed marking duties.
And while the joint Wexford captain hit a couple of poor wides by his standards, he finally got his eye in from the 24th minute onwards as his three points helped St. James’ to a 0-10 to 1-5 interval lead.
Alan Walsh was very impressive in the left corner, matching that individual tally from O’Hanlon, but the big score of the half, and indeed the entire match, was registered at the other end.
It was the last one before the interval, 40 seconds into added time, and it gave Fethard a tremendous lift at a time when they had conceded three points on the trot and seemed to be losing out in the physical stakes.
Darren Foley delivered a high ball to the town end where Mark Wallace contested it in the air with netminder Graeme Molloy, and when it hit the ground the forward grabbed a precious goal at the second attempt.
It left Fethard trailing by just two points at the break after a half which didn’t produce a score until Graham O’Grady pointed for the eventual winners in the ninth minute.
Shane Murphy levelled from a free before David Doyle and Alan Walsh pushed St. James’ into a 3-1 lead, and it was 4-2 by the end of the first quarter after a Mark Wallace free drew a response from Walsh.
Wallace (free) and John Tubritt equalised but the reply was strong as Donal Barron, Alan Walsh and Matthew O’Hanlon made it 0-7 to 0-4 by the 24th minute for the Ramsgrange men, who had never got to this stage before in the club’s history.
Ciarán Dwyer pulled back a Fethard point on an afternoon when their win was all the more impressive given that his younger brother, Mikie, was an absentee once more due to injury.
After Mark Molloy pointed, an O’Hanlon brace was sandwiched by a save by Graeme Molloy from a John Tubritt shot on goal, but the former county football full-back was beaten by Mark Wallace in added time and it was a major moment.
Fethard resumed with Joe Sutton at midfield and Daire Barden at centre-back, and the former contributed two vital points in the third quarter.
St. James’ points from Donal Barron and Mark Molloy brought responses on both occasions, first from a Mark Wallace free and then from the same player from play.
That Sutton brace left Fethard level (1-9 to 0-12) by the 45th minute, and it remained that way after St. James’ substitute Michael O’Grady and Wallace again registered from placed balls.
Another replacement, Bryan Power, edged Fethard ahead before Wallace made it 1-12 to 0-13 after he was fouled with just over nine minutes left.
An instinctive pick and point by Alan Walsh, plus that Shane Murphy free after his return to the fray, heightened the possibility of a replay, but Wallace’s late intervention ensured a deserved final appearance that few, if any, neutrals would have envisaged at the outset of the campaign.
Fethard: Seán Foley; Daniel Mullan, Kevin Rowe, Martin Power; Richard Waters, Joe Sutton (0-2), Rúairí Tubrid; Daire Barden, Garrett Foley (capt.); Ciarán Dwyer (0-1), John Tubritt (0-1), Graham O’Grady (0-1); Mark Wallace (1-7, 0-6 frees), Darren Foley, Jimmy Sutton. Subs. - Bryan Power (0-1) for Jimmy Sutton (36), Adam Swan for Dwyer (48), Eddie Power for D. Foley (52).
St. James’: Graeme Molloy; Paul Barron, Jason Barron, Tommy Walsh; Darragh Lyons, Liam Murphy, Robbie Barron; Mark Molloy (0-2), Brian Molloy; Matthew O’Hanlon (0-3), David Doyle (capt., 0-1), Daniel Keating; Donal Barron (0-2), Shane Murphy (0-1 free), Alan Walsh (0-4). Subs. - Michael O’Grady (0-1 free) for S. Murphy (44), Mark Myler for T. Walsh (52), Shane Murphy (0-1 free) for D. Barron, inj. (56).
Referee: Barry Redmond
A determined Martin Power (Fethard) beats Daniel Keating of St. James’ to the ball.
Kevin Rowe of Fethard winces as Shane Murphy challenges.