Fethard drive on

Meath Se­nior win­ners are dumped

Enniscorthy Guardian - - SPORT - ALAN AH­ERNE


THE FETHARD band­wagon rolled mer­rily on in wind- and rain-lashed In­no­vate Wex­ford Park on Satur­day when a gutsy dis­play saw them re­move one of the lead­ing con­tenders from the AIB Le­in­ster Club In­ter­me­di­ate hurl­ing cham­pi­onship race at the quar­ter-fi­nal stage.

Don’t be fooled by the fact that op­po­nents Kiltale are from Meath, be­cause their record in this com­pe­ti­tion marked them out as a team to be treated with the ut­most re­spect.

While Oyle­gate-Glen­brien pipped them by two points in Na­van in 2012 (3-12 to 2-13), they had held the in­dian sign over Wex­ford clubs since claim­ing the first of their five county Se­nior ti­tles in a row in 2014.

They saw off Sham­rocks that year by 3-15 to 1-10, then beat Naomh Eanna by 2-13 to 1-13 in 2015, and fi­nally gained sweet re­venge on Oyle­gate-Glen­brien in Trim two sea­sons ago on an em­phatic 2-24 to 2-8 score­line.

And they had come very close to win­ning the Le­in­ster ti­tle in 2014 and 2015 re­spec­tively, los­ing in fi­nals to Kilkenny duo Mul­li­na­vat (1-13 to 0-13) and Ben­netts­bridge (1-14 to 0-13).

This was a very im­pres­sive record, par­tic­u­larly when one con­sid­ers the strides the lat­ter club as well as the Gorey men have made in Se­nior ranks since.

Fethard had their home­work done though and, af­ter hold­ing Kiltale to a four-point in­ter­val lead (2-4 to 1-3) on a hor­ri­ble day for hurl­ing, they re­stricted them to just one point af­ter the break en route to a home semi-fi­nal clash against ex-Kilkenny at­tacker Ed­die Bren­nan’s Graigue-Bal­ly­callan on Novem­ber 17.

They went into bat­tle mi­nus the ser­vices of reg­u­lar goal­keeper Seán Fo­ley, with Kieran Fur­long deputis­ing on a dif­fi­cult af­ter­noon for de­liv­er­ing ac­cu­rate puck-outs.

And af­ter get­ting a strong taste for provin­cial ac­tion last sea­son, al­beit in the lower Ju­nior grade, they knuck­led down to a tough task and ended that long los­ing se­quence for Wex­ford clubs against Kiltale with a show of com­mend­able strength.

The strong, swirling wind cou­pled with non-stop rain favoured the team play­ing to­wards the town end, mean­ing that Fethard were in de­fen­sive mode in the first-half.

And al­though a foul on Gra­ham O’Grady led to Mark Wal­lace es­tab­lish­ing an early lead, the vis­i­tors struck next for the first of four fine goals shared by the teams de­spite the ap­palling un­der­foot and han­dling con­di­tions.

Al­most seven min­utes had elapsed when Stephen Donoghue de­liv­ered the ball from the left, with corner-for­ward Peter Durnin giv­ing Daniel Mul­lan the slip be­fore plant­ing his shot past Kieran Fur­long.

Jack Re­gan added a brace of points from frees be­fore Fethard replied with a tremen­dous goal, the pick of the bunch, in the 14th minute.

Rúairí Tubrid sprayed the ball cross­field to­wards the right flank for Bryan Power who ini­tially flicked it away from Brian O’Reilly on the ground be­fore em­bark­ing on a run and knock­ing it over the head of the next chal­leng­ing de­fender.

And when the slio­thar con­nected with the turf, Power un­leashed a smash­ing first-time drive across star­tled net­min­der Shane McGann and into the far corner of the net with a picture per­fect fin­ish (1-2 to 1-1).

Two more con­verted Jack Re­gan frees were sand­wiched by a Gar­rett Fo­ley point from a Mark Wal­lace pass, but Kiltale thun­dered into a dou­ble scores lead with an­other well-taken goal in the 23rd minute.

Mid­fielder An­thony Forde latched on to the Fethard puck­out af­ter that sec­ond placed ball and hared through the mid­dle on a long run be­fore strik­ing low to the corner of Kieran Fur­long’s net (2-4 to 1-2).

Thank­fully, Fethard didn’t ship any more scores be­fore the end of a half fea­tur­ing seven wides, in­clud­ing four for the vis­i­tors.

In­deed, they pared that deficit back to four points when a Jimmy Sut­ton hand­pass was picked up at the sec­ond at­tempt by Ciarán Dwyer and fired be­tween the Clonard end posts.

Fethard re­sumed with a pointed free from Wal­lace be­fore Dwyer and Kiltale’s Brian O’Reilly were both dis­missed on straight red cards for an off-the-ball in­ci­dent that no­body bar the town end um­pires ap­peared to see.

If any­thing, the ad­di­tional space cre­ated in the Mogue’s at­tack­ing zone by that de­ci­sion was a help, and they drew level with an­other crack­ing goal in the 40th minute.

This time a Gar­rett Fo­ley de­liv­ery into the right corner saw Jimmy Sut­ton out-mus­cle Iarla Hughes be­fore giv­ing a short flick via his stick to John Tubritt who was run­ning off his left shoul­der.

The county foot­baller in full flight is a hard man to stop, even on such a wet day, and he gave Shane McGann no chance with a blis­ter­ing fin­ish (2-4 each).

Mark Wal­lace then earned and tapped over an­other free, and Fethard never looked back, with Daire Bar­den mag­nif­i­cent at cen­tre-back on any oc­ca­sion when Kiltale threat­ened.

Af­ter Wal­lace hit the first of just three sec­ond-half wides for the new lead­ers, his hand­pass set up John Tubritt to make it 2-6 to 2-4 with a high strike in the 45th minute.

Kiltale’s sole wide af­ter the break fol­lowed be­fore two more Wal­lace frees, af­ter fouls on Gar­rett Fo­ley and sub­sti­tute Mikie Dwyer re­spec­tively, gave his side a pre­cious four-point and two-score cush­ion with five min­utes of the 60 to go (2-8 to 2-4).

A Jack Re­gan lay-off led to mid­fielder An­thony Forde pick­ing off the only Kiltale point of the half and re­new­ing their hope.

Mikie Dwyer then drilled a lovely pass from the left corner into a cen­tral po­si­tion for fel­low re­place­ment Ed­die Power whose at­tempt at a first-time pull was only thwarted be­cause of the sur­face water ly­ing on the field around the ‘D’ at the town end.

The five and a half added min­utes were fran­tic, with John Tubritt drop­ping one ef­fort short and then hit­ting a wide be­fore a last-gasp Kiltale at­tack saw James Kelly gather the ball in his hand slightly to the right of goal less than 20 me­tres out.

How­ever, he was quickly dis­com­moded by a swarm of de­fi­ant Fethard de­fend­ers around him, and the free awarded against him for over­car­ry­ing was as good as a score at that stage.

Just to be sure of suc­cess, mid­fielder Joe Sut­ton latched on to a stray clear­ance af­ter a scram­ble at the other end to pick off the in­sur­ance point via the hurl of ri­val goal­keeper Shane McGann, crown­ing an­other mem­o­rable day as the seasiders con­tinue their adventure.

Fethard: Kieran Fur­long; Martin Power, Kevin Rowe, Daniel Mul­lan; Richard Waters, Daire Bar­den, Rúairí Tubrid; Joe Sut­ton (0-1), Gar­rett Fo­ley (joint capt., 0-1); John Tubritt (1-1), Mark Wal­lace (0-5 frees), Gra­ham O’Grady (joint capt.); Bryan Power (10), Ciarán Dwyer (0-1), Jimmy Sut­ton. Subs. - Mikie Dwyer for B. Power (45), Ed­die Power for Jimmy Sut­ton (50), Jesse Fo­ley for O’Grady (59).

Kiltale: Shane McGann; Iarla Hughes, Philip Gar­vey (capt.), Brian O’Reilly; Stephen Donoghue, Ro­nan Ryan, Pádraig Kelly; An­thony Forde (1-1), Cil­lian O’Sul­li­van; James Kelly, Cathal McCabe, Adam Mur­phy; Peter Durnin (1-0), Ross Ryan, Jack Re­gan (0-4 frees). Subs. - Chris Reilly for McCabe (44), Bren­dan Dixon for Durnin (50), Shane Lene­han for O’Sul­li­van (50), Ea­mon Ryan for Mur­phy, inj. (59).

Ref­eree: Pa­trick Mur­phy (Car­low).

The sur­face water de­nies Ed­die Power of Fethard near the end of Satur­day’s quar­ter-fi­nal.

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