By RONAN FAGAN : Kilanerin 2-9, St. Martin’s 0-14
First-half goals from Matty Forde and his nephew, Seán Forde, proved priceless for Kilanerin as they edged out battling St. Martin’s at a dry but chilly Innovate Wexford Park on Sunday afternoon to reach their first Tom Doyle Supplies county senior football championship final since 2010.
The reigning intermediate champions led 2-4 to 0-5 at half-time, and they had to prove their resolve in the second-half as they withstood considerable pressure to make an immediate transition from intermediate champions to contenders to possibly bridging the gap to their last Wexford Creamery Cup success, in 2008.
The spoils had also gone the way of Kilanerin (2-11 to 0-9) when the sides crossed paths in the group-stages at Bellefield on August 18th last, and while Kilanerin only made two personnel changes for this rematch, the Martin’s showed five alterations, as Joe O’Connor, Conor Firman, Aaron Maddock, Jamie Carty and Jack O’Connor were all recalled to first-team duty.
Kilanerin made a dream start when a surging run through the centre by wing-back Pauric Hughes culminated with Matty Forde finding the town-end net inside two minutes. And they almost netted for a second time within four minutes, but St. Martin’s ‘keeper Luke White denied Niall Hughes from a penalty forced by Matty Forde.
Exchanges were even for the next while as illustrated by the sides sharing the next eight points, with Ciarán Lyng, Jamie Carty (free), wing-back Conor Firman and Barry O’Connor getting St. Martin’s on target while Seán Forde (2), his uncle Matty and Mark Boland kept Kilanerin 1-4 to 0-4 clear after 19 minutes.
It got even better for the north county side on 21 minutes when a move the length of the field saw Niall Breen exchange passes with Conor Devitt at midfield before Breen located Seán Forde to finish to the town-end net for a 2-4 to 0-4 lead.
Kilanerin were ever threatening on the offensive. But St. Martin’s dominated the play for much of the half only to encounter a well-drilled Kilanerin defence.
Kilanerin did survive a number of goal scares, including a super save by goalie Tom Hughes and also a double-block by Peter Hughes and Denis Jones.
Jamie Carty pegged back a pointed free on 27 minutes, before St. Martin’s corner-back Joe O’Connor did well to thwart a goaling effort by Conor Devitt at the other end in the dying seconds of the half, as Kilanerin reached the break up 2-4 to 0-5.
St. Martin’s fought back to within 2-7 to 0-11 on 49 minutes courtesy of Jamie Carty, Ciarán Lyng (3), Barry O’Connor (free) and midfielder Ben Maddock as Kilanerin maintained the lead through Seán Forde, Matty Forde (free) and Peter Hughes.
Matty Forde was subbed on 54 minutes, but his replacement, Lee Owley made an instant impact when pushing the gap out to three points (2-9 to 0-12).
St. Martin’s continued to dominate the ball, but they endured quite some anguish as opportunities to draw level went a begging after Jamie Carty and sub Darren Codd had got it back to the minimum on 57 minutes (2-9 to 0-14).
The Martin’s out-shot Kilanerin by 8 wides to 5 overall, and sub Ryan Murphy saw a late effort at salvation for the saints cleared by Kilanerin no.4 Rhys Owley seconds before the final-whistle confirmed Kilanerin are challenging again for Wexford senior glory just as was the case when they last emerged from intermediate, in 1992 – going on to become senior champions in ’93.
Kilanerin – Tom Hughes, Aidan Jones, Colm Kavanagh, Rhys Owley, Denis Jones, Gavin O’Toole, Pauric Hughes, Niall Hughes, Niall Breen, Dean O’Toole (0-1), Seán Forde (1-3, 0-1 free), Mark Boland (0-1), Peter Hughes (0-1), Matty Forde (1-2, 0-1 free), Conor Devitt.
Subs: Emmett O’Toole for Mark Boland (38); Bobby Hughes for Peter Hughes (49); Lee Owley (0-1) for Matty Forde (53).
St. Martin’s – Luke White, Joe O’Connor, Willie Devereux, Philip Dempsey, Conor Firman (0-1), Aaron Maddock, Paudie Kelly, Daithí Waters, Ben Maddock (0-1), Peter Barry, Ciarán Lyng (0-5), Jake Firman, Jamie Carty (0-4, 2 frees), Jack O’Connor, Barry O’Connor (0-2, 1 free).
Subs: Mark Maloney for Joe O’Connor (40); Darren Codd (0-1) for Jake Firman (43); Ryan Murphy for Ben Maddock (57); Kyle Firman for Conor Firman (58); Mikey Coleman for Philip Dempsey (58).
Referee – John Carton (Monageer-Boolavogue).