Naomh Éanna 2-11, St. Martin’s 0-13
Cathal Dunbar made the most of an eleventh-hour reprieve to make a telling impact in Naomh Éanna shocking defending champions St. Martin’s to capture a first-ever Pettitt’s county senior hurling championship crown at sunny Innovate Wexford Park on Sunday afternoon.
Dunbar provided a massive boost for the challengers when he was cleared to play by the Disputes Resolutions Authority in Croke Park late on Saturday night, as that committee seek clarification relating to the inter-county attacker’s sending-off in the county semi-final.
The 21-year-old certainly made a real impact, with four personal points, while also influencing numerous other scores, and most notably a crucial seventh-minute equalising goal from Conor McDonald, who led the way with 2-1 for the Green Machine in an outstanding all-round display by the north county force.
St. Martin’s weren’t without their chances. But they were continuously harried and hassled into frustration by the inspired Gorey men, whose captain Brendan Travers marshalled the defence exemplary as the intermediate champions of 2015 elevated themselves to the coveted Dr. RJ Bowe Cup.
But the early indicators suggested that St. Martin’s would justify their favourites tag, as the wind-assisted maroon-and-white shot 0-3 to 0-0 clear inside five minutes courtesy of Jack O’Connor (2, one free) and Harry O’Connor.
It wasn’t long though before Gorey made their intent clear when, despite some early misses, a delivery from the left wing by Cathal Dunbar found Conor McDonald at full-forward, where the no.14 shook off his marker and blasted to the town-end net to level matters in the seventh-minute. The debut finalists began to rev up with Pádraig Doyle and the speedy Dunbar completing a five-point swing by the ninth-minute (1-2 to 0-3).
St. Martin’s dominated the ball for the next while and bridged the gap by the 20th-minute (0-6 to 1-3), as Ciarán Lyng converted a couple of frees and corner-forward Jake Firman also chipped in.
Naomh Éanna displayed absolutely zero inhibitions though as they responded with purpose to shoot 1-7 to 0-7 clear at half-time, with Pádraig Doyle, Cathal Dunbar (2) and Darragh Hughes (free) shading a St. Martin’s free from Jack O’Connor to have the green-and-white in great heart at the break.
St. Martin’s threatened to goal on the re-start when Barry O’Connor darted through only to be denied by ‘keeper Barry Kinsella, who calmly cleared his lines shortly before Conor McDonald was dancing a jig of joy when firing a splendid lead-extender from the extreme left in the 32nd-minute (1-8 to 0-7).
Michael Codd pegged it back to a three-point game before St. Martin’s were left breathing a massive sigh of relief when Conor McDonald found Darragh Hughes at the end of a splendid move only for Hughes to fall shy with a gilt-edged goaling chance.
St. Martin’s shaded the exchanges before Gorey rattled them again. The eventual winners were initially unfortunate when a goaling effort from Charlie McGuckin went wide off the far post after McGuckin had been located racing inside unmarked by the superb vision of Conor McDonald.
But Naomh Éanna were celebrating their second goal moments later when McDonald bagged his second personal major. He collected a delivery from the right of midfield by Gary Molloy before McDonald pulling outside off a defender to ram to the Clonard-end net in the 55th-minute (2-10 to 0-11).
Cathal Dunbar had a 57th-minute point sandwiched by similar scores from the O’Connors, Joe and Jack, with the latter’s free being deflected over by a packed Gorey goal-mouth in the 58th-minute.
Brendan Travers also had to effect a superb block on a goaling effort by Joe O’Connor in the 60th-minute as St. Martin’s tried all they could.
But the Martin’s first-ever back-to-back county SHC titles weren’t to be as the superbly driven Naomh Éanna collective harried and hassled them to frustration to ensure that years of dedicated work by a cast of officials finally saw the county’s most northerly town join the senior hurling honours-list to the rich contentment of the management team of Louis Cullen, Pat Doyle, Pádraig Cronin and trainer Willie Cleary.
Naomh Éanna – Barry Kinsella; Eoin Molloy, Brendan Travers (capt.), Pedro Travers; Jack Cullen, Seán Doyle, Eoin Conroy; Aodhán Doyle, Gary Molloy; Charlie McGuckin, Pádraig Doyle (0-4, 1 free), Cathal Dunbar (0-4), David O’Brien, Conor McDonald (2-1), Darragh Hughes (0-2 frees).
Subs: William Cullen for David O’Brien (46); Lee Kinsella for Darragh Hughes (60+5); Jack Cushe for Aodhán Doyle (60+6); Conor Hughes for Charlie McGuckin (60+6); also Seamus O’Donnell, John O’Brien, Joseph O’Connor, Gearóid Cullen, Seán Delaney, Tom Stafford, Nathan Byrne, Evan O’Dwyer, Conor Levingstone, Ross Murphy.
St. Martin’s – Luke White; Conor Firman, Patrick O’Connor, Willie Devereux; Daithí Waters (joint-capt.), Aaron Maddock, Michael Codd (0-1); Mark Maloney, Joe O’Connor (0-1); Rory O’Connor (0-2), Jack O’Connor (0-4, 3 frees), Barry O’Connor; Jake Firman (0-1), Ciarán Lyng (0-3, 2 frees), Harry O’Connor (0-1).
Subs: Mikey Coleman for Barry O’Connor (34); Ben Maddock for Patrick O’Connor (inj., 40); Joe Coleman for Conor Firman (48); Conor Coleman for Harry O’Connor (60); also, Paudie Kelly (joint-capt.), Dylan Byrne, Darren Codd, Jack Devereux, Eoin O’Leary, Philip Dempsey, Sam Audsley, Ben Stafford, Adam Cantwell, Kyle Firman.
Referee – Gearóid McGrath (St. James’).