Castletown hold out for final spot : Report Ronan Fagan

Castletown 1-10.  St. Martin’s 0-11

They didn’t score for the last 21 minutes, but Castletown held out to deny hard-pressing St. Martin’s to win through to a first county SFC final appearance since 2012 following Sunday afternoon’s engaging Dominic Smith Electrical-sponsored contest at Innovate Wexford Park.

St. Martin’s were robbed of the considerable influence of Daithí Waters and Paudie Kelly, both of whom had sustained setbacks during the previous weekend’s hurling quarter-final success over Glynn-Barntown – and sadly Kelly’s is a season-ending injury.

Matters were rather mediocre early on as the sides shared six points within the first 17 minutes; Joe Coleman and Ciarán Lyng directing St. Martin’s ahead before a burst of Castletown responses from Rory Heffernan, Brendan Halpin and Jonathan Bealin (free) were met by an equaliser from Kyle Firman – the no.15 drop-kicking over as a Lyng free dropped short.

But Castletown then gained control for a spell, particularly through their impressive midfielder Liam Coleman, who took a pass out on the left from Ben Brosnan before showing fine composure to locate Brosnan racing through to first-time Coleman’s return-pass to the town-end net in the 18th-minute (1-3 to 0-3).

That particular duo went so close to repeating the dose two minutes later, but Brosnan crashed his goal-bound drive off the crossbar.

Nevertheless, the Castletown tally continued to soar as Bealin (free), wing-back Conor Carty and James Holmes shot them clear by 1-6 to 0-3, before centre-back Colm Morris was sent through by Liam Coleman only to see legitimate claims for a penalty fall on deaf ears.

St. Martin’s lifted the siege late in the half, and pegged back two frees through Ciarán Lyng, while Ben Brosnan maintained Castletown’s lead with a pointed ’45 as the north county men broke ahead 1-7 to 0-5.

St. Martin’s resumed brightly, but frustratingly shot a wide before having another ‘score’ cancelled out by the officials, prior to Castletown delivering what eventually proved a crucial three-point burst through Ben Brosnan, Donnacha Holmes and Jonathan Bealin (free) to stretch clear by 1-10 to 0-5 in the 39th-minute.

Indeed, the winners didn’t score again after that or even seriously threaten to do so.

Instead St. Martin’s ruled the roost. But, after Darren Codd (free) and Kyle Firman had pulled it back to 1-10 to 0-7 after 44 minutes, the Wexford district men were desperately unfortunate when Castletown defender Joey Aherne got back in the nick of time to clear as saints’ sub Mikey Coleman aimed at an open goal. That was pulled back for a free, which Lyng put over, and the former Wexford star added three further points (2 frees).

But St. Martin’s gallant efforts came up only just short, leaving one to wonder what-might-have-been had they been able to call upon the talents of both or either Daithí Waters or Paudie Kelly.

Castletown will now have designs on a first Wexford Creamery Cup success since 2010, although they face some anxious weeks after Ben Brosnan (hamstring) and Liam Coleman (back) were forced off in the second-half of this semi-final with serious injuries.

Castletown – Anthony Masterson; Joey Aherne, Frank Roche, Danny Gardiner; Conor Carty (0-1), Colm Morris, Joe Gardiner; Rory Heffernan (0-1), Liam Coleman; James Holmes (0-1), Brendan Halpin (capt., 0-1), Jody O’Shaughnessy; Donnacha Holmes (0-1), Jonathan Bealin (0-3 frees), Ben Brosnan (1-2, 0-1 ’45).

Subs: Robbie Brooks for James Holmes (38); Andy Merrigan for Ben Brosnan (50); Paddy O’Connor for Jamie Carty (52); Ross Cody for Joe Gardiner (55); Richard Farrell for Liam Coleman (60+5).

St. Martin’s – Luke White; Willie Devereux, Joe O’Connor, Philip Dempsey; Ben Maddock, Conor Firman, Aaron Maddock; Jack O’Connor, Jamie Carty; Joe Coleman (0-1), Jake Firman, Peter Barry; Rory O’Connor, Ciarán Lyng (0-7, 5 frees), Kyle Firman (0-2).

Subs: Darren Codd (0-1) for Joe Coleman (27); Harry O’Connor for Aaron Maddock (47); Mikey Coleman for Ben Maddock (47); Jack Devereux for Kyle Firman (58); Michael Codd for Jack O’Connor (32).

Referee – Francis O’Reilly (Kilmore).