By Ronan Fagan, Photos :Noel Reddy
Shelmaliers 3-18 Naomh Éanna 3-11
Shelmaliers are the first-ever county champions of the Covid-19 era.
The black-and-amber defeated 2018 winners Naomh Éanna at Chadwicks Wexford Park on Sunday to capture the Wexford senior hurling championship for the second time – bridging a gap to their 2014 breakthrough.
It is a third senior county title within seven years for the club, as they also annexed a maiden football crown in 2018.
But this one was captured amid the strangeness of absolutely no supporters after the latest restrictions concerning the pandemic forced sporting activities behind closed doors.
Naomh Éanna had designs on celebrating their club’s 50th anniversary in style. But despite their spirit, they were second best against a Shels’ outfit which could afford to strike 15 wides.
Indeed, the Shels littered a positive wind-assisted start with five wides while surging clear by 0-06 to 0-02 at the first water break with Ross Banville (3) to the fore.
Naomh Éanna gained an unexpected boost from the re-start after the drinks break, when David O’Brien seized upon a defensive error to feed Cathal Dunbar, who rolled the ball to the net to shave the gap to 0-06 to 1-02 after 19 minutes.
Shelmaliers responded by stretching ahead 0-09 to 1-03 as Jody Donohoe, Eoin Doyle and Ciarán O’Shaughnessy fired over while they continued to spray wides.
Pádraig Doyle (2 frees) brought Naomh Éanna back within a point before Shelmaliers banked considerable profit during added time.
Conor Hearne pointed before sub Arnie Murphy was impeded at the expense of a penalty, which Ross Banville lashed to the net for a 1-10 to 1-05 interval advantage.
The third quarter featured some dramatic twists, as James Cash let rip from the right to net a 2-11 to 1-05 lead for Shelmaliers on 34 minutes.
But Cian Molloy struck back a minute later with a low drive to revive Gorey hopes just as they were beginning to look forlorn.
Shelmaliers struck another major blow though on 42 minutes when Seán Keane-Carroll made the most of a speculative delivery from the right to round his marker and blast home to make it 3-11 to 2-08.
And the scoreboard eventually began to reflect the true extent of Shelmaliers’ superiority after three Ross Banville points (one free) extended them clear by eight points after 52 minutes.
Substitute Gearóid Cullen fed Gary Molloy to peg back an stoppage-time goal for Gorey.
But Shelmaliers were comfortably the masters in the first county final of the year as they avenged their narrow defeat in the sides’ recent dead-rubber qualifiying clash.
Shelmaliers: Brian Murphy; Simon Donohoe, Aidan Cash, Jody Donohoe (0-2); Glen Malone (0-1), Brian Malone, Conor Walsh; Conor Hearne (0-2), Eoin Doyle (0-1); James Cash (1-1), Ross Banville (1-8, 0-3 frees, 0-1 ’65, 1-0 pen.), Seán Keane-Carroll (1-1); Joe Kelly, Ciarán O’Shaughnessy (0-1), Eoghan Nolan (0-1).
Subs: Arnie Murphy for Walsh, inj. (7); Kyle Roche for O’Shaughnessy (60+1); André O’Brien for J. Donohoe (60+2); Dylan O’Neill for Kelly (60+2).
Naomh Éanna: Jack Cushe; Peter Travers, Brendan Travers (capt.), Eoin Conroy; Seán Doyle, Jack Cullen, Tom Stafford; Aodhán Doyle, Gary Molloy (1-0); Cian Molloy (1-0), Pádraig Doyle (0-7, 6 frees), Charlie McGuckin; Cathal Dunbar (1-0), Conor McDonald (0-1), David O’Brien.
Subs: Darragh Hughes (0-2, 1 free) for O’Brien (36); Jack Doran for Dunbar (51); Gearóid Cullen (0-1) for McGuckin (51); Cian Browne for Stafford (58).
Referee: Barry Redmond (Na Fianna/Clonard).