Stephen Campbell Naomh Mairtin, gets away from Dan Campbell of Shelmaliers in last Sunday's game in Haggardstown. (Pic: Arthur Kinahan)
AIB Leinster Senior Club Championship Quarter Final
Naomh Mairtin 1-7 Shelmaliers (Wexford) 2-6
Throughout the Summer and Autumn months as Naomh Mairtin brushed aside team after team, the big question was how they would fair when finally put to the test.
On Sunday it seemed like Shelmaliers, looking to become the first Wexford team to win a match in the competition since 2004, would be little more than the Monasterboice men’s next victim having kept them to just a single point in the first 28 minutes of action, as they trailed by five points.
But the Yellowbellies were always tenacious, doing their upmost to break down the feared Blue Wall and were rewarded for their hard work, scoring 1-2, twice, either side of half time to kill the Martin’s dreams of a day out in Croke Park for the Leinster Semi-finals.
Under the glorious but low hanging sun at the home of the Geraldines, it was the visitors to Louth who too advantage of the breeze in the first half.
The game was a slow burner early on, yet just like two weeks earlier against Rathvilly the men from Wexford had the lion’s share of possession early on. However, despite some fine running plays from the likes of Brian and Glen Malone they were struggling to create chances.
The first score of the game came on five minutes, Louth Captain Sam Mulroy blasting over from the sideline from a tight angle. Shelmaliers responded well, a fine diagonal ball opened the Martins defence and set up Eoghan Nolan for his first score two minutes later.
They continued to run at speed at the Martins defence, a factor of their game that never weaned throughout the 60 plus minutes of action, showcasing their impressive fitness despite being a team that had not played competitively since winning their county title last month.
However more often than not their commitment and hard work was in vain, serving little more than an avenue for a series of counter attacks for the men in Blue who forced turnover after turnover by defending in packs.
Yet it was a mistake in the back that resulted in the Jocks goal two minutes before the water break, a poor kick out saw Mulroy wrestling the ball from the grasps of Brian Malone before picking out Conor Whelan who drove it under Craig McCabe as the Shels keeper came off his line.
At the water break they lead by 1-1 to 0-1 and continued their dominance with two more scores from JP Rooney and Mulroy. Mulroy was having an influential half, dropping back into midfield alongside Eoghan Callaghan to set up attacks.
There was acres of space for him to either run into or kick into given they largely played the first half with just Whelan and Rooney inside. Adding more fire power to that Defensive Blue Wall.
But to the credit of John Hegarty’s team, they never stopped working, never stopped running at their man, always looking for that final pass that could open up the play.
The gameplan bared fruit once more on 28 minutes, Glen Malone getting his first of the day following a fine crossfield ball from Brian Malone.
Then came the first of two pivotal goals; they won the resulting kick out and duly attacked at pace, Simon Donohue wonderfully setting up Nolan who fisted it home to leave just a single point between the teams.
In a double whammy for the Martins, Craig Lynch was black carded for a foul on Padraig Lynch, with Val Leddy sacrificed by Reel to allow for substitute keeper Joe Gordon to enter the fray. A further score courtesy of a Brian Malone mark left the sides deadlocked at 1-3 apiece at half time.
The Jocks hoped they could limit the damage while down to 14 men, however Shelmaliers hit a purple patch that saw them effectively camp the Martins inside their own half for the next 10 minutes.
Four minutes in, the men in black and amber had struck the net again, a brilliant diagonal ball from Jody Donohue picked out Ross Banville in space and he took no prisoners as he blasted the ball past Gordon.
Suddenly it looked as though the men from the Sunny Southeast would coast to victory, as two more points put them 2-5 to 1-3 in front. But with 20 minutes to go there was still plenty of fight in the Louth champions.
Back to 15 men, they threw everything they had at Shelmaliers and once again it was Mulroy that was front and centre helping to win vital frees in range of the posts. Two of which left just a goal between the sides, 2-5 to 1-5 at the final water break.
Two more scores followed suit and coupled with their defence being back to working order they were able to keep their opponents to just one more score from here.
The resurgence was helped by dismissals for the Wexford men, Craig McCabe was black carded for taking out Mulroy, while after his return Graham Staples was given his marching orders after picking up a second yellow card.
Both Mulroy and Rooney uncharacteristically missed the target in the dying moments of the contest, while right at the death Val Leddy had three chances to hit the target but somehow the ball never found it’s way into the back of the net meaning it was Shelmaliers who earned the date in HQ.
Naomh Mairtin: Craig Lynch; Mark Whelan, Thom Sullivan, Conor Morgan; John Clutterbuck, Seán Healy, Conor Healy; Wayne Campbell, Evan Whelan, Val Leddy, Eoghan Callaghan, Stephen Campbell; Sam Mulroy (0-6 frees), Conor Whelan (1-0), JP Rooney (0-1). Subs: Joe Gordon for Leddy (28), Leddy for Gordon (38), Jack Murphy for S Campbell (46), Gavan Mooney for W Campbell (51), Thomas Clarke for Mooney (58).
Shelmaliers: Craig McCabe; André O'Brien, Simon Donohoe, James Cash; Ross Banville (1-0), Graham Staples (0-1), Glen Malone (0-3, 0-1 mark); Seán Keane-Carroll, Aidan Cash; Jody Donohoe, Conor Hearne, Aaron Murphy (0-1); Brian Malone; Páraic O’Leary, Eoghan Nolan (1-1). Subs used: Mark Power for O’Leary (49), Aodhan Foley for Murphy (42), Murphy for Foley (52), Eoin Doyle for A Cash (54), Kyle Roche for Murphy (60).
Referee: Cormac Reilly (Meath)
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