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Battling Shelmaliers shatter silence with volume and intensity of power play

Wexford SHC final: Shelmaliers 3-18 Nh Éanna: 3-11

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Shelmaliers celebrate their Wexford SHC final victory over Naomh Éanna at Wexford Park

Shelmaliers celebrate their Wexford SHC final victory over Naomh Éanna at Wexford Park

SPORTSFILE

Shelmaliers celebrate their Wexford SHC final victory over Naomh Éanna at Wexford Park

When referee Barry Redmond blew for full-time, any provision for social distancing by the victorious Shelmaliers team and management was dispensed with in the euphoria.

They hugged, they embraced, they came together and celebrated just as they would have in a different era. What comes naturally is difficult to suppress in a moment like this.

Shelmaliers played with great force, striking to the front early on and never relinquishing that advantage as they won almost every battle. The wonder is they didn't win by much more than seven points.

The absence of a crowd and any of the pageantry associated with a county final didn't impact on the quality of the play or the endeavour as both sides ripped into it, delivering a very physical contest.

But those were terms that Shelmaliers were very comfortable with, despite losing wing-back Conor Walsh to a heavy hit after just seven minutes and coming off second best in a few other collisions. "They are an athletic, strong team, very fit and they don't mind teams getting stuck in," acknowledged manager Vinny Parker.

"They are able to handle it and keep their focus and hurl. We wore them down in the end, we finished much stronger."

Once the initial outpouring of joy receded, however, the players were largely left to themselves.

Captain Simon Donohoe accepted the cup from Wexford chairman Derek Kent, who delighted in being able to acknowledge a format for this championship that has worked a treat, despite the reservations outside the county about front-loading all the hurling games.

Brian Malone, the long-serving county footballer, played his part at centre-back throughout for the winners but there was no hiding his reserved demeanour afterwards at the absence of family and friends from the occasion.

"I know my parents would love to be here. I have a wife and two kids and they go to all the games. I've two little boys and they would be in to me after the game. It's a whole family thing. They love it," said Malone.

"I know the whole club, everyone's parents and the wider community, they love going to the games. The fact that we got to a county final and they couldn't come? It is tough. But it is made easier by the fact that we won. We can go and see them now. But yes it was very strange playing a county final with no support or no crowd.

"In 2014, and when we won the football in 2018, we had all the kids in here when we ran out on to the pitch, there was a parade. I brought my little boy around. The cheer of the crowd on county final day, that big buzz around - that's what you dream of playing in. And you compare it to today where there is only 40 people from each club. It is strange," said Malone, acknowledging that the playing of a championship in any circumstances was still a bonus.

It was a pity for them because their effort was so full-blooded throughout, something to please any watching crowd. They led by 0-6 to 0-2 by the time the first water break was called, taking advantage of the breeze that blew in their favour into the town end.

But, as so often has happened this summer, the brief break halted momentum and Naomh Éanna pounced for a goal when David O'Brien intercepted Aidan Cash's pass to Jody Donohoe out of defence to set up Cathal Dunbar for the game's first goal, reducing the deficit to just one point.

By the break though they were back out into a five-point lead, 1-10 to 1-5, with a penalty from the impressive Ross Banville after substitute Arnie Murphy had been fouled.

Glen Malone had been involved in the build-up, just as he was so often in Shelmaliers' more productive plays, the imposing wing-back again making his mark with his athleticism and energy.

In front of him Conor Hearne and Eoin Doyle had a firm upper hand at midfield and Naomh Éanna got little out of county players Conor McDonald and Dunbar, the goal apart..

A key moment arrived early in the second half when Aidan Cash blocked O'Brien and Shelmaliers quickly swept play down the other end where James Cash opened up a nine-point lead.

It triggered a Gorey response, Cian Molloy sidestepped for a second goal and they were within six points on the 40-minute mark. But Shelmaliers were relentless and Seán Keane Carroll foraged to poke home a third goal on 42 minutes to ensure a second title, with Gary Molloy bagging a late goal as consolation for Éanna. 

Scorers - Shelmaliers: R Banville 1-8 (1-0 pen, 3f, 1 '65'), J Cash, S Keane Carroll 1-1 each, C Hearne, J Donohoe 0-2 each, E Nolan, C O'Shaughnessy, G Malone, E Doyle 0-1 each. Nh Éanna: P Doyle 0-7 (6f), C Dunbar, C Molloy, G Molloy 1-0 each, D Hughes 0-2 (f); G Cullen, C McDonald 0-1 each.

Shelmaliers: B Murphy; S Donohoe, A Cash, J Donohoe; G Malone, B Malone, C Walsh; C Hearne, E Doyle; R Banville, J Cash, S Keane Carroll; E Nolan, C O'Shaughnessy, J Kelly. Subs: A Murphy for Walsh (7), K Roche for O'Shaughnessy (61), A O'Brien for J Donohoe (63), D O'Neill for Kelly (63).

Nh Éanna: J Cushe; P Travers, B Travers, E Conroy; J Cullen, S Doyle, T Stafford; A Doyle, G Molloy; C McGuckin, P Doyle, C Molloy; C Dunbar, C McDonald, D O'Brien. Subs: D Hughes for O'Brien (35), J Doran for Dunbar (52), G Cullen for McGuckin (53), C Browne for Stafford (60).

Ref: B Redmond.