Ferns St. Aidans - The first 125 years
2007 - Intermediate champions again, and an Under-21 double
Two pointed frees in reply for Ballygarrett left it 2-9 to fter mounting unsuccessful challenges for the intermediate hurling championship for a few years, 0-3 at half time, and the second half was largely a lifeless Ferns St Aidans finally scaled that summit again in affair after that. ‘Bitsy’ and Thomas Dwyer put points on 2007 when taking the title for seventh time, to once again the board for Ferns, while the third goal came when ‘Cully’ struck late once again, this time on 55 minutes, make the move back up to senior ranks. There were many other notable games and successes although he took a painful slap to the hand in the process that year too, as the intermediate victory in Wexford of scoring it. The next group game, against Geraldine O’Hanrahans, allowed Ferns a crack at a Leinster championship for the first time, and they ended up reaching the final. ended in a 1-21 to 1-17 victory for Ferns, which sounds close enough but the truth of it is that Meanwhile, there was a double under-21 Ferns were well on top for most of the success as the hurlers reclaimed the preway through, and were really only tested mier crown the club had previously won 2007 may have been somefor a short spell in the third quarter when in 2005 and the footballers won the thing of a record for Ferns the Ross team struck for 1-2 in quick sucRoinn 1 championship. The club’s St Aidans where All-Ireland cession. under-14 footballers also became county medals are concerned, as no fewer than seven of champions that year. The game was switched from Bellefield them came to the club that to Wexford Park at short notice, and the In intermediate hurling, the format of year. wind that often blows from the Clonard the championship that year was changed Christopher O’Connor, end there helped Ferns to establish a good from the ‘knock-out with a back door’ Tommy Dwyer and Padraig lead, as they struck fifteen points in the system to a round-robin system for the Ryan were on the successfirst half alone. opening stage, with four groups of four ful Wexford intermediate and the top two in each to qualify for the Eddie Cullen and James Tonks started team that year, while the quarter finals. Ferns found themselves the scoring sequence, and there were quartet of Niall Byrne, Sean drawn against Geraldine O’Hanrahans, other points for Tommy Dwyer, Ben Murphy , Donnacha Kinsella Our Lady’s Island and Ballygarrett and Bernie, Donnacha Kinsella, and Thomas and Paul Morris helped the were early favourites to top the group – Dwyer. But by far the most accurate FCJ Bunclody side to win something they achieved with three though was ‘Bitsy’ O’Connor, who was the Colleges Hurling ‘B’ title. good wins in games where they were really on fire as he shot six from play in really only tested for about ten minutes those opening thirty minutes, from a variof the total of three hours of hurling. ety of distances of angles. The Ross scores in return came The first of those wins came against Ballygarrett, and it mainly from frees, and Ferns led by 0-15 to 0-7 at the was a rather one-sided affair indeed, as Ferns won by fif- interval. teen points (3-11 to 0-5) having already led by twelve at The O’Hanrahans selectors tried a bold move at half the break. time, bringing goalkeeper Eanna Martin – who at the time With the game so wrapped up after just that first half was a member of the Wexford senior hurling panel – out hour, they took their foot off the pedal somewhat in the from between the sticks to play in the forwards for the second half and really the game just meandered to its con- second period. He had the first point after the re-start, and clusion with never even a sign of it developing into a real was then involved in a few more attacks too that saw his team score three more points, to reduce the deficit to four. contest. Ben Bernie replied with a brace of points for Ferns to ‘Bitsy’ O’Connor, Thomas Dwyer and Eddie Cullen had opened the scoring for Ferns before ‘Cully’ lashed a pow- make it 0-17 to 0-11 and they still seemed comfortably erful 21-yard free to the net on 12 minutes to really open ahead, only for O’Hanrahans to strike that 1-2 in the up the gap between the sides. Darren Davitt at full back space of a couple of minutes so there was only a point and the half back line of Niall Maguire, Padraig Ryan and between the sides with ten minutes to play. Liam Bowe were mopping up just about everything It was the wake-up call Ferns needed though, as ‘Bitsy’ Ballygarrett tried to send in the other direction. struck another point, which was followed up by a similar The seaside club did manage to eventually shoot a point score from Donnacha Kinsella. Then, once more, ‘Cully’ only for Ferns to hit back with four more, before they struck for goal after a lovely moved that involved a numwere awarded a penalty for a foul on John Breen, with the ber of players before Tommy Dwyer supplied the final whistle being blown even after Breen had struck the ball pass. to the net. The Ross team didn’t give in and could have had anothWhile Eddie Cullen’s attempt from the placed ball was er goal but for a fine save by Michael Walsh. While they saved, they hadn’t to wait too long for a goal anyway as still shot another couple of points, Ferns did the same, Breen netted again on 27 minutes after taking advantage and at the final whistle, another victory was in the bag. of a defensive error. It was all much easier in the end in the final group game
Ferns St. Aidans - The first 125 years against Our Lady’s Island, where Ferns really cut loose in the last twenty minutes en route to winning comfortably by 3-21 to 1-11. They didn’t always reach the standard they were capable of in the first half though, as a blistering start that yielded four points in the first five minutes maybe lulled them into a false sense of security. Whatever the case, the lead was only two points at the break (0-10 to 0-8), and while they added another point shortly after the resumption of play, they were then hauled back to parity when Our Lady’s Island struck for a goal. That scare was enough to fire the young Ferns team into action, and Tommy Dwyer drove a free to the net shortly afterwards to re-establish a lead. Ben Bernie added a second in the 42 minute when another Dwyer free broke into his path, and they went on to outscore their opponents by 1-10 to 0-3 in the remainder of the game, with ‘Cully’, who had come on as a sub for John Breen, again finding the net for that third goal. The quarter final draw handed Ferns a repeat tie against Geraldine O’Hanrahans, and although they got off to a somewhat sluggish start, three goals in the closing stages of the first half were the important scores in securing a good 3-10 to 3-6 victory. It was just 0-3 to 0-2 after twenty minutes before the game finally kicked into life, as a long ball from defence by Edward Walsh (who was deputising for the injured Niall Maguire) was won by ‘Bitsy’ O’Connor, and his handpass set up John Breen for the first goal. The Ross team pulled a point back, but then Tommy Dwyer tried his luck from a free from 30 yards out and the gamble paid off as the ball ended up nestling in the net again. And while O’Hanrahans again replied with a point, Ferns goaled for a third time o 29 minutes when a cross from Eddie Cullen – who was back in the starting line-up – was well controlled by John Breen, who laid the ball on to Jamie Whelan for a score. Paul Morris, the youngest player on the field that day, landed a lovely point from way out the field just after the second half started to put Ferns three clear goals ahead (3-4 to 0-4), but they suffered a setback on 40 minutes when O’Hanrahans had their first goal as the rebound from a saved penalty attempt was bundled to the net. A hat-trick of pointed frees from Tommy Dwyer cancelled out that score, but the gap was back to five on 51 minutes as the Ross team then struck for their second goal (3-8 to 2-6). A grandstand finish seemed likely, but amazingly, neither team scored during the rest of normal time, as Ferns struggled to create chances and the Ross side shot wide with the few attempts they had themselves. As it turned out, there were 62 minutes on the clock by the time another flag was raised in somewhat fortuitous circumstances, as a long free from a New Ross man bounced wickedly and ended up in the Ferns net to make it 3-8 to 3-6. They may still have had hopes at that stage of a late late comeback, but instead fouls on both Paul Morris and ‘Bitsy’ O’Connor were punished by Tommy Dwyer picking off points from the resultant frees, to complete the four-point victory for Ferns.
Semi final The semi final against Blackwater ended in nail-biting circumstances, as Ferns led by 3-11 to 3-8 as the game went deep into injury time, only for Blackwater to then be awarded a penalty. Their goalkeeper Paul O’Leary came all the way up the field to take the shot that could have sent the tie to a replay, but his attempt was blocked on the line, and referee Sean Whelan blew the final whistle almost before there was time even to clear the ball. It was a dramatic end to a dramatic game that had seen Ferns get on top with two goals in less than a minute during the second quarter, only for them to then go a full twenty minutes without a score after the interval. Ferns had first use of the wind that day and opened brightly, with corner forwards Donnacha Kinsella and ‘Bitsy’ O’Connor picking off points before Eddie Cullen got a touch to a Tommy Dwyer free to direct the ball to the net in the ninth minute. The Blackwater response was impressive though, as they landed two points from well out the field before a free from 50 yards caught Michael Walsh in the Ferns goal off guard and ended up in the net, to level up the scores. Ferns pulled clear again with points from Paul Morris and Tommy Dwyer (two, one free)but then Blackwater captain Paul Murphy was given too much time on 20 minutes and he picked off a goal to bring his side to parity again (1-5 to 2-2). Ferns were rattled and knew they would need some sort of cushion by the break as they’d have to play into the wind in the second half. They got that cushion by scoring 2-1 without reply in the following five minutes. Tommy Dwyer started it off with a pointed line ball, and Eddie Cullen added his second goal in the 23rd minute when he gathered a Jamie Whelan ball and rounded the goalkeeper before finishing with ease. The ball was barely back in play with ‘Bitsy’ O’Connor had the next goal, as his marker lost track of a delivery from Patrick Farrell and O’Connor gathered instead and tore off towards goal. He was hit by a high tackle on the way but the referee allowed a good advantage, and the score that resulted made it 3-6 to 2-2. Seven points still separated them at the break after ‘Bitsy’ added another point and then Blackwater struck one too, but Ferns didn’t trouble the scoreboard operator again until twenty minutes into the second half when minors Paul Morris and Donnacha Kinsella combined for Kinsella to score. They were 3-8 to 2-6 ahead at that stage, as Blackwater had added only three points of their own during all that time that Ferns were unable to score. They possibly should have been closer, given the amount of possession they had in that time, and had they done better the goal that arrived for them in the 58th minute could even have put them ahead, rather than just dragging the deficit back to two points. Paul Morris replied to that goal with a point for Ferns and Blackwater then replied with a point at the other end, to leave three points in it as that late penalty drama unfolded. Thankfully, there was the correct outcome from a Ferns point of view, and the final beckoned.
Ferns St. Aidans - The first 125 years
n 2007 Intermediate Hurling Champions. Back, from left: Paul Morris, Liam Kavanagh, Pádraig Ryan, Thomas Dwyer, Colin Leacy, Jamie Whelan. Middle: Edward Cullen, Shane Kinsella, Darren Davitt, John Breen, Patrick Farrell, Mick Walsh, Alastair MacPartlin, Colin Whelan, Ben Bernie, Christopher Davitt, Séan Murphy. Front: Patrick Tonks,Dickie Redmond, Donnacha Kinsella, Christopher O’Connor, James Tonks, Tommy Dwyer, Niall Maguire, Edward Walsh, Liam Bowe.
The final As it happened, that win over Blackwater meant Ferns were already assured of promotion to senior hurling in 2008 no matter what happened in the final, as the opponents there, Rathnure’s second string, wouldn’t be allowed have two teams in the top grade. They wanted to go up in style as champions rather than as disappointed runners-up though, and that they duly achieved, although there were tense moments again before the final whistle sounded with the scoreboard showing 1-14 to Ferns, and 3-5 to Rathnure. Rathnure’s knack of finding the net at crucial times kept the game on a knife-edge throughout, but in the end they were stranded a goal shy of the new champions, having led for just twelve minutes of a game where Ferns always looked the team more likely to come out on top. Ferns opened the scoring that day when Tommy Dwyer converted a free that was awarded after ‘Bitsy’ O’Connor took an early heavy knock. ‘Bitsy’ was down for a short while after that tackle but recovered so well that he went on to win the man of the match award after scoring four points from play and being a thorn in the side of the Rathnure defence throughout. It was his opposite number though, Rathnure’s James Flynn, who had the next point, and then the same player struck the first goal of the day when he collected a ball from the veteran Austin Codd and shook off two tackles before driving to the net on ten minutes. Rathnure were gradually pegged back by Tommy Dywer, who had two points from play and two from frees to his credit by half time. Their attack was seriously kept under wraps for long periods too, as the Ferns half back line of Liam Bowe, Padraig Ryan and Alastair MacPartlin stood
tall in their way. However, for all the possession they enjoyed, Ferns never threatened to run away with the game and they were the bare minimum (0-6 to 1-2) ahead at the break. Indeed, they could have been in arrears but for how Rathnure’s Leon O’Connell found the side netting rather than the target from close range shortly before the interval, after stealing possession from one of the Ferns backs. ‘Bitsy’ struck a high and handsome point within seconds of the restart, but O’Connell replied with a point for Rathnure and then Flynn went close to goal again, denied only by an agile save from Michael Walsh that tipped the ball over the bar. That meant the sides were level again, but Ferns responded with resolve of champions elect, denying their opponents any further score for almost a quarter of an hour. In the meantime, they set about compiling a match-winning tally, with O’Connor leading the way as he matched Flynn’s earlier effort with a shot that took a goal-saving touch up off the hurl of goalkeeper Jim Morrissey. Tommy Dwyer added a point from a sideline ball and he was the playmaker around which most of the Ferns attacks revolved, even if he had no hand in the goal that arrived on 44 minutes as ‘Bitsy’ and Paul Morris combined with short passes to pick out substitute John Breen in front of goal, and ‘Beaner’ duly obliged. Eddie Cullen was next to shine as he finally found a way to break free from the tough shackles of Rathnure full back Dave Guiney, allowing him to shoot two points. Then, when O’Connor collected his fourth score of the day to put Ferns nine up, it appeared that all was done and dusted. Not quite though, as Austin Codd showed great skill to
Ferns St. Aidans - The first 125 years send the ball to the net for Rathnure, with his young sidekick Flynn following up to lash the rebound back in too after the original score came back off the stanchion. A couple of minutes later, a marauding run by Rathnure’s Colm Byrne yielded a free which Leon O’Connell drove to the net, and suddenly there were just three points in it with six minutes to go. O’Connell and Flynn went close to getting an equalising score but they touches they tried to apply in a goalmouth scramble weren’t firm enough, and instead Ferns steadied the ship, with John Breen pointing again and giving a clenched first salute to the sideline to suggest that victory was imminent. And so it proved, even if the veteran Codd did manage to pick off a late defiant score for Rathnure to once more narrow the gap to three. In those nervy closing stages, it was corner back Niall Maguire who did arguably more than anyone else to calm things down, but even though the Ferns team was young (with an average age of just 22), all others were mature enough too to see things out to the end, and claim the intermediate crown once more. Ferns St Aidans: Michael Walsh; Niall Maguire (capt.), Colin Leacy, Christopher Davitt; Alastair MacPartlin, Padraig Ryan, Liam Bowe; Edward Walsh, James Tonks; TommyDywer (0-5, 0-2 frees, 0-1 line ball), Patrick Farrell, Paul Morris (0-1); Donnacha Kinsella, Edward Cullen (0-3), Christopher O’Connor (0-4). Subs: John Breen (1-1) for Kinsella, Jamie Whelan for Farrell, Darren Davitt for C Davitt, also Ben Bernie, Thomas Dwyer, Dickie Redmond, Colm Whelan, Shane Kinsella, Sean Murphy, Patrick Tonks, Liam Kavanagh
Into Leinster Ferns were now into unchartered territory for the club – and indeed, for any Wexford team – as they embarked upon the Leinster Intermediate Club Championship. Up to 2006, the championship was played off solely as a tie between the intermediate winners of Wexford and Kilkenny. However, a change adopted late that year meant the contests of 2007 and onwards would also involve the senior champions of the designated ‘weaker’ Leinster hurling counties such as Wicklow, Carlow, Kildare and Westmeath, with the idea being to allow them play at a level where they could be competitive rather than just lining them up as cannon fodder for the big guns in the provincial senior championship. It was all new to both sides then as Ferns lined up on home ground for the opening round tie against Kildare champions, Confey. The midland club was just four years old at that stage, but was making a real push to develop hurling in Kildare, as evidenced by how they had in Clare’s double All-Ireland winning goalkeeper Davy Fitzgerald to oversee training. It paid off with them winning their first county championship, but the step up in class to play a Wexford side proved too much for them, with Ferns winning by 4-14 to 3-4. It wasn’t always as easy as the scoreline might suggest though, as the sides were still on level terms on 45 minutes, before Ferns stepped it up a gear to win comfortably in the end. Ferns opened well with an Eddie Cullen goal from a
ground stroke and points by Patrick Farrell, Paul Morris and Tommy Dywer (free). Confey then got on the board with two points, and Dwyer shot two more for Ferns. ‘Cully’ was next to raise a white flag before Confey struck for a goal to haul it back to three points between the sides (1-6 to 1-3). Two further points for Ferns by Paul Morris and Alastair MacPartlin were replied to by one for the Kildare side, and so there were four points in it at the break. Confey hit Ferns for 1-1 in the opening stages of the second half though to the things up, and while both Thomas and Tommy Dywer hit points to put Ferns back in front, they were hauled back to level again as the Kildare champions converted two frees. It was a real contest at this stage, but Ferns found what they were looking for as ‘Cully’ put them back in front with his second goal of the day, and John Breen then rattled the net again shortly afterwards. A fourth goal came from Patrick Farrell after a series of points had also already been added, and while Confey did manage a third goal of their own in injury time, it was far too late to make any real difference. A tougher challenge lay in store in the semi final, against Wicklow champions Glenealy. The Garden County side were an experienced and battlehardened outfit having come through a tough county final against Carnew, and they had inter-county regulars such as the O’Neill trio of MJ, Jonathan and Michael Anthony amongst their ranks. However, they were forced to line out that day without their best known player, dual star Leighton Glynn, as he was playing in the county senior football final for Rathnew on the same afternoon. Another top man and inter-county regular, Wayne O’Gorman, was out injured. Ferns won by 1-19 to 1-12, with the teenage Paul Morris
n A Ferns man in a St Pat's shirt - ‘Bitsy’ O'Connor in action against Glenealy in the 2007 Leinster Intermediate Hurling Championship semi final.
Ferns St. Aidans - The first 125 years being the star of the show as he shot six points from play to help his side recover from the concession of an 18th minute goal. They also had good performances that day from the returning duo of Padraig Ryan and James Tonks, who had missed the game against Confey. Two points from ‘Bitsy’ and the first of the day from Morris helped Ferns to a lead of 0-3 to 0-1 in the first ten minutes, but the Wicklow men then dominated for the next ten minutes as Jonathan O’Neill sent over a line ball and a free, and wing forward Nigel Driver found the net. Morris pulled back a quick point for Ferns, but Glenealy struck again to lead by 1-4 to 0-4 on 22 minutes. There was an exchange of points from placed balls before Ferns defender Liam Bowe shot one of the best points of the day from well inside his own half. Eddie Cullen then went for goal in the next Ferns attack only for his shot to go wide, but Morris reduced the arrears to the minimum with an excellent point off his left hand side. However, there was still time for another first half Glenealy point, and they took a 1-6 to 0-7 lead into the break. They added a further point 30 seconds in the new half. Morris and James Tonks (free) replied with points for Ferns, before Glenealy captain Jonathan O’Neill sent an exquisite line ball over the bar from fully 60 yards to keep his side that bit in front. A free from ‘Cully’ and a fifth point from Morris saw Ferns get back on level terms (0-11 to 1-8), before both sides were reduced to fourteen men on 42 minutes when a couple of straight red cards were produced after a flare-up. When the action resumed, ‘Cully’ struck again to put Ferns ahead for the first time since the opening stages, but a long range Glenealy point levelled it up again. It was all to play for as the game entered its final quarter, but Ferns finally got on top as they enjoyed four points in a row from Morris, Tonks, substitute Donnacha Kinsella and Cullen again. Two points for Glenealy then kept them right in the game (0-17 to 1-11), but Kinsella added his second point and then Ferns put the issue beyond doubt in the 58th minute when John Breen set up ‘Bitsy’ O’Connor, who cut in from the left corner and buried the ball in the roof of the Glenealy net. There was still time for both sides to score a further point each before the final whistle, with that last Ferns score again coming from the stick of O’Connor. A long trip to Loughegar in Westmeath followed for the final against Clonkill, where Ferns got off to a flyer but unfortunately struggled for long periods of the game too before losing by 1-15 to 3-7. Ferns led by 2-1 to 0-2 after just ten minutes thanks to goals from a bullet Tommy Dywer sideline cut that went all the way to the net, and a neat finish from ‘Bitsy’ O’Connor. However, the more experienced and physically stronger Westmeath men hauled them back as the half wore on, and truth told, the home side were unlucky to still be a point down at half time, when Ferns led by 2-4 to 1-6. They weren’t behind any more though within a minute of the resumption as they landed a fine point from well out the field, before adding two more points (one free) in the next
five minutes. John Breen seemed set to restore a Ferns lead in their next attack, but was expertly hooked while in the process of attempting to shoot for goal. Ferns did find the target again on 41 minutes when Eddie Cullen fired over a free, and the same man tied up the scores two minutes later before rounding off a quick-fire hat trick by robbing his marker and firing over again. Two Clonkill points saw the lead swop sides, and then, just as in the semi final, the teams were reduced to fourteen men each when red cards were issued following an off-theball incident that few in the ground witnessed. Ferns again went in search of victory after that and got a great boost on 54 minutes when Eddie Cullen outgunned a massed Clonkill defence to volley a Tommy Dwyer free to the net. That put them two points ahead, but unfortunately it was to prove their last score and the home side finished stronger with four points in a row to take the provincial honours. Ferns St Aidans: Michael Walsh; Niall Maguire (capt.), Darren Davitt, Colin Leacy; Liam Bowe, Padraig Ryan, Alastair MacPartlin; Tommy Dwyer (1-3, 1-0 line ball, 0-2 frees, 0-1 ‘65’), James Tonks; Thomas Dywer (0-1), Patrick Farrell, Paul Morris (0-1); John Breen, Edward Cullen (1-2), Christopher O’Connor (1-0). Subs: Donnacha Kinsella for Farrell, Jamie Whelan for Morris.
Back on home ground Intermediate hurling exploits aside, 2007 wasn’t a vintage year for the club’s other adult teams, as junior hurlers and intermediate and junior footballers all had more losses than victories. The second string hurling team – winners of the Junior ‘A’ championship the year before – found the going that bit tougher when they stepped up to Junior ‘proper’. They suffered defeats to both St Martin’s and Taghmon/Camross in the group stage, with those losses only being tempered somewhat by a narrow victory over Crossabeg/Ballymurn that still wasn’t enough to lift them off the bottom of the table. That landed them in the ‘B’ championship – which effectively doubled up as relegation play-offs for the losing teams there – and further defeats to Horeswood and then Taghmon/Camross again meant they found themselves in the relegation final against the Oulart/The Ballagh third team. Anxious to avoid a quick return to the ranks where they’d operated the year before, they posted a large 3-18 to 1-5 victory there, with the top marksmen being Johnny Dywer (1-10, with 1-6 from play) and Pa Byrne (2-0), to make themselves safe for the following season. In intermediate football, things got off to a bad start with a defeat to Marshalstown (0-13 to 0-9) and got worse in the second round as an understrength team were hammered by Craanford (4-13 to 0-7). By the time they played Kilmore in the third group game, there was nothing at stake as Kilmore were already through and Ferns were already out, and the resultant lacklustre display by Ferns saw them lose heavily again, this time by 3-15 to 0-6. Intermediate status was retained though when they finally found form to beat St James’s of Ramsgrange by 2-13 to
Ferns St. Aidans - The first 125 years
n 2007 Under-21 Hurling Premier Champions. Back, from left: Shane Kirwan, Darren Davitt, Patrick Farrell, John Kennedy, Michael Walsh, Ben Bernie, Patrick Codd, Paul Morris, Fionn MacPartlin, Ronan Morris, Alastair MacPartlin. Front: Edward Walsh, Donnacha Kinsella, Colin Leacy, Christopher O'Connor, Bob Byrne (mascot), Tommy Dwyer (capt.), Christopher Davitt, Jonathan Dwyer, John Murphy, Sean Murphy, Conor Swaine. Missing from photo are Derek Thorpe and David Breen
0-5 in the first round of the ‘B’ championship, meaning they avoided the latter stages of the relegation play-offs. With status secured, and the hurling going well, there was relatively little interest in trying to mount a serious challenge for the ‘B’ title that was still up for grabs, and Ferns made their exit on the scoreline of 2-14 to 1-7 when again beaten by Marshalstown in what was a semi-final tie. The Junior ‘B’ footballers put up credible performances in the league that year without ever really challenging for one of the top spots, while in the championship, they opened with a good win over Clonee but ultimately didn’t qualify from the group stage as they didn’t follow up with sufficient subsequent victories.
Under-21 double At under-21 level though, it seemed Ferns could do no wrong, in either hurling or football. The talented hurling crew that was giving such hope for the future found themselves back in the Premier final for the fourth year in a row, this time beating Buffers Alley there to reclaim the title previously won in 2005. Meanwhile, the footballers were operating at Roinn 1 level, and also beat all before them to complete a marvelous double. The hurlers began with a 3-12 to 1-12 win at home over Faythe Harriers. They opened the scoring that evening with a goal from ‘Bitsy’ O’Connor, but there was little to choose between the sides for most of the first half as Ferns brought a narrow 1-5 to 0-6 advantage into the break. The Harriers narrowed the gap to the minimum on the restart, before two key incidents went against them. First, Tommy Dywer goaled from a 21-yard free and then their wing back Jason Murphy was red carded by referee Dickie Murphy for a dangerous tackle on Paul Morris. Ferns remained two or three points ahead until county senior Richie Kehoe threw the Harriers a lifeline when he goaled from a close-in free to equalise with two minutes left (2-9 to 1-12). Ferns finished stronger though, and secured victory thanks to points from ‘Bitsy’ O’Connor
and Paul Morris (two), and a goal from Patrick Codd, who made a great catch before turning and shooting to the net for the final score of the game. The rivalry with Oulart/The Ballagh – the opponents in the final of each of the three previous years – was this time renewed in the semi final, with a replay being required there after the sides first played out a draw on a scoreline of 1-13 to 2-10. The replay went the Ferns way, as they won by 3-11 to 0-15. The sides were level (0-7 each) at the break, but Ferns hit three all-important goals in the second half to secure a deserved and much appreciated victory. The first of those goals came from Paul Morris on the three quarter hour mark, and it put Ferns up by 1-9 to 0-10. Tommy Dwyer followed up with a point but David Redmond replied for Oulart/The Ballagh, only for Donnacha Kinsella to then shoot the second Ferns goal as he finished in emphatic style from close range. Ferns were now three points ahead with ten minutes remaining, but Oulart/The Ballagh struck twice more to narrow the gap to the minimum. Then another good Ferns attack led to a crucial third goal, finished by Ben Bernie, and although Oulart/The Ballagh again came back with a couple of points, they didn’t hit enough of them, and Ferns were through to a final date with Buffers Alley. They had a blistering start to thank there for what turned out to be a 0-18 to 1-9 victory, as they shot nine points to just one in reply in the opening quarter. ‘Bitsy’ had three of those points and Tommy Dywer (free) and Patrick Codd had others before the Alley struck their lone score of the first fifteen minutes, only to see Ferns rattle off four more in quick succession, including two in the space of twenty seconds from Ben Bernie and Donnacha Kinsella. The Alley then hit another point, and earned a penalty as well on 18 minutes, but Keith Burke’s attempt was well saved by Michael Walsh. They did land another point three minutes later, but
Ferns St. Aidans - The first 125 years Tommy Dywer frees on 22 and 25 minutes put Ferns further back in front, before the Alley earned another penalty. Keith Burke again stood up to take but again he didn’t have the intended result as his shot went over the bar instead of underneath. A further point then for Buffers Alley in first half injury time meant it was 0-11 to 0-5 in favour of Ferns at the break. The gap was down to five points when Kevin O’Leary converted a Buffers Alley free on 33 minutes, and both sides then had goal chances, with Michael Walsh first pulling off a good save from a Buffers Alley attempt before ‘Bitsy’ O’Connor saw a firsttime shot flash wide at the other end a minute later. Ferns then began to pull away, as further points from Paul Morris – the youngest player on the field at just 16 years of age – and two from Tommy Dwyer frees stretched the lead to 0-15 to 0-6. Buffers Alley kept plugging away and had three of the next four points, but a brace of fine scores from Johnny Dwyer five minutes before the end killed off any hope they had of a comeback as they stretched the lead again to 0-18 to 0-9. Keith Burke managed a consolation goal in injury time for Buffers Alley but overall it was a fine victory for Ferns, who were best served on the day by defenders Darren Davitt and Colin Leacy, midfielder Tommy Dwyer and forwards ‘Bitsy’ O’Connor and Johnny Dwyer. Ferns St Aidans: Michael Walsh; John Kennedy, Darren Davitt, Sean Murphy; Christopher Davitt, Colin Leacy, Alastair MacPartlin; Patrick Farrell, Tommy Dwyer (capt., 0-8, 0-5 frees, 0-1 ‘65’); Jonathan Dywer (0-3), Ben Bernie (0-1), Paul Morris (0-1); Donacha Kinsella (0-1), Patrick Codd (0-1), Christopher O’Connor (0-3). Subs: Edward Walsh for Codd, Fionn MacPartlin for J Dwyer, Conor Swaine for C Davitt (inj.), also John Murphy, Derek Thorpe, Shane Kirwan, Ronan Morris, David Breen
The football In the under-21 football campaign later in the year, Ferns first won through the Gorey District (beating Castletown in the final) before posting notice of their ultimate intentions with a comprehensive 3-10 to 1-5 win in the county semi final over Wexford District champions, Kilmore. The triple strike force of Paul Morris, ‘Bitsy’ O’Connor and substitute Patrick Codd combined to hit all those scores, with a late Ferns flourish of 1-4 without reply ensuring the victory they deserved after the seasiders had briefly threatened with a 56th minute goal. That score reduced the deficit to four points (2-6 to 1-5) after Ferns had led all the way through, but thre response
was immediate as the Ferns lads went back up the field from the kick-out and ‘Bitsy’ put the unmarked Paul Morris through on goal. He had four defenders chasing him and the goalkeeper coming out to meet him, but he managed to kick to the net just as the inevitable pile-up occurred. That was game, set and match for Ferns, even though further late scores stretched the eventual winning margin to eleven points. It had been Ferns all the way after Patrick Farrell and Tommy Dywer combined to put ‘Bitsy’ through for the first goal after just fifteen seconds of play, with the second goal having come from a Paul Morris penalty on 13 minutes when Derek Thorpe was fouled. It was 2-3 to 0-4 at the break before Patrick Codd, who was recovering from injury, was introduced to the play and he went on to score three points in the second half, to go with the 1-3 from ‘Bitsy’ and the other 2-4 from Morris that sent Ferns through to the final. There was a late Ferns goal again in the final against Adamstown – and this time it was crucial, as the ‘Bitsy’ O’Connor strike was the deciding score in a 2-5 to 1-5 victory for Ferns. It came just a minute after Adamstown substitute David McEvoy had broken through to put his team one point ahead with only four minutes to go as he finished a fine move to the net to make it 1-5 to 1-4 in favour of the New Ross District side. Paul Morris was the architect of that match-winning Ferns score as a clever flick from a long delivery put the ball right in O’Connor’s path, and ‘Bitsy’ calmly slotted past the advancing goalkeeper to put Ferns back in front. There was still time for Adamstown to try fight back and that is exactly what they did, but their efforts went unrewarded and instead it was a free from Patrick Codd for Ferns that rounded off the scoring in injury time. Ferns had scored just one point in the opening thirty minutes, with Paul Morris being the marksmen. However, Adamstown had managed only three, with wasteful shooting being to blame for them not making better use of the wind at their backs, as they had ten wides in that opening period. Patrick Codd, who was still struggling with that injury, again hadn’t been risked from the start but was again introduced at half time, and his presence made a big difference after the game restarted. He pointed a free on 38 minutes
Ferns St. Aidans - The first 125 years
n 2007 Under-21 Football Roinn 1 champions. Back, from left: Edward Walsh, Donnacha Kinsella, Darren Davitt, Ben Bernie, Michael Walsh. Middle: Derek Thorpe, Andrew Collier, John Kennedy, Shane Kirwan, Paul Morris, Ronan Morris, Patrick Farrell, Patrick Codd, Niall Byrne. Front: Christopher Davitt, Sean Murphy, David Breen, Tommy Dwyer, Christopher O'Connor, Alastair MacPartlin, Colin Leacy, Conor Swaine
and then had a hand in setting up Paul Morris for a further point, before Morris also hit a goal after a long ball from Colin Leacy was flicked into his path by ‘Bitsy’ O’Connor. Tommy Dwyer then set up Morris for yet another point to leave Ferns three ahead as the game entered its final quarter (1-4 to 0-4). The exchanges remained tight though, and there were no further scores in the next ten minutes, until an Adamstown point reduced the deficit to two. Then came that late drama, as first Adamstown struck for goal only to see ‘Bitsy’ do the same for Ferns, and that late Codd free wrapped things up. Another title was secured. Ferns St Aidans: Conor Swaine; Sean Murpy, Darren Davitt, Ronan Morris; David Breen (capt.), Colin Leacy, Christopher Davitt; Patrick Farrell, Alastair MacPartlin; Donnacha Kinsella, Shane Kirwan, Derek Thorpe; Tommy Dwyer, Paul Morris (1-3), Christopher O’Connor (1-0). Subs: John Kennedy for D Davitt (inj.), Patrick Codd (0-2 frees) for Kirwan, also Michael Walsh, Ben Bernie, Edward Walsh, Niall Byrne, Andrew Collier
Under-14 Champions Another title also came to Ferns that year, in the form of the Under-14 Division 3 football crown. Under the guidance of manager Pa Byrne and selectors Mylie Cash and Shea Byrne, they won four and lost two of the group stage games of the championship and then beat Monageer/Boolavogue by seven points in the county semi final. St James’s of Ramsgrange were the opponents in the final, and Ferns really went to town on them there, winning by 5-11 to 0-1. Ferns stormed ahead in the opening stages with a number of points being shared by Matthew Hendrick and Niall Davitt before the Ramsgrange team got what would be their only score of the day on 17 minutes. Niall Davitt also had the first goal shortly after that when he
n 2007 Under-14 Football Division 3 champions. Back, from left: Shay Byrne, Padraig Walsh, Patrick Breen, Peter Codd, Stephen Tobin, Blake Carr, Mark Doran, Daryl Kearns, Padraig Bolger, Eric Browne, Paddy O'Leary, Matthew Hendrick, Gavin Collier, Mylie Cash. Front: Shane Roberts, Ryan Bailey, Brian O'Neill, Brian Nolan, Jason Collier, Mylie Cash, Ger Turner, Niall Davitt, Dean Collier, Ryan Nolan, Aaron Collier, Declan Byrne, Gavin Bailey
Ferns St. Aidans - The first 125 years
n 2007 Under-12 hurling Division 2 runners-up. Back, from left: James Kavanagh, Andy Cash, Conor Breslin, Lee O’Connor, Eric Browne, Séan Murphy, Conor Hall, Stephen Redmond, Dean Collier, Gavin Bailey, Aaron Collier, Ger Turner, Ryan Bailey. Front: Pádraig Leacy, Tomás Cahill, PJ O’Neill, Chris Turner, Jason Collier, Ben Cowman, Darragh Doran, Bob Byrne (mascot), Ryan Nolan, Conor Nolan, Ger Breen, Dylan Murphy
finished after a Patrick Breen delivery came back off the crossbar, with that score making it 1-6 to 0-1. Ferns added a further 2-1 without reply before half time, with Peter Codd rattling the net before Davitt chalked up his second in added time. Ryan Nolan kicked a fourth Ferns goal from long range seven minutes into the second half, and he had the fifth as well as the game went into its final quarter. And all the while, a series of fine points were being recorded too, as the Ferns lads really enjoyed a comfortable and well-deserved victory. Ferns St Aidans: Ger Turner; Gavin Bailey, Declan Byrne, Mark Doran; Daryl Kearns, Padraig Bolger, Paddy O’Leary (0-1); Patrick Breen, Blake Carr (0-1); Peter Codd (1-1), Stephen Tobin (0-1), Matthew Hendrick (0-3); Ryan Nolan (2-0), Niall Davitt (2-3), Aaron Collier. Subs: Brian O’Neill for Kearns, Eric Browne for Collier, Padraig Walsh for Bailey, Gavin Collier (0-1) for Nolan, Mylie Cash for Davitt, Shane Roberts for Codd, also Dean Collier, Jason Collier, Ryan Bailey, Andy Cash
Under-12 Hurling Final The other team to reach a county final that year were the under-12 hurlers, at Division 2 level. The first championship game was lost to Craanford by 2-6 to 2-3, but they came back with wins over Rathnure (5-4 to 3-2), Faythe Harriers (6-10 to 2-4), Monageer/Boolavogue (4-8 to 1-3), Buffers Alley (5-7 to 0-0) and Shamrocks (2-9 to 0-2), to set up a repeat against Monageer/Boolavogue in the semi final. The result was an even bigger win for Ferns this time, by eighteen points (4-8 to 0-2), and so they were through to the final – but opponents there were Craanford, the only team to have beaten them so far. Ferns were determined to reverse that result this time round and got off to a good start with the opening two points of the game, but Craanford got on top as the game continued and they led by 2-4 to 0-2 at half time. Ferns had the better of the third quarter and narrowed the gap with points from Ryan Nolan (two) and Andy Cash, but Craanford then struck three more goals before Gavin Bailey managed 1-1 for Ferns in the closing minutes, leaving the final score at 5-4 for Craanford and 1-8 for Ferns.
Ferns St Aidans: Darragh Doran; Stephen Redmond, Aaron Collier, Dylan Murphy; Jason Collier, Gavin Bailey (1-1 frees), Ryan Bailey; Ryan Nolan (0-6, 0-4 frees, 0-1 ‘45’), Eric Browne; PJ O’Neill, Dean Collier, Ger Turner; Lee O’Connor, Andy Cash (0-1), Thomas Cahill. Subs: Conor Nolan for O’Connor, Conor Hall for Turner, Ben Cowman for Cahill, also James Kavanagh, Conor Breslin, Ger Breen, Chris Turner, Sean Murphy, Padraig Leacy, Dan O’Neill, Darren Kehoe
The same crew of hurlers did have great success that year though, when representing Wexford at a blitz tournament in Mullinahone, Co .Tipperary. In the opening games, they beat teams from Kilkenny and Waterford and drew with one from Clare, to go through to the semi final against the host club, where Ferns put in a great performance to win by two points. They were now through to play Clarecastle from Clare in the final, and they got off to a great start by hitting a goal after five minutes and following up with four unanswered points. A second goal came just two minutes into the second half, and Ferns eventually won by 2-6 to 0-3 to spark off scenes of great celebration, both in Tipperary after the match and on their return home to Ferns later that evening. In other competitions, the under-12 footballers went close to getting out of their group but lost the final game by just two points when a win was needed to qualify for the county semi final. The under-14 hurlers managed to make their county semi final but were beaten there by six points by Fethard, while the juvenile hurlers also made the last four of their competition, only to go down to Naomh Eanna. The minor hurlers, in Division 2 of the championship, had wins over Shamrocks, Rathnure and Taghmon/Camross and walkovers from Duffry Rovers and Faythe Harriers, and suffered group stage defeats to both Glynn/Barntown and Oulart/The Ballagh. They had the chance to avenge that Glynn/Barntown result in the county semi final and led for much of the way, but were overhauled in the closing stages. In football, the minors were in the Premier division, and they too made the last four where Glynn/Barntown again provided the opposition. The result was the same, with Ferns being in contention for much of the game before eventually being narrowly beaten.