The O’Connor brothers will miss the Wexford final, the schedule is insane and Oulart is looking for redemption

DECEMBER 2015 WAS when they finally ditched the label “Oulart the Bottlers”.

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Oulart The Ballagh captain Barry Kehoe takes the Leinster title.

Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

Having lost all six of his previous finals at Leinster, including four in a row between 2010 and 2013, Oulart the Ballagh few gave Oulart the Ballagh a chance to beat Cuala in the decider.

In 2013, the defeat against the blatant outsiders Mount Leinster Rangers of Carlow was particularly painful.

They finally clinched the provincial title after a 2-13 to 0-13 win over the South Dublin team. They narrowly lost after overtime to eventual champions Na Piarsaigh in the All-Ireland semifinals.

They have been exciting days for the club, who draw their players from the villages of Oulart and The Ballagh.

Losing to St Martin’s in last year’s Wexford SHC relegation play-off sent the 13-time winners into the second division. It was a dramatic descent from the class for the Oulart club as he lost his 36-year senior club status just six years after being Leinster kingpin.

Today they face Taghmon/Camross in the Intermediate Finals as they aim for an immediate return to the higher ranks.

Of the side that featured in last weekend’s 21-1, 11-0 semi-final defeat by Buffers Alley, 10 remained in this All-Ireland semi-final game against Na Piarsaigh.

Among them was Rory Jacob, the former Wexford star who was part of the Leinster winning team in 2004. The 38-year-old came off the bench in the 46th minute of the semifinals and added a couple of points.

They also include Shaun Murphy, who started his first game for the club in almost a year since the 2021 relegation decision. Murphy underwent surgery for a back problem, which ruled him out of Wexford’s campaign.

“We’re delighted to be in a district final again,” he told the Wexford GAA. “It gives us a chance to get back into seniority.

“Good to be back out at Wexford Park and going out for the first time in a long time.

“The injury is good. I’ve been out a long time so the body is just getting back into gear which is the big thing. I got through the match as best as I could.”

Former Westmeath manager Shane O’Brien replaced ex-Wexford boss Liam Dunne for 2022.

The decision to abandon the hurling championship entirely before football began meant Oulart the Ballagh will be in the championship fight for a ninth consecutive weekend tomorrow.

A turnaround of six days between semifinals and finals is far from ideal.

“We have a few little things, but we hope everyone will be fit for Saturday,” said O’Brien.

“Part of me loves having a game week in and week out, but it’s very, very tough for the players. It’s not ideal.”

Murphy added: “It’s good when you win, you want to go out and play. With little hits and nags, it’s hard to turn around in six or seven days.”

While Oulart the Ballagh brings a wealth of experience to the Intermediate Finals, Ferns St Aidan will head into the Seniors final on Sunday in a bid to chase their first-ever Seniors title.

Paul Morris

Paul Morris and Ferns are back in their first senior finals since 2013.

Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

When they narrowly ran against Oulart in the 2013 decider – 3:12 to 1:16 – the red-whites seemed destined to stay in the competition for a few more years.

“We had a solid team back then,” said Paul Morris after overtime in the semifinals against defending champions Rapparees.

“We probably thought we’d be in a few more. It took until now, 2022, to get back to that. It just goes to show how difficult it is to reach a district final.”

Morris was 22 the last time they made it this far. The 31-year-old wants to make up for lost time.

They face a team from St. Martin who made it through the relegation playoffs last year. They then made it to the finals despite the absence of county stars Rory and Jack O’Connor.

Rory again aggravated a knee problem in the quarter-finals and Jack retired with a hamstring injury in the semi-finals.

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Rory O’Connor was injured and had to be substituted for Wexford in the All-Ireland quarter-finals.

Credit: James Crombie/INPHO

The 2019 champions are also without a third O’Connor, Joe, a first cousin of the aforementioned duo who is in Australia. Factor in the retirement of veteran Ciaran Lyng at the end of last season and St Martin’s attack has defeated several big names.

However, the presence of veteran players in Daithi Waters, Willie Devereux, Conor Firman and Aaron Maddock give them a good chance of winning a third title in five seasons.

Their route to the final was aided by the decision not to award Aidan Rochford’s legitimate goal in the semi-finals. Rochford’s strike in the 40th minute caught the keeper’s spare slingshots in his goals but officials believed he hit the post.

St Martin’s eventually beat St Anne’s on penalties and the ‘ghost goal’ was a big topic of conversation afterwards.

St. Martin’s and Ferns drew in the group stage, making Sundya’s final a difficult decision.

The winners face a 13-week break before the start of the Leinster Club SHC.

Ferns boss Pat Bennett refused to apologize and questioned the planning of the competition. After going into overtime just a week before the final, he said: “It’s all about recovery.

“This is game eight in seven and a half weeks. To me it’s manic stuff. The inter-county boys, if you go three weeks in a row, they give up. We’re into game eight in seven and a half weeks.

“You don’t have time for injuries (to recover), you play with injuries. They talk about player welfare. I just don’t see it.”

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