They discarded their underdog tag to deprive defending champions, Rathnure, of three in a row with an emphatic 1-17 to 1-10 victory in an entertaining final at Wexford Park yesterday.
This was a victory to savour for Oulart-The-Ballagh fans for, while those great rivals have crossed paths on a regular basis in recent years, they did not meet at this level since 1974 when Rathnure went on to win the title.
Rathnure, seeking a record 20th title, went into yesterday's final as slight favourites, but it was Oulart-The-Ballagh who were all fired up, snatching the early lead and then finishing like the proverbial train to deny them after Rathnure, with the deficit cut to the minimum turning into the final quarter, appeared to have victory in their grasp.
Oulart-The-Ballagh had done all the ground work and they were not giving anything away easily. A point from veteran corner forward, Paul Finn, who also brought them back from the brink with a first half goal, steadied the ship and the Jacob brothers, Michael and Rory, added two more to restore their lead.
Rathnure suffered a huge blow in the opening minutes of the second half when Rod Guiney was assisted off the field with a leg injury but they began to control the game despite that and eat into the lead which stood at 1-7 to 1-4 at half time.
Both goals came in the first half and the first of those fell to the defending champions and might have unnerved Oulart-The-Ballagh who had dominated the exchanges up to that point. They were leading 0-3 to 0-1 and on top when centre-back Mick O'Leary sent a high ball in behind the defence and Robbie Codd was quick to react, rounding a defender to place the sliotar safely in the right corner of the net, well away from Paul Dempsey.
Codd then added a free to stretch the lead but Oulart-The Ballagh hit back. A Liam Dunne free found Paul Finn and he restored their lead with 15 minutes gone. From there on, defence was tight on both sides.
Paul Finn scored some great points from play but it was the accurate free-taking of Paul Codd that kept Rathnure in touch. In all he scored, eight points all from frees as the forwards ran into endless problems against a tight and uncompromising defence.
Nigel Higgins had some great runs up the left wing but he seldom got close enough to pick off until the closing stages of the game when Oulart-The Ballagh had their fourth title well and truly wrapped up.
: Oulart-The Ballagh: P. Finn 1-3, M. Jacob 0-6 (frees), D. Mythen 0-3, M. Storey and R. Jacob 0-2 each and S. Doyle 0-1. Rathnure: P. Codd 0-8 (frees), R. Codd 1-0, N. Higgins 0-2. OULART-THE- BALLAGH: P. Dempsey; J. Roche, K. Rossiter, P. Roche; A. Kavanagh, L. Dunne, P. Redmond; A. O'Leary, D. Stamp; D. Mythen, M. Storey, S. Doyle; R. Jacob, M. Jacob, P. Finn.
: J. Morrissey; A. O'Connell, S. Somers, D. Guiney; R. Freeman, M. O'Leary, R. Guiney; P. Codd, J. O'Connor; T. Hogan, M. Byrne, N. Higgins; S. O'Neill, R. Codd, B.O'Leary. Subs: S. Murphy for R. Guiney and F. Murphy for M. Byrne.
: Seanie O'Shea (Blackwater).
STARLIGHTS reinforced their grip on the Wexford senior football championship with an overwhelming performance against the local Sarsfields side that earned them a comfortable 1-10 to 0-6 victory and a second title in three years in an interesting if not exciting final played out in glorious sunshine at Wexford Park yesterday.
It was a ninth title in all for the Enniscorthy side who went into the final as red hot favourites despite the fact that they were beaten convincingly by Sarsfields in the first round of the competition.
: Starlights: J. Hudson 1-7 (0-5 frees), W. Hudson, A. Russell and W. Hudson 0-1 each. Sarsfields: P. Cullen 0-2 (frees) and K. Kelly, E. Keeling, B. Goff and C. Bent 0-1 each.
: J. Russell; P. Murphy, M. Gahan, O. O'Connor; M. Quigley, A. Fenlon, L. Boland; D. Ruth, R. Quigley; T. Wall, O. Kinlough, W. Hudson; A. Russell, J. Hudson, T. Mahon. Subs: D. O'Brien for W. Hudson, E. Furlong for A. Russell, M. Donohoe for T. Mahon.
: J. Roice; B. Mulligan, P. Harrington, C. Callery; N. Sheil, M. Hanrahan, D. Gannon; J. Harrington, K. Kelly; E. Keeling, B. Goff, C. Bent; P. Cullen, C. O'Leary, K. Gore. Subs: D. Foley for D. Gannon; J. Foley for K. Gore; D. Clancy for P. Cullen.
: Sean Whelan (St. Martin's).