“There’s great heart in this team but look, we’re through the semi-final, that’s all,” he said.
“We’re in exactly the same position we were in last year and we got beat by an Offaly crowd [Coolderry]. There’s no trophy won today.”
Keith had been an integral part of the battle as the Wexford champions fought back from being 1-3 to 0-0 down after less than four minutes, his own man Colin Fennelly with the goal. But a fine individual three-pointer by Oulart full-forward Garreth Sinnott saw the gap closed to just three points at the break, 1-9 to 1-6.
“The start they got and everything, but we kept plugging away, coming back,” relieved Rossiter. ” It’s a great scalp to take, Ballyhale, but Henry [Shefflin] going off made a bit of a difference [ankle injury 23rd minute].”
Indeed it did, though it must be said he wasn’t getting a lot of change from man-of-the-match Darren Stamp. Shamrocks scored only one point in the second-half, a sixth for James ‘Cha’ Fitzpatrick but the same man was off target with two frees and a ’65 that Henry would likely have scored, had he been on the field.
On such things can a game turn but in this game, there was much more.
Twice Ballyhale had the ball in the net only to be called back. The first came in the 26th minute when Michael Fennelly was penalised for taking too many steps before shooting. The second — and by far the bigger call — came in the 58th minute when Oulart keeper Ben O’Connor was adjudged to have been fouled having already lost the ball which Eoin Reid tapped into the net.
You need those kind of breaks and credit to Oulart, they took full advantage.
There had been so many contributors in what became a war of attrition. Midfielder David Redmond, forwards Darren Nolan, Rory Jacob and Nicky Kirwan with two points each, Sinnott with that crucial goal, but ultimately it was suffocating defence that won this for Oulart-the-Ballagh, and fittingly wing-back Eoin Moore hit the winning score.
And it was a score worthy of winning any game. Super sub Lar Prendergast set up Moore for a huge strike from around halfway out in the second minute of injury-time.
It was the only time in the game Oulart managed to get their noses in front. But it’s the only time to have your nose in front, emphasises Keith.
“If it finishes at only 0-1 to 0-0 and you’re ahead at the end, that’s all that matters. We got the point in almost the final play and fair dues to Eoin, he went for it from the middle of the field and it went over the black spot. Great to see. Great for him. But we’re only back where we were last year, in a final against an Offaly team.”
That Offaly team is Kilcormac-Killoughey who this year won their first ever county senior hurling title. No matter, says Keith, they’ll have Oulart’s full respect.
“Some people might say we got a bit carried away last year after beating James Stephens. Personally I thought we were well prepared but we missed an awful lot of chances and hit 16 wides.
“That’s not going to win any game for you at this time of year. If we’d scored half of those we’d have beat Coolderry but we didn’t. That was last year, in the past, we can make amends for that.
“I don’t know much about Kilcormac, haven’t met them before but they’re there, in a Leinster final, champions of Offaly which is no easy championship to win. We respected Coolderry last year and they put in a big performance and beat us. We respect Kilcormac-Killoughey now too.
“This is everything now. We’ve taken it one step at a time from the first round of the Wexford championship. We’re undefeated all year. Hopefully we can continue that through next weekend.”
Scorers for Oulart-the-Ballagh: G Sinnott 1-0, D Redmond, D Nolan, R Jacob, N Kirwan (1f, 1 65) 0-2 each, E Moore, C O’Leary, F Cullen 0-1 each.
Scorers for Ballyhale Shamrocks: C Fennelly 1-1, J Fitzpatrick 0-6 (1f), E Reid 0-2, H Shefflin 0-1.
Subs for Oulart-the-Ballagh: L Prendergast for Gott (9), D Mythen for Roche (45), F Cullen for Murphy (inj. 36).
Subs for Ballyhale Shamrocks: P Reid for H Shefflin (inj. 23), L Grant for Hoyne (48).
Referee: Barry Kelly (Westmeath).