Having lost the last three provincial finals, Oulart were widely viewed as heirs apparent, but a powerful Mount Leinster Rangers outworked and outfought the Wexford men for a deserved win.
Oulart certainly began like a team determined to put doubt in their inexperienced opponents’ minds early on. Garrett Sinnott had an Oulart goal disallowed – rightly – in the second minute after slaloming his way through the Rangers defence, and the Wexford men certainly dominated the first quarter in terms of possession.
Eoin Moore covered well in the full-back line and Paul Roche’s clean striking at centre-back gave them a platform but their forwards were wasteful, hitting five wides in the first quarter to go along with points by Conor O’Leary and Rory Jacob, the latter effort the score of the half.
On 15 minutes Rangers were level, however, with Denis Murphy converting a second close-in free. They began to use their greater strength and they certainly weren’t overawed by their surroundings; the likes of Edward and Diarmuid Byrne caught the eye with their power and workrate, but up front they lacked a little subtlety, often delivering the ball aimlessly into space, and they were guilty of some poor wides themselves.
David Redmond’s snap shot put Oulart ahead but Murphy, again, pointed a free to level matters. Oulart continued to frustrate their supporters: they managed another two wides and two shots which dropped harmlessly into Rangers’ keeper Frank Foley before Des Mythen edged them ahead on 24 minutes. Eoin Moore then pointed a massive free for the Wexford men to give them what passed for breathing space.
Rangers had a sight of goal then, as a sideline cut deep into Oulart territory broke kindly for Eoin Doyle and he went for glory from the 21, but his shot flew wide. There were no more scores before the interval, and given Oulart’s past record in Leinster finals their supporters weren’t counting chickens at half-time, when it was 0-5 to 0-3 in their favour. At that point Oulart had hit eight wides and Rangers five.
They resumed in similar fashion: Oulart’s Darren Nolan quickly pointed, and Denis Murphy, inevitably, pointed a free to keep his side in touch.
We then had a breathless couple of minutes’ without a break, a period of end-to-end surges which only came to a halt with a Rangers free, blasted over by Murphy to cut the Oulart lead to one. When the same forward ranged through to equalise from play on 40 minutes the Carlow contingent in Nowlan Park were in full cry; and they took it up a notch a minute later when he pointed a free to put them ahead, 0-7 to 0-6.
Oulart’s two wides in response were dispiriting enough, but when substitute Nicky Kirwan raced through and saw his goal shot slip wide it looked ominous.
Meanwhile, at the other end another Rangers player, Paul Coady, eventually made it onto the scoresheet with Murphy to put Rangers two ahead at the three-quarter stage.
The signs were getting worse for Oulart as the clock ticked down, with three second-half shots dropping harmlessly short to Foley in the Rangers goal. Nicky Jacob eventually got Oulart’s second point of the second half on 51 minutes, from a free to leave one between them with nine minutes left.
Cue Diarmuid Byrne cutting a sideline over the bar and Denis Murphy hitting a point on the run, only for Mythen to respond to leave it 0-10 to 0-8 with four minutes left. Derek Byrne gave Rangers restored Rangers’ three-point lead with a minute left and though Oulart got a late free — Rory Jacob going for goal, Rangers repelled it for a 65. And when they lifted the siege after that effort fell short, they were in dreamland.
Scorers for ML Rangers: D Murphy (0-8, 6fs), Diarmuid Byrne (s/l), P Coady and Derek Byrne (0-1 each).
Scorers for Oulart-the-Ballagh: R Jacob (1f), D Mythen 0-2 each; E Moore (f), D Nolan, D Redmond and C O’Leary 0-1 each.
Subs for MLR: H O’Byrne for J Coady (45), J Hickey for E Doyle, (52); W Hickey for P Coady (58).
Subs for Oulart: D Stamp for Goff, (5-7, blood), N Kirwan for O’Leary (45), D Stamp for Murphy (55).
Referee: J Keenan (Wicklow).