Champions ‘Courty show their class
Ballinacourty 2-9; Stradbally 0-8
Any doubts about Ballinacourty’s capacity to retain their county senior football championship title, or their determination to do so, were emphatically dispelled at Fraher Field last Sunday when they surmounted Stradbally’s semi-final challenge with a level of authority that was eye-catching in the extreme.
The doubts about them may have surfaced after their largely unimpressive quarter-final defeat of Ring a week earlier, but all of the rustiness from that game gave way to a shining new product as they put the Reds to the sword and looked every inch champion material in the process.
In fact the clear and unequivocal message from this semi-final is that ‘Courty and their coveted title will not be easily parted. The Nire take notice!
Stradbally fought the good fight and made a real game of it throughout most of an exciting and fiercely competitive opening half. They matched the champions, and more, for lengthy spells but then fell victim to a series of sucker punches as the half drew to a close, and in truth were left with a second half challenge they were never going to overcome.
Cruelly after an even 30 minutes they retired at half-time break six points adrift (1-6 to 0-3) after the champions delivered those decisive hammer blows in the additional minutes before the break, and in retrospect these were the moments when their challenge was effectively de-railed.
In the end ‘Courty’s seven-point victory margin, while a trifle unkind to the Reds, was still a fair enough reflection of their overall superiority.
Level three times
If Stradbally were hoping to make an early impact they couldn’t have asked for a better start than they got with Michael “Brick” Walsh superbly finding the range in the opening minute. The accurate boot of James Mahoney had ‘Courty level from a 5th minute free before Niall Curran and Mahony traded further minors – both from frees.
John Gorman’s superb point gave the champions the lead for the first time in the 17th minute but Curran quickly neutralised it with an equally good one at the other end leaving the sides deadlocked for a third time and the fans revelling in what was building to an exciting spectacle.
Another Mahoney point from a free restored ‘Courty’s lead in the 24th minute, and this time it was an advantage they would never again surrender.
The real damage however from a Stradbally perspective was done in added first half time with the champions stretching a one point lead to half a dozen, 1-6 to 0-3, leaving their rivals with that mountain to climb on the turnover.
With the half time break looming ‘Courty were just the minimum, 0-4 to 0-3 in front, but in the three minutes of additional time they tacked on a further 1-2 to firmly signpost their way to a showdown with the Nire in next Sunday’s decider.
Mahoney (free) and Patrick Hurney with a super effort from play scored the points, and seconds before the break Mark Fives delivered what was to be the killer blow when he crashed home a great goal after being set up by man of the match Richie Foley.
The movement leading up to that opening goal was one of the best of the entire game, and mirrored the difference between the two sides over the course of the hour.
Stradbally brought county hurling captain Michael Walsh from full-forward to midfield on the restart in an effort to bolster their challenge, but any lingering hopes they may still have been entertaining of toppling the champions were dead in the water within four minutes when Foley was again the provider for Gary Hurney’s clinical goal finish.
Five minutes later the magnificent Foley soloed from his half-back berth past several opponents to rifle over the best point of the game, and while Stradbally attacked relentlessly for a spell and enjoyed monopoly territorial possession they were never able to open up a rock solid ‘Courty defence for the scores they so badly needed.
John Hearne landed their first score of the half on 41 minutes and three minutes later they had a golden goal chance that just might have throw them some kind of lifeline.
There was nothing wrong with Tommy Connors goal-bound delivery, but somehow ‘keeper Stephen Enright managed to keep out his effort with a blinding save. We haven’t seem many better in this entire championship campaign.
Plenty of possession for a while subsequently, and all credit to Michael Walsh, Kevin Coffey, John Hearne, and Niall Curran for their valiant efforts.
However the tide had by now gone out on them and a day of disappointment was compounded with the 50th minute dismissal of substitute George Walsh on a second yellow card.
They did manage to narrow the deficit to two goals, 2-7 to 0-7, with two Niall Curran points and another from the industrious John Hearne, but two superlative Mark Fives points were to be a fitting finale for the champions who will now be firm odds on favourites to put back to back titles together for the first time since 1978/’79.
Niall Curran did have the final say for the Reds with his third pointed free, but it was the classic case of too little too late as the champions advanced – menacingly – to another final.
All round a compelling display by the champions with scarcely a weak link. Skipper John Hurney and man of the match Richie Foley brilliantly marshalled a defence that kept the tightest of reins on the Reds attack; Sean O’Hare and Patrick Lynch won more than a fair share of midfield ball, while Pudge and Gary Hurney, and most of all Mark Fives delivered crucially in attack.
Not Stradbally’s day then, and the late withdrawals of defenders Shane Lannon and Tony Grey certainly didn’t help. In fact both defenders were sorely missed, yet even at full strength one doubts if they would have had sufficient fire power to topple the champions.
Ballinacourty: S. Enright; J. Mullen. J. Phelan. G. Breen; R. Foley. J. Hurney. M. Gorman; S. O’Hare. P. Lynch; P. Hurney. L. Hurney. J. Gorman; M. Fives. G. Hurney. J. Mahoney; Subs; T. Murray for Mullen (44 mins); D. Fives for L. Hurney (56 mins); I. Kiely for Mahoney (59 mins); S. Delahunty for P. Hurney (60 mins).
Scorers: M. Fives (1-2); J. Mahoney (0-4, frees); G. Hurney (1-0); P. Hurney, J. Gorman, R. Foley (0-1) each.
Stradbally: E. Cunningham; P. Doyle. K. Coffey. T. Walsh; A. Doyle. T. Costelloe. E. Cummins; J. Coffey. R. Ahearne; N. Curran. H. Kearne. T. Connors; S. Cunningham. M. Walsh. S. Ahearne; Subs: G. Walsh for J. Coffey (half-time); O. Costelloe for T. Costelloe (inj. 3-6 mins); T. Curran for Connors (50 mins).
Scorers: N. Curran (0-4, 0-3 frees); J. Hearne (0-2); M. Walsh (0-1 free).
Referee: M Condon, Clashmore.
For full story see The Munster Express newspaper or
subscribe to our Electronic edition.
subscribe to our Electronic edition.