Champions Made to Sweat for Their Win

Waterford Senior Football Championship Group A

Stradbally 1-17
Portlaw 1-10

Mac Dara Mac Donncha Reports

Even though there were seven points between the sides at the end, Portlaw battled throughout and they reeled in an eleven point deficit to just four at one stage in the second half. It would be fair to say that Stradbally always looked like the winners, but Portlaw played some excellent football and they are a better side than many give them credit for.A John Power free opened the scoring for Portlaw and Stradbally replied with four white flags, per Michael Walsh, Shane Aherne and two Eoin O’Brien frees, both of those in the ‘soft’ category. Michael Donnelly and Daniel Weldon exchanged minors before Niall Fitzgerald advanced as wing backs are wont to do by kicking a fine score to leave side 0-5 to 0-3 down after a competitive opening quarter.
Stradbally upped the pace in the second quarter, aided by a dollop of good fortune when a misplaced pass across the Portlaw goal found Paul Tobin by accident and he finished with aplomb.

Stradbally and Shane Aherne were made to sweat for their SFC win over Portlaw on Saturday last.  									| Photo: Sean Byrne

Stradbally and Shane Aherne were made to sweat for their SFC win over Portlaw on Saturday last. | Photo: Sean Byrne

Eoin O’Brien (a free), Daniel Weldon, Michael Walsh and Michael Sweeney all added points and this game seemed to be following the script – a comfortable day for the champions. Two fine scores rounded off the half, Michael Donnelly for Portlaw and Paul Tobin for Stradbally and at the interval, the scoreboard read 1-10 to 0-4 in the Reds’ favour.When Paul Weldon added a quick score ion the restart, a rout seemed more than a remote possibility but it would be far from that. Michael Donnelly pointed a free, Daniel Weldon- who had a fine hour for Stradbally- kicked his fourth of the day, and Shane Foran raised a white flag. That flurry of four scores in four minutes still saw the champions leading by nine points, with Tommy Connors and Eoin O’Brien then stretching that out to 11. Did they relax slightly or were the next 15 minutes down to a battling effort from Portlaw? Whichever of these is accurate, the game changed totally and the men in blue and gold took it by the scruff of the neck.
Veteran goalkeeper Tom Walsh gave them the inspiration with a fine save from Eoin O’Brien, and he surpassed it five minutes later with an excellent stop from a Shane Aherne penalty.

His colleagues responded positively, with Michael Donnelly pointing before a tonic goal arrived in the 46th minute.
Great work by Frank Galvin and John Power created the chance for Peter Boylan and his finish was assured. The margin was down to seven. As they piled on the pressure, three Michael Donnelly frees pulled it back to four and an upset looked more than a possibility, with ten minutes still to play.
The champions showed their composure and class in the final ten minutes, however, with Eoin O’Brien (2) and Tommy Connors settling their nerves and giving them a deserved victory but credit to Portlaw, who played some really good football in the second half here.
Their heroes were Tom Walsh, Frank Galvin, and Michael Donnelly, while for Stradbally, Michael Walsh ruled at midfield for long periods, with Daniel Weldon, Tommy Connors and Paul Tobin best in attack.

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