First half Gaultier goals earn draw

Maurice Hennebry-Deise Sport

Gaultiers Stephen Hearne collects the ball in between Stradballys Michael Walsh and John Coffey in their County SFC clash at Kill GAA grounds. Photo: Maurice Hennebry-Deise Sport

Gaultier 2-5; Stradbally 0-11

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The importance of being able to put the ball into the back of the net was never more evident than in Kill last Saturday evening when Gaultier and Stradbally played out an exciting draw in the county senior football championship.

Since Gaultier’s rise to the senior ranks in 2005, they have met Stradbally on no fewer than four occasions in the championship. Regardless of the relative strength of both teams, the barony men are always able to trouble Stradbally and over the past few years they have served up some classic encounters.

This match proved to be no exception as goals at vital times kept Gaultier in touch with Stradbally and in a frantic finish, it was actually the pre-match favourites who managed to scrape a last ditch equaliser through the left boot of Niall Curran.

Stradbally started this game in an assertive mood, determined to put down the challenge of the men from the east. They had two points in as many minutes through Stephen Cunningham and Shane Ahearne.

The majority of the crowd expected Stradbally to kick on and win handsomely but Gaultier are often at their most dangerous when they are written off. Steven Hearne plucked a kick out from the sky and laid the ball off to wing back Mark Wyse who found Gearoid O’Connor. The pacy O’Connor sprinted past Tony Grey before firing an unstoppable shot past Eoin Cunningham in the Stradbally goal.

The midfield duo of Shane Ahearne and Michael Walsh were getting the upper hand in this sector and providing their forward line with plenty of possession. However, on several occasions this possession was wasted and Stradbally’s forwards were often guilty of over elaboration in front of goal. For some reason, players opted to pass the ball when in sight of the posts, when shooting may have been the more sensible option.

Stradbally did manage to add points through the Ahearne brothers and Niall Curran to leave them in front on a scoreline of 0-5 to 1-1 after 20 minutes. Gaultier’s point came from the boot of Anthony Fitzgerald who, it must be said, did not enjoy the greatest of nights from placed balls.

With two minutes to go until the break, an excellent team movement from Gaultier led to JJ Hutchinson putting in Gearoid O’Connor. Once again, O’Connor rifled the ball past Eoin Cunningham and got a late belt for his troubles which led to a yellow card for the Stradbally netminder.

Horrendous

As the sides went for the half-time ‘cuppa’ Gaultier led by two points on a scoreline of 2-1 to 0-5.

The apparent difficulty of kicking the ball between the posts was a feature of this game with both teams guilty of some horrendous shooting. This may well be an indictment of the modern game as much as it is a criticism of these two teams.

Anthony Fitzgerald did find his shooting boots during the half time break and added two frees early in the second half to extend Gaultier’s lead.

Stradbally withdrew John Hearne to a deeper role and the extra freedom allowed Hearne to notch two points in quick succession, the first of which could well have resulted in a goal.

With the game in the melting pot, both teams went for it. The clash of styles led to an intriguing contest with Stradbally’s short passing game up against the more direct style of Gaultier.

As the game entered its final 5 minutes, Gaultier led by three points and looked on course to record a famous victory.

Up to now, Niall Curran had been having an evening to forget. Like his Gaultier counterpart, Curran was having difficulties from placed balls but as the old adage goes, Cometh the hour, cometh the man. In those final five minutes, Curran notched three points from play to snatch a draw for his side. Indeed one of these points should have resulted in a goal which would have given Stradbally the victory.

This was a much improved performance from Gaultier. If they had put the same effort and commitment into their opening game against Tramore, they would now be assured of a place in the knock-out stages. However, as things stand they will need to get a positive result against Clashmore in order to stay in the championship. It is worth noting that in this game, Gaultier were without regular full-back Gary Molloy as well as Thomas Dunphy and midfielder Conor O’Riordan. Even without these players Gaultier could well have won this game with Gearoid O’Connor probably the best player on view. Elsewhere, Ray Hearne had a fine game at centre-back while Paul Carroll was very steady at full back.

Stradbally were certainly in trouble in this game when they trailed by four points after ten minutes of the second half. It was then that Michael Walsh and John Hearne came to the fore and supplied the ammunition for Niall Curran to score the points that got them back into the game.

Gaultier: J Cusack, R McDonagh, P Carroll, T Power, R Croke, R Hearne, Wyse, I Power, S Hearne, P Fitzgerald, N Smyth, G O’Connor, JJ Hutchinson, A Fitzgerald, C McDonald. Subs: P Maher for I Power.

Scorers: G O’Connor 2-0, A Fitzgerald 0-3f, P Fitzgerald 0-1, JJ Hutchinson 0-1

Stradbally: E Cunningham, E Cummins, K Coffey, A Doyle, T Grey, E Rockett, P Doyle, M Walsh, S Ahearne, J Coffey, G Power, J Hearne, N Curran, R Ahearne, S Cunningham. Subs: T Connors for R Ahearne.

Scorers: N Curran 0-5 (0-1f), S Ahearne 0-2, J Hearne 0-2, S Cunningham 0-1, R Ahearne 0-1

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