Nire defeat Stradbally in county final encounter
Nire . . . 1-5; Stradbally . . . 0-3
Everything comes to those who wait and for Nire coming out on the wrong side of their last three County Senior Football Finals with Stradbally most assuredly came good at well attended Fraher Field, Dungarvan, as they pulled off a thoroughly deserved 1-5 to 0-3 victory over the reigning champions to bring the coveted Conway Cup back to the Big Valley area for the fifth time in it’s history. There wasn’t even the slightest element of doubt about the outcome here, the challengers knuckling down to their task right from the very beginning, and the longer the contest progressed, the more pronounced their superiority became and while the only goal of the afternoon did not arrive until well into injury time at the end, the result had been well signposted in advance and it would surely have been a calamity of monumental dimensions had Nire failed to bring home the spoils.
It was a dour uncompromising struggle for supremacy for the most point, leaving little room for open football, and it was free ridden to the extreme.
The opening thirty minutes brought little in the way of scores, even though the sides had traded a point a piece inside the opening two minutes, it was on the stroke of the quarter hour that Nire regained the lead for the second time and held it right through to the very end. Wind advantage aided the challengers during the initial period, and so well did their defence perform, that Stradbally’s chances of picking off scores was limited to the extreme. The winners who had made a couple of judicial switches after the ball had been thrown in, quickly took control and the champions could indeed count themselves very lucky to be just three points adrift at the interval.
Matters did improve a little for the Covesiders on the resumption, yet it must have been really disconcerting for a side who reigned on top for the past five seasons, to go a duration of thirty three minutes between their first and second points, and for the remaining twenty nine minutes, could only manage a further point and that five minutes from the end of normal time.
Credit a magnificent Nire defence for making this surprise victory possible, when as expected the Stradbally push came in the final quarter, they actually surpassed themselves in what had gone before, and while the holders had the deficit down to just two points with thirteen minutes left on the clock, they never once looked like winning, and at best would have been most fortunate to salvage a draw. Scarcely a single weak link manifested itself in Nire’s push towards victory – the defence gave nothing away, with a near perfect last line made up of the Justin Walsh and the O’Gorman twins-Thomas and Maurice absolutely magnificent. In the outer line team captain Brian Wall was truly in inspirational form – paving the way for their opening match point in just over sixty seconds, and then proceeded to thwart Stradbally attacks on each and every occasion. Central defender David Ryan and speed merchant John Moore, also combined well to keep their opponents in total subjection, and it’s a mighty long time since a Stradbally forward line had been restricted to just two points – one in fact coming from a free.
All in all then a great day for Nire, and they are going to make worthy opposition for Tipperary champions Aherlow in the penultimate round of the Munster club championship on Sunday week. This was a well drilled winning side, who wrestled control in the middle of the field, proceeded to give their forwards quite a lavish service of the ball, and while they didn’t always avail of all the scoring opportunities on offer, they still managed to secure sufficient to make a thoroughly deserved five points win in the end possible.
Stradbally for their part didn’t surrender their long held crown that easily and had lady luck smiled benignly for them in the closing stages, they might have snatched however undeserving, another bite at the cherry. It certainly looked ominous for the champions when they conceded eight frees in the opening ten minutes of the match, that figure had stretched to twenty three before the end of the day, while the challengers on the other hand forfeited seventeen frees over the sixty plus minutes play duration.
It could not be marked down as a great County Final, there was far too many interruptions, loss of possession and aimless passing to put this match anywhere close to a five star bracket, but for sheer honest to goodness endeavour, and no nonsense football, the entertainment value proved something else.
First half trend
A much bigger crowd than anticipated had turned out for this fourth crunch decider involving Nire and Stradbally at Fraher Field last Sunday – no doubt an improvement in the weather contributed a fair deal to this, but the razor keen rivalry that has been part and parcel of championship football within the county unquestionably proved the over-riding factor for the huge attendance. A fairly influential November breeze blowing directly down field towards the Shandon end of the Grounds was secured by Nire at the outset and breaking almost immediately from the throw in, they gave the Stradbally defence a foretaste of what was to come, by initiating a first minute free, safely put between the posts by Connie Power for the opening point of the match. The champions response was immediate – a five-man movement originating in the defence, culminated with half back Tony Grey popping up with the equalising white flag from close range. At this juncture watchers would have been forgiven for thinking that a feast of scores was on the way – but not a bit of it. Liam Lawlor who had moved to the edge of the square in one of the many Nire positional changes from the start, was causing more than a few headaches for a hard pressed Stradbally rearguard, yet over-anxiety in front of goal cost the challengers dearly.
Nire continued to enjoy a fair amount of possession, and Taysiders attacks commenced to peter out alarmingly. Still it was wasn’t until the 15th minute that the rampant challengers eventually hit the front – Brian Wall coming well up-field to point a free, and secure a lead never subsequently surrendered. Liam Lawlor had the winners first point from play in the 20th minute, and shortly afterwards there was a real let off for Stradbally, when corner forward bearing strongly down in the champions lines was impeded and the subsequent free was cleared off the line, but not to be outdone, continuous Nire pressure created another placed opportunity in the 24th minute, and this time Connie Power made no mistake to increase the challengers lead to three points, a situation which remained unaltered right up to the short whistle, at which stage the Big Valley men led by 0-4 to 0-1 and giving the champions a great deal to think about during the recess.
Some five minutes of second half action had elapsed, during which Nire looked at first as if they might take up where they had left off, before Stradbally commenced to show something approaching their earlier championship form and when Niall Curran narrowed the gap from a free in the 35th minute, their supporters began to believe that a full scale recovery could be on the way. However a full nineteen minutes came and went before the scoreboard operator would be pressed into service – the marking if anything become more tenacious and daring, but Stradbally failed to make any appreciable headway against a rock solid Nire back line and as the minutes ticked away it became more and more obvious that a change of champions was on the way.
Stradbally’s first wide of the second half didn’t come until the 47th minute, and two minutes later, they failed to convert the initial ‘45′ of the contest and with Shane Walsh repeatedly showing why he is regarded as a top class footballer, ranging far and wide for possession, it didn’t come as too much a surprise some six minutes from the end, when on receipt of an inch perfect pass from Liam Lawlor, he stretched the Big Valley men’s lead to three points – 0-5 to 0-2, and while Stephen Cunningham responded in like manner for the champions, it was to be their last score of the 2006 championship. The ‘reds’ did come close to getting the goal they so urgently needed a few minutes later, and the cross bar came to Nire’s aid in the nick of time. But the final say in this all Western affair belonged to the challengers and it was deep into injury time and following one of the best moves of the day, they garnered the only goal of the contest, to put the outcome firmly and squarely beyond any lingering doubt. Significantly two of the winners’ stars Liam Lawlor and Shane Walsh played a significant role in the build up, and there to finish home was second half substitute Diarmuid Wall, whose finish from close range, gave Eoin Cunningham no chance in the Stradbally goal.
Final score again – Nire 1-5; Stradbally 0-3.
Hail the new champions
So after a lapse of six years, the Conway Cup goes back to the valley’s and never was it so richly deserved. They had clearly stepped up a gear or two from the previous week’s semi final victory over Ardmore, and a carefully worked out game plan before hand, came into effect immediately after throw in and when further switches were called for later on in the game, their astute stewardship from the line was never found wanting. The termination of Stradbally’s long reign on top had to happen sometime, but the quest for the all time record breaking six in a row, looked a non-runner from a very early stage. Few if any of their big guns sparkled – the supremacy forecast to come their way never materialised and they surely looked a very tired outfit coming near the end.
Nire as fully outlined already in this report had many heroes all over the field, yet when the dust had finally settled, they had particular reason to be grateful for a truly superlative defence, whose dedication to the task in hand remained unflinching throughout. At the risk of repetition, one must surely single out such as Thomas and Maurice O’Gorman, Brian Wall, David Ryan, Shane and Pat Walsh and Liam Lawlor for outstanding work above and beyond the norm, yet frankly if there was a possible weak link in the new champions setup, it was not detected.
However one must at this juncture salute and congratulate Stradbally – they have been magnificent champions and have raised the bar for all others to follow – they proved gracious in defeat also, and will no doubt be happy to take a well earned break before the start of the 2007 championship, when no doubt they can be relied upon to strive might and main to regain a trophy they had become to call their own. They may not all have performed to their full potential, and the usual all round ebullience was a little conspicuous by it’s absence – still plaudits on the day surely belong to the likes of John Hearne, Michael Walsh, Oliver Costelloe, Denis Doyle, Tony Grey, Stephen Cunningham, Ger Power and Eoin Cunningham and make no mistake about it – the Covesiders will be back.
Nire:- Diarmuid Wall, Connie Power 0-2, Brian Wall, Liam Lawlor and Shane Walsh 0-1 each.
Stradbally:- Tony Grey, Niall Curran and Stephen Cunningham 0-1 each.
Nire:- Tom Flynn, Justin Walsh, Thomas O’Gorman, Maurice O’Gorman, John Moore, David Ryan, Brian Wall (captain), Anthony O’Gorman, Shane Walsh, Aidan Ryan, Pat Walsh, Martin Walsh, Connie Power, Liam Lawlor, Michael Moore. Subs – Diarmuid Wall for A. Ryan, Paul Prendergast for M. Moore.
Stradbally:- Eoin Cunningham, Emmet Cummins, Kevin Coffey, Oliver Costelloe, Tony Grey, Trevor Costelloe, Denis Doyle, Michael Walsh, John Hearne, George Walsh, Ger Powerm John Coffey (captain), Niall Curran, Paul Foley, Stephen Cunningham. Subs – Shane Lannon for T. Costelloe, Patrick Weldon for P. Foley, Trevor Curran for G. Walsh.
Referee – Tadgh O Broin (Rogha Eireann).
field of play, and while Mount Sion might have secured an additional point or two, Tramore finished strongly and well worth their 2-8 to 1-5 win in the end.
For the winners none played more prominently than Martin Whelan, Richard Hickey, Bob Costelloe, Seanie Martin, Martin O’Leary, Michael Power and versatile Tommy Brennan in goal, while for the vanquished such as Michael Frisby, Shane Twomey, Michael Gaffney, Ian Power, Bob Foley, Anthony O’Rourke and Eoin Swift repeatedly caught the eye.
Tramore:- S. Martin 1-1, C. Herbert 1-0, M. Whelan and M. Rockett 0-2 each, C. Whelan, G. Whelan and N. Brennan 0-1 each.
Mount Sion:- A. O’Rourke 1-0, P. Flynn 0-2, M. Frisby, N. Flynn and B. Foley 0-1 each.
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