Stradbally book semi-final spot

Stradbally’s Michael ‘Brick’ Walsh shields the ball from Saint Saviours’ Kieran Murphy. | Photo: Michael Kiely

Stradbally’s Michael ‘Brick’ Walsh shields the ball from Saint Saviours’ Kieran Murphy. | Photo: Michael Kiely

Stradbally 0-16; St Saviours 0-8

In the end it was no more than the former county champions Stradbally deserved – a place in the last four of this year’s championship. But their overall performance in eliminating the last remaining Eastern contender St Saviours at Kill on Saturday afternoon last was such that a huge improvement will be required if they are to bring home the Conway Cup after a three-year absence.

Even so, the winners did lay down a marker throughout most of the opening half when pitted against a fairly influential breeze, that despite the absence of two key forwards through injury, namely, Niall Curran and Ger Power, they meant business. They proved this where it matters most, and were well poised for victory when they led by double scores at the break (0-8 to 0-4).

Having assumed an early lead with a Shaun Corcoran point from a free in the opening minute, the losers subsequently made little or no headway until the closing minutes of the half, and then from a seven points to one deficit.

It had taken the former champions a mere five minutes to force equality, team captain John Hearne setting up dashing Stephen Cunningham for his first of half a dozen match points, and two minutes later, Stradbally had taken a lead never surrendered, when converted forward Trevor Costelloe found the range. Notwithstanding the herculean efforts of John Paul Jacob in the middle of the field for the city side, Stradbally continued to dictate the trend of the game, and this continued to pay dividends, as they proceeded to shoot points from all angles. John Hearne had their third point after eleven minutes, Michael Walsh tagged on another a minute later, and when Trevor Costelloe scored again in the 14th minute, a decisive gap was emerging between the teams. The hard pressed St.Saviours defence conceded further points to Stephen Cunningham and Shane Ahearne, and with minutes to go for half time, the seasiders led by 0-7 to 0-1, and seemingly in no danger whatsoever. To their credit, the Ballybeg side again spurred on by the indomitable John Paul Jacob, commenced to realise that all was not yet lost, and their cause looked a little less daunting, when Shaun Corcoran and David Murphy came up with points in quick succession , and while a five man move created the chance for Shane Ahearne to reply for Stradbally in the 27th minute, a John Paul Jacob point in the 29th minute, gave his side fresh heart, despite trailing by 0-8 to 0-4 at the break.

Resurgence

The change of ends saw St Saviours take up where they had left off, and three unanswered points inside nine minutes from Shaun Corcoran (free), Joey Phelan and a tremendous one from Brian Power, cut the half-time deficit to the minimum, and there was more than a hint that a huge surprise could be in store after all.

In fact, shortly afterwards Shaun Corcoran wasted a right good chance of a possible equalising score and as yet Stradbally hadn’t as yet mounted a decent second-half attack. Indeed it was close to the three-quarter-hour mark when hurling star Michael Walsh finally came up with the Covesiders’ first point in seventeen minutes, and not only was it timely, but it immediately paved the way for subsequent match-winning rally by the Western men.

Between the 53rd and 61st minutes, Stradbally outplayed their opponents in most sectors of the field, sending over a string of points without reply – nine in total from Stephen Cunningham (four), John Hearne and Shane Ahearne (two each), and Tommy Connors. It was deep into injury time, when fittingly perhaps, John Paul Jacob got one back for St Saviours.

So Stradbally becomes the first of the quarter-finalists to book one of the four semi-final places, but their opponents will not be known until the other three outstanding knock-out matches are played.

They sadly missed the scoring expertise of Niall Curran and Ger Power last weekend, and while at least one of them should be available for the penultimate round, a massively improved performance will be required.

Still, for this latest victory full marks must be accorded to the likes of Stephen Cunningham, John Hearne, Michael Walsh, John Coffey, Trevor Costelloe, Shane and Robert Ahearne and goalie Eoin Cunningham; while for St Saviours, whose sights are now exclusively focused on 2009, Peter and Dean Crowley, Joey Phelan, Brian Power, Anthony Jacob, Paul Houlihan and ‘man of the match’ John Paul Jacob played well.

Stradbally: Eoin Cunningham, Paddy Doyle, Kevin Coffey, Tomas Walsh, Tony Grey, Shane Lannon, Andy Doyle, John Coffey, Robert Ahearne, Trevor Costelloe, John Hearne, Tommy Connors, Stephen Cunningham, Michael Walsh, Shane Ahearne. Subs: Emmett Cummins for S Lannon, George Walsh for T Costelloe .

Scorers: Stephen Cunningham 0-6, John Hearne 0-3, Trevor Costelloe, Michael Walsh and Shane Ahearne 0-2 and Tommy Connors 0-1.

St Saviours: Paul Houlihan, Peter Crowley, Kieran Murphy, Kevin Boland, Dean Crowley, Trevor Whelan, Anthony Jacob, Michael O’Brien, John Paul Jacob, Joey Phelan, David Murphy, Adam Brophy, Shaun Corcoran, Brian Power, Darren Tuohy. Subs: Brian Jacob for D Murphy.

Scorers: Shaun Corcoran 0-4(frees), John Paul Jacob 0-2, David Murphy and Brian Power 0-1 each.

Referee: Tadgh O Broin ( Rogha Eireann ).

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