Stradbally Regain Title Following Fraher Epic

A Championship that took 212 days to complete could not have produced a more magnificent finish.
And if there’s ever been a better County Senior Football Final than the instant classic Stradbally and The Nire produced at Fraher Field last Sunday, good luck identifying it.
The last Senior GAA Final of 2017, the eighth occasion these great rivals have faced off for the Conway Cup this century, was not only a victory for a Stradbally side that took its record-equalling 19th senior crown, but for a code far that’s routinely maligned across this county.
In the second minute of the additional five played at the end of extra time, Stradbally stalwart Ger Power and Nire totem Thomas O’Gorman extended every sinew to regain possession both exemplifying commitment in so doing.
The joy of it: Stradbally celebrated a record-equalling 19th Senior Football title at Fraher Field on Sunday last as if it were their maiden success.  See inside for more coverage. 	 | Photo: Sean Byrne
They collided with the ferocity of cannon volleying galleons, and both ended up on their backs: the breaking ball fell to Nire man mountain Dermot Ryan, whose replay-sealing effort agonisingly pinged off the post and wide.
And there was still time thereafter for an oxygen-depleted Nire to ensure a post-Farmers’ Holiday re-run, only for goalkeeper Diarmuid Murphy to send his free kick inches wide of Eoin Cunningham’s left hand post.
Moments later, Anthony Fitzgerald sounded his whistle one last time. Stradbally 1-15 The Nire 1-14. Supermoon Sunday had not disappointed. A day that will be long remembered. A County Final worth waiting for.
Parish Priest Father Gerry Condon was hoisted shoulder high during the post-match revelry and the audible joy that greeted Stradbally’s latest scaling of the Championship echoed across Dan Fraher’s empty field from their dressing room as word of this marvellous tussle was broadcasted and emailed to sportsdesks in Dublin and Cork. Every title matters. But this one had the sound of one which mattered that little bit more for the men from the Cove.

Among the last men on the paddock following the presentation was Michael ‘Brick’ Walsh, who picked up a remarkable 10th Senior Championship medal in the colours he covets above all others.
At the end of what must rank as his greatest ever season, and that’s saying something after 14 years of senior inter-county service and four All-Stars, Walsh wore the look of a man inhaling every available particle of satisfaction.
“When you’re living in the moment, every time you win is massive,” he said. “I’ve a few children there now and it’s nice to enjoy with them, but it’s great; there’s a lot of young fellas coming through in Stradbally and it’s great to see them being part of it too and experiencing it and it just shows what hard work gets you. When you put it in and you work hard, you get over the line and in fairness today, Stradbally never gave up which is testament to them.”

Having rallied from six points down after 14 minutes and making up a four-point deficit in the closing 13 minutes, Stradbally didn’t take the lead until the opening moments of extra time.
Their younger generation of players, including goalscorer Ger Crowley and Daniel Weldon, hung as tough as the Brick and the outstanding Shane Aherne, the latter deservedly named as man of the match.
“We’d some big scores kicked by some great men…(and) The Nire were probably that shade better than us in normal time,” admitted Aherne. “And we were just clawing it back and clawing it back all the time. The (run of) games probably helped The Nire too, they were that bit sharper than us but thankfully we got a couple of big scores there and we pipped them in the end.”

The Conway Cup was hoisted high by skipper Tommy Connors, who dedicated the victory to the late James Keane, a member of the 1987 Stradbally side which defeated The Nire in that year’s Senior Final, and to their late manager Sean Ahearne, whose sixth anniversary was marked last week. On a day full of instant memories, the time taken to remember both offered a timely reminder of sport’s place in the greater scheme. To Stradbally the spoils.

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