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There’s a familiar look to this year’s County Senior Football Final which is finally set to go ahead this Sunday at Fraher Field. The holders from The Nire, having gone the long way round to reach the decider, will do battle with Stradbally for the Conway Cup for the eighth time this century alone – excluding replays.
Football aficionados have voiced their disappointment with the protracted manner of a Championship which had been streamlined to great acclaim a year ago. Twelve months ago last weekend The Nire contested the Munster Club Final against Kerry side Dr Crokes at Mallow, and while it was not to be The Nire’s day, there was great pride in seeing a Deise side line out in the provincial showpiece.
Stradbally defeated The Nire when the side met earlier in this year’s Championship. But it’s a whole new ball game at Fraher Field on Sunday. See inside for further build-up.  									| Photo: Sean Byrne
And while a Waterford club has yet to win the Munster senior title, The Nire, along with Stradbally and Ballinacourty, have flown the flag brilliantly over the past 15 or so years. To think that Nemo Rangers were crowned as Munster champions a week before our Senior Final sums up how disappointing the delay in the Championship has proven. Nemo were due to play the Waterford champions at the end of October, but that ship, of course, has long since sailed. And while the cries of “never again” are being rightly made, it’s only two years on from the farce of Stradbally facing Nemo in the Championship 23 hours after lifting the County title, so how true “never again” shall ring in reality remains to be seen.

Sunday’s finalists reached the senior showpiece in contrasting manners, and have already faced each other in this year’s series, with Stradbally beating their great rivals by 2-15 to 2-11 on the second weekend of September. The Nire took the scenic route, and didn’t play again until November 12th when they got the better of Rathgormack in Round Four of the Championship, having received a controversial walkover from Gaultier in the previous round. Since then, they’ve overcome Ballinacourty on November 16th, Clashmore on Tuesday last and, in the dying seconds, An Rinn last Sunday.
While players love nothing more than playing, lining out so regularly in such a narrow window can take its toll on any side, especially on heavy ground, as Nire selector Paudie Halpin mentioned following the Clashmore match.

In contrast, Stradbally will go into Sunday’s Final the fresher of the two, and manager John Grey will be pleased that his side responded so well to Kilrossanty’s challenge. Both sides are likely to field similar starting line-ups to last Sunday: this means that Stradbally could start with 11 of the side that started their 2015 Final win over Ballinacourty. From that game, they’ll be missing Kevin Coffey, Tommy Connors, John Hearne and Ger Power from the start this weekend with Ciaran Cusack, Nicky Connors, Ger Crowley and Eoin O’Brien coming in – and expect plenty of positional changes post throw-in.
The Nire could show a staggering seven changes from the team which won the title a year ago, with Tom Wall, Justin Walsh, Maurice O’Gorman, Martin Walsh, Jamie Barron, Brian Wall and Liam Lawlor missing for different reasons.

The Nire are hoping to land only a second back-to-back success, while Stradbally are aiming to join Dungarvan as 19-time champions.
Taking the vast turnover of players and the experience The Nire have lost through retirement, coupled with Jamie Barron’s injury, in addition to the physicality and experience Stradbally can call upon, I’m giving the men in red a tentative nod for Sunday.

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