Maurice Hennebry-Déise Sport

Stradbally inspirational county star Michael Walsh bursts between Passage's Brian Carey and Ian Power in their county senior hurling championship clash in Walsh Park. Photo: Maurice Hennebry-Déise Sport

Passage 2-15; Stradbally 2-13

■□■ View Photos

There was only one name on everybody’s lips as they left Walsh Park after this absorbing championship encounter in Walsh Park last Saturday evening. The player in question did not even finish on the winning team but gave an individual performance as good as any that will be seen in this year’s championship. It will come as a surprise to no one that the player was Michael “Brick” Walsh, who was far and away the dominant player.

Unfortunately for Walsh, his team-mates could not match his performance and his side are now deep in relegation trouble after losing for the third week in a row. For Passage, this win should give them the confidence to not only retain their senior status but to have a say in the rest of the championship.

The first score of the night was an exceptional score from a sideline cut from Passage’s Thomas Connors. County colleagues Eoin Kelly and Michael Walsh then exchanged points before we had the first goal of the game on 3 minutes. Conor Carey was on hand to get his third goal of the campaign after the Stradbally full back line failed to clear a centre from Eoin Kelly.

Michael Walsh replied with his first score from play after running 50 yards with the ball on his stick. Not to be out shone Eoin Kelly then scored an unbelievable point from play. Standing just outside his own 45, Kelly launched the sliothar into orbit. It seemed to take an eternity before it finally came back down on the other side of the Stradbally crossbar.

Both sides then went through a period where none of them could get on top of the other. Passage added some fine points from play through Eoin Connors, Aaron Connors and hard working midfielder Nicky Quinlan. Stradbally’s scores came from Walsh and one from Stephen Cunningham.

Cunningham’s point left four points between the teams with 10 minutes left to the break. Stradbally narrowed the gap to a solitary score after 23 minutes when after an almighty goalmouth scramble, big wing forward Robert Aherne scrambled the ball over the Passage line.

Passage responded well to the goal and Eoin Connors grabbed his second point of the evening to extend the gap yet again. Ger Power broke through for a point before Michael Walsh equalised with a free in the final minute of the half.

However, before referee Tim O’Byrne got a chance to blow the half-time whistle, Passage added two more points from play through Eoin and Aaron Connors. These scores left it 1-10 to 1-8 at half-time.

Second goal

Five minutes into the second half, the sides were level. Three frees from Michael Walsh and a Conor Carey point leaving the sides deadlocked. Ten minutes later, they were still level having only scored a further point apiece.

In the 47th minute we had a huge turning point when Passage managed to bag a second goal. A 65-yard free from Eoin Kelly somehow went all the way to the Stradbally net. Eoin Connors followed up this goal with his fifth point of the night. Michael Walsh scored another free to keep Stradbally in touch but time was running out.

With time almost up Stradbally were thrown a lifeline. Michael Walsh pulled on a loose ball on the edge of the Passage square which resulted in a green flag being raised. This left the minimum between the teams with the full hour played. Passage managed to work a free from the puck out and Eoin Kelly grabbed the final point of the night.

On the night, Passage were full value for their narrow victory. They had a greater spread of scorers and led for most of the game. They had several star performers including Noel Connors and Killian Fitzgerald in the back line. Fitzgerald in particular had a storming second half. In the forwards, Eoin Connors showed how badly he was missed in the last fortnight with his five points from play.

Connors was ably assisted by his brother Aaron who chipped in with two points. Passage’s scorer in chief was one again, Eoin Kelly who scored 1-5. This was by far Kelly’s best game of the club championship so far and that long distance score in particular will live long in the memory.

Stradbally will be very disappointed to have lost a close game such as this one. They certainly had the game’s outstanding performer in Michael Walsh and for this observer the abiding memory of this game will be ‘Brick’ grabbing the ball from the sky and bursting through the Passage defence, for it happened so many times.

Passage: R Barry, L Carey, N Connors, M Wyse, I Power, B Carey, K Fitzgerald, J Upton, N Quinlan, E Kelly, T Connors, E Connors, A Connors, C Carey, B Fitzgerald.

Scorers: E Kelly 1-5 (1-3f), E Connors 0-5, C Carey 1-1, A Connors 0-2, T Connors 0-1 sideline, N Quinlan 0-1

Stradbally: T Curran, K Coffey, E Rockett, T Walsh, O Costelloe, J Coffey, A Doyle, M Walsh, J Hearne, R Aherne, G Power, P Doyle, N Curran, G Walsh, S Cunningham. Subs: T Costelloe for O Costelloe, C Lawlor for P Doyle.

Scorers: M Walsh 1-10 (0-7f), R Aherne 1-0, N Curran 0-1, S Cunningham 0-1, G Power 0-1