The Nire 1-7; Ballinacourty 1-5
Waterford senior football champions the Nire continued on their quest to put back to back county senior football championships together for the first time since 1994 when they beat Ballinacourty in the second part of Sunday’s semi-finals double header in Dungarvan.
Billed by many prior to the game as ‘The Real County Final’, this game lived up to expectations. Former manager of the Waterford senior football team John Kiely, in previewing the game on WLRfm on Saturday last, said that if Shane Walsh played at full-forward for the hour or most of the hour that the champions would win, but if he had to be brought out around the middle of the field that it would mean that the Nire was struggling, though he still fancied them to win by a point.
How shrewd a judge “Jackson” proved to be as The Nire were forced to bring the Waterford dual star into the middle of the field for the second half to help record a two-point win.
Michael O’Gorman opened a low-scoring first half with a point in the sixth minute and when James McGrath pointed just 60 seconds later the signs looked ominous for the 2007 county champions.
Martin Walsh stretched the county champions’ lead to three points in the 20th minute and just two minutes later Michael Moore, following a sweeping movement upfield involving a number of players, found himself one-on-one with Stephen Enright and as he closed in on the inter-county reserve goalkeeper Moore found the net to give The Nire a six-point lead.
Remarkably Ballinacourty’s first score of the game came two minutes from the break when John Gorman slotted the ball past Connie Power in the Nire goal following some unusual sloppy defensive play in the Nire backline. Just ninety seconds later John Hurney pointed for Ballinacourty, giving the ’07 champions some hope going into the second half, despite the fact just two minutes previously they looked dead and buried.
The Nire came out for the second half with changes all over the place. Connie Power moved from goal to full-forward with Tom Flynn taking over between the posts, and Shane Walsh was switched to centre-field.
The first score of the half did not arrive until the 36th minute when Brian Wall pointed a free for the Nire to give them a three-point lead; then Patrick Hurney and John Gorman pointed twice for Ballinacourty to cut the Nire’s advantage to just one point.
The game was 42 minutes old when Shane Walsh got his first score of the game, but that was cancelled out within minutes as Mark Ferncombe and Mark Fives equalled the scoring with time running out.
Nineteen minutes into the second half, the Nire were awarded a free in front of the goal 30 metres from goal and with the game so finely balanced nerves got to Brian Wall as, unusually for him, he somehow put the ball to the left of the posts and wide, kicking from his hands.
With Waterford having no team in last year’s Munster Club Championship, the last thing the County Board wanted was a replay, but for much of the last 10 minutes it did look as if this semi-final was going to end in stalemate.
However, two points from Shane Walsh with six and four minutes left to play saw the Nire hold on to record a deserved win and a place in the county final against Stradbally.
Ballinacourty, however, did have a late chance to sneak victory when in stoppage time Laurence Hurney found himself with the ball in front of the Nire goal, but before Hurney could have a shot, referee Tommy O’Sullivan blew up the Ballinacourty substitute for over-carrying. Prior to this, ’Courty also had a chance for goal when Michael Moore and Martin Walsh teamed up but their final effort flew wide of Ballinacourty’s right-hand post.