Stradbally 2-5 The Nire 0-9
The old adage about goals winning games rang loudly and clearly in Fraher Field on Sunday last as Stradbally dethroned defending champions The Nire to clinch their 15th county senior football title.
A superbly struck goal from Eddie Rockett in the first half’s dying embers, along with Robert Ahearne’s second half three-pointer proved the critical moments in a game played firmly in the melting pot throughout.
Despite those goals, the defending champions were never out of contention and they went into stoppage time seeking an equalising score.
Alas they trooped away dejectedly following an injury time point from Stradbally’s Trevor Curran which sealed another title for Sean Ahearne’s men.
Just 32 seconds had elapsed before the game’s first score was registered, courtesy of The Nire’s Martin Walsh. Further points from Brian Wall in the 12th and 15th minutes put Sean Guiry’s men, with a strong wind to their backs, in early command.
But the pre-match favourites were dealt a huge blow in what other minute but the 13th when Shane Walsh, one of the county’s outstanding dual players, landed awkwardly on his shoulder.
Walsh, who has experienced his fair share of injuries in recent years, tried to shake the knock off but lasted only a further five minutes. That the champions’ challenge was weaker minus their talisman and top scorer couldn’t be argued with.
The subsequent news that Walsh had picked up a suspected broken collarbone was met with disappointment in the press box, as it will be with all Waterford supporters. We wish Shane well on his recovery.
Stradbally’s first real chance to score, not easily engineered given the gale they were playing into, came in the 17th minute via a free from 30 metres.
However, Niall Curran, so accurate all season long with the dead ball, scuffed his shot badly and the men in red remained scoreless
But with nine minutes left in the opening half, Curran rectified his earlier miss by pointing when a goal could just as easily have been scored.
Sixty seconds later at the other end, The Nire’s Connie Power found himself in a similarly threatening position, but added just a point to the champions’ account.
Curran and Michael O’Gorman traded points thereafter before Eddie Rockett’s spectacular goal scoring intervention.
Rockett, who transferred last January from his native Portlaw with the intention of winning county honours, rifled the ball home from 18 metres to warm the palms of the Stradbally faithful.
Further points were added at either end by Shane Ahearne and Brian Wall before the half-time whistle to ensure a tied game at the break. The game, as a contest, was warming up nicely.
With the state of the pitch deteriorating fast in the second half due to the heavy rain that fell in the area on Friday and Saturday night, good football was almost a non runner in the last 30 minutes.
Nine minutes had elapsed before the first score was recorded; David Ryan broke forward to collect the ball and score, putting The Nire a point up.
Another six minutes elapsed before the next score came and what a vital score it was, as Robert Ahearne slotted the ball into the net to give the mid-county side a two-point lead.
Brian Wall replied moments later before Shane Lannon, with his first attack after coming on for Pat Weldon pointed with eight minutes to play. Stradbally remained ahead by two points.
With two minutes remaining, Brian Wall pointed to ensue what that stoppage time would be soaked in tension, with the prospect of a fourth replay between these teams in SFC finals this decade still in play.
But thanks to another timely change by Sean Ahearne, Stradbally nerves were tempered by substitute Trevor Curran who scored with virtually his first touch to seal a 15th title and 10th Conway Cup for the seasiders.
Stradbally: O Costello; T Walsh, K Coffey, T Costello; T Grey, E Rockett, A Doyle; J Coffey, J Hearne; T Connors, S Ahearne, S Cunningham; N Curran, R Ahearne, P Weldon.
Subs: S Lannon for Weldon and T Curran for Connors.
Scorers: E Rockett, R Ahearne (1-0 each), N Curran (0-2; 0-1 f), S Ahearne, S Lannon and T Curran (0-1 each).
The Nire: T Flynn; P Horkin, T O’Gorman, Maurice O’Gorman, J Moore, D Ryan, J McGrath; B Wall, C Guiry; S Walsh, M Walsh, Michael O’Gorman; L Lawlor, C Power, M Moore.
Subs: D Wall for S Walsh and D Guiry for C Guiry.
Scorers: B Wall (0-5; 0-3f), M Walsh, C Power, Michael O’Gorman and D Ryan (0-1 each).
Referee: M Condon (Clashmore)