Saturday 15 December 2018

O'Brien leads Stradbally revival in epic

Stradbally 1-15 The Nire 1-14, Waterford SFC Final

(stock photo)
(stock photo) Sportsdesk

Stradbally captured the Conway Cup for the 19th time after an enthralling final in the Fraher Field sunshine yesterday.

The Reds rallied from six points down to bring the match to extra-time, where corner-back Jack Mullaney snuck them ahead just 35 seconds into the first period.

Robert Aherne and Conor Gleeson traded frees before Nire goalkeeper Diarmuid Murphy was presented with the opportunity to force a second day out. However, his 84th-minute effort sailed wide.

"An absolute epic of a game," declared Stradbally selector Stephen Cunningham.

Man of the Match Shane Aherne was a towering presence at midfield, while Michael Walsh also rolled up his sleeves and picked up his 10th county medal.

Ger Crowley's goal on 15 minutes helped recover that deficit and Eoin O'Brien and Daniel Weldon nailed crucial second-half points.

Nire frontman Conor Gleeson posted 0-8 as he duelled with Shane Lannon all afternoon, but The Ballymacarbry side, attempting to retain their crown for the first time since the early Nineties, rued seven extra-time wides.

Tom Barron, younger brother of All Star Jamie, sliced through the Stradbally cover on 13 minutes to blast them 1-4 to 0-1 ahead, but Crowley's goal, followed by two Aherne points, levelled at 1-5 apiece.

The Nire claimed the last three points for a 1-8 to 1-5 lead at the break.

A Dermot Ryan single widened the gap to four with thirteen minutes left (1-12 to 1-8).

A sprightlier Stradbally pressurised The Nire kick-outs and two Eoin O'Brien points resuscitated them, while Shane Aherne swung over his third.

Shane Walsh settled a nervy Nire and Brick Walsh narrowed to one on 58 minutes, before Weldon polished off a patient move.

With The Nire pinned back, Murphy punched away a late Aherne free before Walsh ballooned wide. Aherne then stood over a 45, but the holders clung on.

John Grey's men never trailed after Mullaney's lead score. A thrilling climax to a championship that stretched over seven months.

Scorers - Stradbally: E O'Brien 0-4 (1f), G Crowley 1-0, S Aherne 0-3, R Aherne (1f), D Weldon 0-2 each, J Mullaney, M Walsh, T Connors, M Sweeney 0-1 each.

The Nire: C Gleeson 0-8 (5fs), T Barron 1-1, S Walsh 0-3, D Murphy (f), D Ryan 0-1 each.

Stradbally: E Cunningham; Ciaran Cusack, K Lawlor, J Mullaney; T Grey, S Lannon, L Casey; M Walsh, S Aherne; D Weldon, E O'Brien, N Connors; M Sweeney, R Aherne, G Crowley. Subs: T Connors for N Connors (H-T), A Doyle for Casey (47 B-C), G Power for Crowley (49), S Keane for Sweeney (56), Cathal Cusack for Weldon (68), G Crowley for O'Brien (70), K Coffey for Mullaney (81).

The Nire: D Murphy; J Walsh, T O'Gorman, M Moore; Darren Guiry, Shane Ryan, D Ryan; J McGrath, T Guiry; S Lawlor, C Gleeson, Dylan Guiry; T Barron, C Guiry, S Walsh. Subs: J Mulcahy for Lawlor (44), M O'Gorman for McGrath (48), S O'Meara for T Guiry (55), Stephen Ryan for C Guiry (62), J McGrath for Stephen Ryan (E-T), S Lawlor for M O'Gorman (76), K Brazil for Barron (80).

Ref - A Fitzgerald

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