Battling Nire keep Stradbally five-in-a-row bid on hold

Stradbally 0-6 Nire 0-6

Stradbally and the Nire finished level for the third time in the last four deciders, and while it was the challengers who salvaged a last-gasp reprieve with a brace of late points from Shane and Martin Walsh, it was Stradbally who were most relieved that their record -equalling five-in-row title charge is still on track.

The game began at a frenetic pace with each side in turn carving out early chances. But while the tempo never dropped to any significant degree the quality of the football didn't always measure up.

That Stradbally retired at the half -time break leading by the minimum, 0-5 to 0-4, was down primarily to the splendid goal-keeping of Eoin Cunningham, who denied Martin Walsh in the seventh minute and then somehow managed to divert Brian Wall's effort in the 24th minute

The opening score from play didn't come until the 25th minute, a superb effort from Shane Walsh, but Niall Curran had the sides level for the fourth time three minutes later with an equally spectacular score.

A minute into added time Stephen Cunningham, always a danger in possession, edged the champions in front for the first time and they retired at the break a point to the good.

An incredible second half was a story of one miss after another, with the Nire substantially the more culpable.

Alan Lawlor and Pat Walsh were off target from scoreable frees before Cunningham's 35th -minute effort clattered off the woodwork before being scrambled to safety

They had another let off when Stradbally captain John Hearne fluffed probably the best chance of all on 43 minutes.

His first effort rebounded off goalkeeper Michael Doocey and somehow he managed to blaze wide of an open goal from no more than 10 metres.

Ger Power should have eased Stradbally to safer pastures but failed to convert an easy chance in the 56th minute, before Niall Curran finally ended the scoring drought with the first point of the half three minutes from the end of normal time

Now two points to the good, 0-6 to 0-4, that fifth title on the trot was tantalisingly within Stradbally's grasp, but still the Nire refused to throw in the towel.

How fitting too that Shane Walsh, operating so effectively at full forward for much of the second half, should be the one to throw them a lifeline.

His point within 40 seconds of Curran's effort was a peach of a score, and then with less than a minute of normal time remaining his brother Martin popped over an equaliser.

Scorers: Stradbally: N Curran (0-5, 0-4 frees); S Cunningham (0-1). Nire: S Walsh (0-3, 0-1 free); A Lawlor (0-2, frees); M Walsh(0-1).

STRADBALLY: E Cunningham; E Cummins, K Coffey, T Walsh; O Costello, T Costello, S Lannon; G Walsh, J Hearne; T Gray, G Power, S Cunningham; N Curran, M Walsh, T Curran.

Subs: P Weldon for Gray (45th min); D Doyle for T Curran (51st min).

NIRE: M Doocey; D Ryan, T O'Gorman, M Byrne; J Walsh, A O'Gorman, L Lawlor; A Ryan, S Walsh; B Wall, M Walsh, M O'Gorman; A Lawlor, P Walsh, J Moore.

Subs: S Lawlor for J Walsh (8th min); C Power for A Lawlor (42nd min); G Walsh for S Lawlor (60th min).

Referee: Michael Condon (Clashmore).

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