Double delight as Stradbally take another step in quest to make Déise history

WATERFORD’S footballing stock may be on one of the lower rungs of the inter-county ladder, but the interest on the domestic front will be reflected in the guaranteed bumper attendance at Fraher Field tomorrow for two senior championship semi-finals.

The Nire and Ardmore get the action under way at 1.30, followed by the most talked about game in the championship so far between champions Stradbally and their biggest threat, Ballinacourty.

Stradbally are now two games away from rewriting the Déise GAA history book. Unbeaten in the championship since 2000, they made it five wins on the trot by beating the Nire in last year’s decider — a feat previously accomplished only by themselves, Dungarvan and Clashmore.

Never, however, has the coveted title been won in six consecutive years and while the champions have huffed and puffed a bit en route to the semi-final they are still regarded as favourites to complete that historic “six in a row”.

They faced a five-point half-time deficit in last Sunday’s quarter-final against Gaultier before the brilliance of county hurling star Michael Walsh, John Hearne, Trevor and Oliver Costelloe, Niall Curran, Ger Power and Stephen Cunningham rescued them.

To give Ballinacourty a similar head start could be fatal. Backboned by the Hurney brothers, Gary, John, Laurence, and Patrick, Mark Fives, John and Mark Gorman, Shane Briggs, and John Phelan, and with a plethora of minor and U21 championships in the bag over the past decade, many believe ‘Courty are poised to bring Stradbally’s long winning sequence to an end.

A solid case can be made for both sides, but whatever the outcome it’s likely to be tense. The smart money will be on the champions but it’s far from certain that they will deliver.

The opener between the Nire and Ardmore should also be an exciting hour and while the Nire are favourites to reach their fourth final in six years they can brace themselves for a mighty challenge from an Ardmore side that shredded the form book to beat Rathgormack in the quarter final.

That was the seasiders’ best display so far, and if Seamus and Declan Prendergast, Wayne, Niall, and Johnny Hennessy, Jamsie O’Donnell, Alan North, and Billy Harty can repeat their form, they will test the Nire to the limit. However, the Nire are a proven and consistent side and in Shane Walsh they have probably the most influential player of the championship.

The Walshs, the Ryans, the O’Gormans, Connie Power and John Moore provide formidable backup and on balance must get the vote to again book their place in the final.

In Cork Nemo Rangers and Glanmire meet at Páirc Uí Rinn tomorrow (1.15pm) when they finally bid to resolve who plays St Vincent’s in the Evening Echo Premier IFC decider at the same venue next week.

Weeks ago, last year’s beaten finalists Glanmire let a three point second-half semi-final lead slip, allowing Nemo to battle back for a replay. Torrential rain put paid to that second game two weeks ago, but with mother nature in kind mood this week, get ready for a cracking open contest from two good football sides.

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