Hearne, Brick can lay foundations for Stradbally six-in-a-row

THE NIRE bid to end Stradbally’s five-year reign as champions in the Waterford SFC final at Fraher Field, Dungarvan tomorrow (2.30pm).

Stradbally wouldn’t be lacking for motivation either — no team has achieved six back-to-back titles in the history of the championship.

In three of those five county final wins since 2001, the Nire have been their opponents. Even more agonising, the men from the Valley went under in two of them after replays.

The champions haven’t sparkled en route to the final. They enjoyed a runaway 3-14 to 1-7 victory over St Saviours in the opening group game and easily saw off Ring’s challenge to advance to the knockout section. But from there on, they’ve found the going extremely tough.

It took a thrilling second half rally to wipe out a five-point interval deficit against Gaultier in the quarter-final, and within 10 minutes of their semi-final against Ballinacourty they also trailed by five points. In both games steely determination rescued them, and few would bet against them creating footballing history tomorrow.

Remarkably at least nine of the team has shared in all of those five-in-a-row wins, and the return of Paul Foley to the fold after a sojourn with Gaultier has added to the potency of an attack in which Niall Curran, Ger Power, Stephen Cunningham, and the skipper John Coffey are all key men.

Expect few, if any changes, either from last Sunday’s winning semi-final line-out, with John Hearne continuing his midfield partnership with hurling star Michael “Brick” Walsh and a defence backboned by the Costelloes, Trevor and Oliver, and Tony Grey.

Nire’s midfield pairing of Shane Walsh and Anthony O’Gorman will have a crucial role to play if they are to end the Stradbally dream.

They also have a solid half-back trio in John Moore, David Ryan, and Brian Wall, while up front the scoring potential of Connie Power, Martin Walsh, and Liam Lawlor was notable in their win against Ardmore.

It really has all the ingredients for a rip-roaring final and one that could well set a new attendance record for a football decider in the county. Its difficult to look beyond Stradbally to complete that historic six-timer, but they can prepare for another almighty challenge from the Nire for whom victory is within the bounds of possibility.

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