Stradbally beat odds to book final ticket

Stradbally 1-10 Ballinacourty 1-6

Stradbally beat odds to book final ticket

The dominant force of modern times arrived asunderdogs but can now scent a ninth title since the turn of the millennium.

These two teams have disputed three finals and two semi-finals over the past five years but a seven-point final loss to Courty provided plenty of fuel for the Reds to rise again.

“We were very disappointed about how we played last year in the county final,” said manager Stephen Cunningham. “We got beaten quite comprehensively in the end. We wanted to come back and atone for that.”

Man of the match Michael Walsh offered up a masterclass in distribution and barely made a blemish.

The 31-year-old managed the game from the half back line; spraying kick passes and always turning up in the right spot to avert danger.

In support, Shane Ahearne shot seven points and David Grey torched his marker for two points and four assists. A fiery affair featured 49 frees, two red cards, five yellows and one black.

Stradbally didn’t bat an eyelid when Paddy Kiely received his marching orders approaching the interval. After a half time discussion, Robert Ahearne’s goal on 34 minutes pushed them clear.

“We just tried to rearrange, hold our composure and try to get a couple of scores to keep the scoreboard ticking over. The goal we got at the beginning of the second half helped us with being down to 14 men to get that score so early.”

The champions made a dream start on three minutes when Jason O’Brien poached a goal after Eoin Cunningham parried away Patrick Hurney’s shot. Mark Fives then curled over a point.

An unruffled Stradbally patiently played their way into the contest. With Michael Walsh calling the shots, the Reds recovered from that early setback. They fired five unanswered points as Courty failed to score for 19 minutes.

After a couple of wild misses, two Shane Ahearne frees settled them.

A superb flowing move, initiated by Walsh, resulted in a Tommy Connors point. David Grey was in splendid isolation up top and winning the footraces against Brian Looby. He supplied two more Ahearne points (one with the fist) to send them into the lead.

Mark Ferncombe ended a lengthy scoreless spell for the holders after 26 minutes as he evaded potential tacklers. Two minutes before the break, Stradbally midfielder Paddy Kiely walked the plank on a second yellow card for a high challenge on Sean O’Hare. The teams departed level on the scoreboard (0-5 to 1-2) but the numerical advantage tipped in Courty’s favour.

Instead, Stradbally took up from where they left off and raided a goal four minutes after the restart. Michael Walsh’s kick reached David Grey in front of the target. He attempted to palm over but the ball hung in the air and Robert Ahearne got a glove to it. Points followed from Shane Ahearne and Grey to leave it 1-7 to 1-2 and it was difficult to see the champions wriggling out of that tight grip.

Shane Briggs and Gary Hurney led the retaliation. A brace of Hurney frees started their comeback and a quickly taken 45’ gave Sean O’Hare the space to close the gap further. A determined charge from Hurney allowed Richie Foley narrow to one with 10 minutes left (1-7 to 1-6).

The game was up for grabs. Stradbally hit two wides before Michael Walsh seized control again. He gave out a pass for Grey to shoot their first point for 16 minutes.

A chaotic climax saw Gary Hurney sent off. Shane Ahearne grabbed a late double as the noisy red army march on ominously.

Scorers for Stradbally: S Ahearne (0-7, 4fs), R Ahearne (1-0), D Grey (0-2), T Connors (0-1).

Scorers for Ballinacourty: J O’Brien (1-0), G Hurney (0-2fs), M Ferncombe, R Foley, S O’Hare, M Fives (0-1 each).

STRADBALLY: E Cunningham; J Mullaney, K Coffey, S Lannon; M Walsh, P Doyle, L Casey; P Kiely, R Ahearne; G Power, S Ahearne, T Connors; M Sweeney, D Grey, J Coffey.

Subs: A Doyle for Power (48), K Lawlor for Connors (60).

BALLINACOURTY: S Enright; B Looby, S O’Hare, D Collins; C Maloney, S Briggs, S O’Donovan; R Foley, J O’Mahoney; M Fives, M Ferncombe, P Hurney; G Hurney, J O’Brien, M O’Halloran.

Subs: M Gorman for O’Brien (43), C Prunty for O’Halloran (43), J Hurney for O’Donovan (54), G Breen for O’Hare (56).

Referee: A Kissane.

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