“Welcome home!” exclaimed Stradbally captain Michael Walsh as the Reds got their hands back on the Conway Cup for the first time since 2012.
The Brick stroked over an inspirational solo point in the final minute of normal time to drive his team to their 18th title in all and a ninth in 15 years at Fraher Field last night.
These two rivals were deadlocked four times during another hotly-disputed battle. In an exciting finale, Walsh weaved through the Courty defence to kick them in front off his right boot. Robert Ahearne added the insurance score in the second minute of stoppage time. They survived a late, late scare as Ballinacourty’s star performer Patrick Hurney blazed right and wide. The gallant losers rued 13 wides including a first half penalty miss.
Pat Curran’s team were fiercely determined to avoid a third consecutive county final loss and they took charge around the centre over the final quarter. Number six Shane Lannon received the man of the match gong after striking two first half points and going through a pile of hard graft.
On an ideal night for football under lights, Shane Ahearne kicked Stradbally’s first from an awkward angle in front of the scoreboard. Patrick Hurney responded following a quick exchange of passes with Evan Collins. The Reds then wasted three chances in succession.
Conor Prunty powered Courty from midfield to earn a free that Hurney converted. On 14 minutes, Patrick Hurney’s point attempt located his brother Gary lurking on the perimeter of the square and he was dragged down by Kevin Coffey. Referee Alan Kissane instantly signalled for a penalty. Michael O’Halloran stepped forward but directed his low shot to the left of the posts and wide.
Shane Ahearne (free) and a right-footed effort by Shane Lannon retrieved Stradbally’s lead (0-3 to 0-2). Sean O’Hare and Stephen Enright also fielded teasing high balls under the crossbar. The Ballincourty wide count started to climb rapidly in the closing stages of the half. They got a period of sustained dominance but reeled off four misses in a row before the break to finish the first 30 minutes on nine. Another raid by number six Lannon yielded his second point from play after Shane Ahearne supplied the assist. The more economical Reds headed towards the dressing rooms with only four wides and a 0-4 to 0-2 advantage.
Both teams rung the changes for the second half. John Coffey and Paddy Kiely entered the fray on the Stradbally side while Mark Fives was introduced for Ballinacourty. Gary Hurney (free) and Tommy Connors traded singles before Patrick Hurney kicked the point of the night out on the left wing. The No.12 subsequently levelled the contest for the third occasion at five points all courtesy of a close in free.
Brian Looby received a black card after 39 minutes for a pull down on Michael Sweeney and the Stradbally attacker slotted the resultant free. Ballinacourty added three further wides over the third quarter. A scoreless spell of 20 minutes followed.
Stradbally started to gain some supremacy at midfield but Tommy Connors and John Coffey kicked wides. With seven minutes left, Stephen Enright produced a jaw-dropping save from Robert Ahearne as the corner forward looked to pull the trigger from close range. Shane Lannon started a piercing move by fielding the kickout and Shane Ahearne played in Robert before Enright’s amazing intervention.
As the noise levels lifted in the stand, Shane Briggs’ crossfield ball picked out substitute Mark Fives to calmly make it all square at six points each on 59 minutes. The Reds had a little extra in the tank and the captain spurred them forward to continue their recent dominance of the Déise football landscape.
S Lannon, S Ahearne (1f) 0-2 each; T Connors, M Sweeney (f), M Walsh, R Ahearne 0-1 each.
P Hurney 0-4 (2fs); G Hurney 0-1 (1f) M Fives (0-1).
E Cunningham; K Lawlor, K Coffey, L Casey; T Grey, S Lannon, T Connors; J Mullaney, M Walsh; J Hearne, R Ahearne, D Weldon; M Sweeney, S Ahearne, G Power.
P Kiely for Weldon (H-T); J Coffey for Power (H-T); E O’Brien for Sweeney (56); S Cunningham for Hearne (59).
S Enright; S Briggs, S O’Hare, B Looby; E Bergin, R Foley, D Collins; J Hurney, C Prunty; M O’Halloran, M Ferncombe, E Collins; S O’Donovan, G Hurney, P Hurney.
M Fives for O’Halloran (H-T); C McCarthy for Looby (BC, 39); M Maher for Ferncombe (49).