The delayed county final celebrations, mind you, were somewhat muted by the sense of injustice which overshadowed their Munster quarter-final clash with Nemo Rangers.
And while Stradbally lived with their Cork opponents for the opening half hour of Saturday night’s contest, once Nemo put their foot to the floor early in the second half, Stradbally simply had nothing left to give.
Their tank had been emptied 23 hours earlier, every last thimble of energy and effort exhausted in scoring a two-point win over Ballinacourty and, in the process, annexing the club’s ninth Waterford crown since the turn of the millennium. That they had to return to Dungarvan the following night to fulfil a provincial clash where they were unable to show anything close to their full hand frustrated management and players.
Full-back Kevin Coffey, one of the heroes of Friday night, limped off injured seven minutes before the break. Others battled through tired and sore limbs out of nothing more than stubbornness and pride. Captain Michael ‘Brick’ Walsh was out on his feet at the final whistle, a stream of blood flowing from his right eye.
“It is an absolute disgrace that Stradbally had to play here tonight,” fumed manager Pat Curran. “The Waterford County Board should be ashamed. I admire the hurling clubs in the county. They fight their corner. The football clubs have to stand up now and the county board have to get their ass in gear.
“We don’t like to be beaten. It is even worse to be beaten when you don’t get a fair crack of the whip. From a player-welfare viewpoint, it is just so unfair to any club. We have played four games in 15 days. That is fair clipping.”
Even Nemo boss Steven O’Brien empathised with his battle-weary opponents.
“I thought it pretty poor form they had to play the following night. I’m not sure if anyone in this country would be able to do it.
“I’d say the legs got them at the end, it is so difficult to go through a county final and it was a tough, hard game here last night. You are drained after a county final, we know that. It is two weeks since ours and we still have injuries so I can imagine 23 hours later is nigh on impossible.”
Nemo, who started without Barry O’Driscoll owing to a quad muscle tear, wasted little time in testing the durability of the Waterford champions. Come the 14th minute, the scoreboard read 0-6 to 0-1 in their favour.
Conor Horgan and Paul Kerrigan kicked a point apiece in the opening two minutes and although Tony Grey issued the Stradbally response, Nemo were relentless in seeking an early kill. A fine Alan O’Donovan point off the left boot was followed by three on the bounce from the excellent James Masters, the full-forward aided by the quality of delivery from out the field.
Instead of pushing on from this position of strength, the Cork champions would not score for the remainder of the half. Stradbally grew in spirit and resolve and had Michael Sweeney not pulled his low drive wide of Michael Aodh Martin’s goal on 17 minutes, who knows how this quarter-final may have materialised?
A superbly worked James Masters goal just over a minute into the second period, in which Aidan O’Reilly, Kevin Fulignati, Kerrigan and Horgan were involved in a sweeping move, effectively ended this game as a contest.
The floodgates opened with Colin O’Brien, Masters (two frees), Kerrigan (free) and Horgan on target in opening up a 1-11 to 0-3 advantage by the 40th minute. Stradbally would fail to add to their tally during the opening 18 minutes of the second half.
Tired, sore and frustrated, it was that kind of an evening for Curran’s men.
J Masters (1-5, 2 frees); P Kerrigan (1 free), C Horgan (0-2 each); C O’Brien, A O’Donovan, W Morgan, D Mehigan (0-1).
T Grey, J Hearn, M Sweeney, R Aherne, S Keane (0-1.
M. A. Martin; A O’Reilly, C O’Shea, A Cronin; K Fulignati, T Ó Sé, A O’Donovan; D Niblock, M Dorgan; D Mehigan, P Kerrigan, C O’Brien; C Dalton, J Masters, C Horgan.
W Morgan for Masters (48); P Morgan for Niblock (52); J Horgan for Dalton (52), D O’Donovan for Fulignati (55), S Martin for Ó Sé (56).
O Costelloe; K Lawlor, K Coffey, L Casey; S Lannon, T Grey, T Connors; P Kiely, S Aherne; J Hearn, J Coffey, J Mullaney; M Sweeney, M Walsh, R Aherne.
E O’Brien for Coffey (23 mins, inj), D Grey for Kiely (42), Ciaran Cusack for Casey (42), S Keane for Hearn (47), T Curran for Mullaney (51), Cathal Cusack for Coffey (56).
R Hickey (Clare).
Michael Sweeney’s missed goal effort on 17 minutes. Trailing 0-6 to 0-1, a goal at that juncture would have reignited the Stradbally cause. They would dominate the second quarter, but were unable to make it count on the scoreboard.
The fixture chaos that saw Stradbally return inside the whitewash 24-hours after claiming the Waterford county title. They were out on their feet here.
Michael Sweeney’s goal miss. He looked a sure bet to score.
James Masters hardly had to break sweat in racking up 1-5, but it was the quality of his finishing that marked him out in testing underfoot conditions.
Quite noticeable that the manner in which Steven O’Brien set up his six forwards created a vast amount of space in front of Masters. The approach was first-time ball intohim as opposed to attempting to carry possession across the Stradbally threshold. It worked a treat in the opening quarter as Masters kicked three on the hop.
A number of poor calls from Rory Hickey. Unclear what Kevin Lawlor saw red for on 45 minutes.
Nemo welcome the Kerry representatives (Legion or Dingle) to Cork this weekend.