Michael Walsh steers Stradbally to opening win

Although it took Stradbally 20 minutes to register their first score of the 2016 championship, the Reds still had five points to spare against Ballinameela at Fraher Field on Saturday (1-10 to 1-5).

Michael Walsh, who is searching for his 10th county medal this season, acted as midfield conductor while front men Shane Ahearne (1-3) and Michael Sweeney (0-4) were also on song.

Last year’s intermediate champions set the pace with three early points consisting two Jim Curran frees and a fisted effort by Brendan Phelan. Two frees from Sweeney stabilised the holders and Walsh curled in the leveller on 23 minutes. A minute later, Ahearne shook the cobwebs to leave it 1-3 to 0-3 at halfway.

Ballinameela responded 40 seconds into the second period as Micheal Culloo assisted Rob Shine for a goal. In a niggly encounter, Stradbally picked up five yellow cards and a black. The champions charged away in the final quarter through five unanswered points. Sweeney, Ahearne and substitute Stephen Cunningham got the job done.

Fourteen-man Rathgormack held firm for a 1-7 to 0-8 victory over Brickey Rangers. Conor Murray kicked three points from play and Jason Gleeson lashed home on the stroke of half-time to give them a 1-6 to 0-4 interval advantage.

Free-taker Cormac O’Grady spearheaded the fightback for Brickeys as they capitalised on the dismissal of Michael Curry. Wing-back Shane McGrath then punched the ball over to narrow the gap to one with six minutes left.

The Westerners recorded 13 wides however including 10 in the second period. Jason Curry obliged with a late free, Rathgormack’s only second half point, to take the spoils. The green and red last raised the Conway Cup in 1999.

All four first-round matches scheduled for yesterday were postponed due to unplayable pitches at Kill and Fraher Field.


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