AFTER the disappointment of losing to arch rivals Nire a week earlier, Stradbally reinstated themselves as one of the favourites to lift the Waterford senior football championship title with a decisive 12-point victory over St Brendan’s at Leamybrien last night.
The group side — with players drawn from Newtown, Kill and Bonmahon — were expected to mount a major challenge in a game they had to win to keep their title hopes alive.
But they were outfought and outplayed just as comprehensively as Stradbally’s victory margin suggests, with the outcome a foregone conclusion long before the final whistle.
Playing against the wind, Stradbally delivered a near-fatal blow to St Brendan’s inside 60 seconds when George Walsh crashed the ball to the net after a fine move involving Stephen Cunningham and Tony Grey.
It could have got worse for the losers in the ninth minute but Waterford hurling captain Michael Brick Walsh blazed a penalty wide after Tommy Connors had been hauled down.
Walsh, injury-risk conscious with the All-Ireland qualifier against Antrim just six days off, was content to amble his way through the hour with colleagues all round him doing the donkey work and laying the foundations for victory.
Their 1-6 to 0-3 half-time lead left the winners firmly in the driving seat, and if St Brendan’s were still clinging to slender hopes of hauling themselves back into contention, they completely vanished within six minutes of the restart, when Niall Curran’s point and superb goal gave Stradbally an unassailable 2-7 to 0-3 lead.
Despite the best efforts of Mick Ahearne in the middle of the field, the St Brendan’s cause was now a lost one, and without ever having to move into top gear Stradbally comfortably eased to a win that virtually assures them of a place in the knock -out quarter-final stage.
There was a moment of magic still to come, when the winners scored their third goal in the 42nd minute.
Impressive wing forward Connors left three defenders in his wake and beautifully lobbed advancing goalkeeper Tom Wall for the goal of the championship so far.
Scorers for Stradbally: N Curran (1-6); T Connors (1-1); G Walsh (1-0); S Cunningham (0-2); T Grey, J Coffey (0-1) each.
Scorers for St Brendan’s: R Hennessey (0-2); R Walsh, M Ahearne, M Hennessey, N Hennessey, P Casey, M Scurry (0-1) each.
STRADBALLY: E Cunningham; P Doyle, K Coffey, T Walsh; T Grey, S Lannon, T Costelloe; J Hearne, M Walsh; J Coffey, S Ahearne, T Connors; N Curran, S Cunningham, G Walsh.
Subs: R Ahearne for G Walsh; T Curran for Cunningham; O Costelloe for S Ahearne; E Cummins for Grey.
ST BRENDAN’S: T Wall; B Mooney, G Hayes, F Whelan; N Hennessey, P Casey, G Dunphy; M Ahearne, M Hennessey; T Power, R Hennessey, D Casey; R Kirwan, A Kiely, R Walsh.
Subs: C Hennessey for Kirwan; M Scurry for C Hennessey; J Fitzgerald for Mooney.
Referee: J Condon (Ring).
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