Sunday, 17th December 2017
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Stradbally edge thriller

Since the turn of the century both Stradbally and Nire have for the most part been to the forefront of the JJ Kavanagh sponsored Waterford Senior Football Championship. Fair to say that in that time both clubs have provided some superb entertainment not least when facing one another for the destination of the Conway Cup. On Sunday last both these clubs once again came face to face and, once again, the destination of the Conway Cup was the reward. Both teams came through their respective semi-finals with litle to spare. Reigning champions Nire beat An Rinn with a late late goal for a 3-8 to 2-10 victory while Stradbally on the road for title number nineteen, had a two point (0-13 to 0-11) win over neighbours Kilrossanty. In both instances the desire to win allied to that particular championship know how was a key element.  Such were the championship statistics of both teams that the oddsmakers  were divided as to which should be the better fancied. Indeed many were predicting that this game could be a draw. On a lovely afternoon it was the reigning champions who settled the quicker with Conor Gleeson and Shane Walsh firing Nire ahead 0-3 to 0-0 10 minutes. Even at this early stage one could feel the tension in both camps as every ball was contested as if it was the last. Conor Gleeson was causing huge problems for the Stradbally defence and it wasn't long before the opening goal arrived. Craig Guiry collected and set up Tom Barron who cracked the ball past Eoin Cunningham to the net 1-4 to 0-1.

However one can never write off either of these superb teams and just two minutes later Stradbally themselves carved open a goal as Daniel Weldon put Ger Crowley through for a goal.

This was terrific fare from two well drilled and evenly matched outfits. On twenty minutes Tom Barron added a point for Nire to see them ahead by three points 1-5 to 1-2 but Stradbally through midfielder Shane Ahearne, with a brace of scores and Eoin O'Brien had the game tied five minutes later. This was exhilarating football from two hugely competitive outfits. Earlier in the competition it was Stradbally who came out on top 2-15 to 2-11 after a superb encounter and, this had all the makings of another great tussle. Shane Walsh and Conor Gleeson had three points in the remaining minutes to see the champions ahead 1-8 to 1-5 as the teams headed for a well deserved break.

The second half began in very much the same vein with little or nothing between the sides although Dermot Ryan added a point to see the Ballymacarbry lads four clear. Shane Ahearne continued to put in an impressive stint at midfield for Stradbally and along with hurling All-star Michael "Brick" Walsh were driving Stradbally forward. Ahearne, Michael Sweeney and Eoin O'Brien brought the lead back to the minimum but Shane Walsh extended it to 1-13 to 1-11 with time beginning to run out for the Reds of Stradbally. However in those final minutes it was Stradbally, who by this stage were beginning to gain an amount of good possession, finally got level with Michael Walsh sending over a superb point and Daniel Weldon adding the leveller just before the end.

Both teams were giving their all and now faced the prospect of extra time. In that extra time it was Stradbally who forced the issue. Corner back Jack Mullaney had Stradbally in front for the first time in the opening half of extra time and Robert Ahearne added another from a free.

Despite a valiant effort, Nire just could not get the scores to retrieve the game although one must say they did create chances in those extra periods with four or five shots drifting wide of the uprights. John Gray and his Stradbally outfit had reclaimed the Conway Cup and the club had recorded championship number 10 in seventeen years. Incidentally Michael "Brick Walsh has also collected his tenth county medal, a superb achievement for a great sportsman.

And so another year has come and gone. A superb finale to a really good championship where a number of teams are surely setting themselves up for a future challenge of the "big two".

ARDMORE CLAIM

Following on from the winning experiences of both Ballysaggart (2013) and Modeligo (2014) it was another great weekend for the Waterford Junior Hurling Champions as Ardmore became the third team from the county to claim the Nealon Cup. Favourites going into this Mallow encounter following a very impressive journey throughout the domestic and Procincial competition there was a real belief behind the team. The opposition from Ballybacon/Grange had also had a very impressive win and were certain to provide a real challenge for the Big Strand men. However the bare results does not tell the full tale as Ardmore were depleted to just twelve players following the dismissal of both Wayne Hennessy and goalkeeper Jack Walsh early in the game along with the so very influential Seamus Prendergast who issues with two yellow cards.

Ballybacon/Grange full back was also dismissed before the end in a tough encounter.

The Waterford champions always had the upper hand in the game and twelve minutes after referee Nathan Wall of Cork opened proceedings Seamus Prendergast had the opening goal, being first to react to a Brendan Cummins rebound. Aaron Lonergan and goalkeeper Brendan Cummins, the former Tipperary star, hit points to bring the Premier side back into the game. Seamus Prendergast however was superb with his shooting and brother Declan was marshalling the defence but a Declan Walsh scrambled goal for the Tipp men seemed to be turning the tide.

Early in the second half Ballybacon/Grange were level but again Seamus Prendergast collected and crashed the ball past Cummins to swing the momentum back to Ardmore. Almost instantly another goal arrived for Ardmore as James Flavin sent David Gartland clear and the centre forward billowed the net. Seamus Prendergast and Flavin adding points to give the Waterford side a little breathing space. Although Brendan Cummins had a goal for Ballybacon/Grange before the end there was never any doubt but that Ardmore would hold out and at the end they were worthy 3-11 to 2-8 champions.

On this display Ardmore have propelled themselves to the position of one of the favoaurites for outright success. Full back Declan Prendergast was immense and with forwards like Seamus Prendergast and David Gartland they will make one huge effort to get over the line. We wish them all the success and for now they can celebrate a Munster title.

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