The Heath 0-8
By Alan Hartnett
THE idea that last years’ county finalists and this year’s league champions would clash in the relegation final seemed absurd before the start of the championship but that is exactly what will happen as Graiguecullen beat The Heath to retain their senior status and plunge their opponents into crisis.
The Barrowsiders were seconds away from saving themselves last weekend but late points in normal time and extra time for The Heath brought about this replay in Bill Delaney Park on Wednesday evening.
The Heath’s collapse since their league final win in July has been remarkable. Their cause has not been helped by the loss of key players like Ciarán Booth and Daithi Carroll to injury, but it still does not explain just how they could find themselves in this situation where they must beat Emo to stay up.
Graiguecullen were without county star Mark Timmons and full back Liam Kearney but it didn’t seem to affect them as they raced into an early lead when teenage corner forward, Luke Hand curled over an effort in the first minute.
Chris Bergin replied with a free for The Heath and when Evin Keane and Ambrose Doran swapped points to leave things level after ten minutes, it appeared like this would be another tight affair.
But in the next ten minutes, Graiguecullen would score 1-5 without reply and opened a gap between the sides that The Heath wouldn’t be able to close.
Graiguecullen reeled off five quick points thanks to three from centre forward Ian Fleming and two from corner forward Luke Hand before the pair combined to get the game’s only goal.
Fleming blasted past two tackles and, instead of just tapping over another point, he delicately chipped the ball into the path of Hand who showed real composure to beat the advancing Joe Walshe with ease.
The Heath needed a response if they were to have any chance in the second half and they tried to get closer with a brace of points via Chris Bergin and one from Evin Keane but Graiguecullen had the final say of the half with an Ian Fleming free to lead by 1-8 to 0-5 at the break.
The Heath introduced Daithi Carroll after the break but he clearly wasn’t fit and had minimal impact on the course of the game.
Graiguecullen continued to pile on the pressure with Ambrose Doran (2) and Fleming piling on the misery for The Heath who scored just once in the third quarter through Chris Bergin, which left them eight behind heading into the last 15 minutes.
Bergin managed two more frees before the end but that was never going to be enough as Graiguecullen eased to a ten point win with Brian Byrne, Aaron Forbes, Fleming and substitute Luke Alsybury registering scores before the full time whistle.
The Heath have one more chance to preserve their senior status when they take on Emo but on the evidence of this display, it would be hard to see Donie Norton’s side emerging victorious.
GRAIGUECULLEN: Patrick Scully; Wayne Humphries, Bobby Doyle, Trevor Collins; Brian Byrne (0-1), Ross Alcock, Daniel O’Reilly; Michael Hand, Patrick Murphy; Danny Alsybury, Ian Fleming (0-6, 5f), Shane O’Neill; Ambrose Doran (0-3, 2f), Aaron Forbes (0-1), Luke Hand (1-3).
Subs: James Doogue for Alsybury (44m), Lee Timmons for L. Hand (54m), Luke Alsybury (0-1) for Forbes (55m), Jimmy Bolton for Murphy (57m)
THE HEATH: Joe Walshe; Mark Dowling, Colin Nestor, Aidan Bergin; Tony Connolly, Denis Booth, Gary Smith; Robbie Dowling, Seamus Mulhare; Shane Carroll, Chris Bergin (0-6f), Brian Ging; Cathal Whelan, Eoin Delaney, Evin Keane (0-2).
Subs: Podge Whelan for A. Bergin (9m, inj), Daithi Carroll for C. Whelan (h/t), Gary Hogan for Ging (h/t), Jimmy Nerney for Delaney (h/t), JP Nerney for Nestor (39m), Mark Dunne for P. Whelan (50m)
Referee: Maurice Deegan (Stradbally)