Crettyard Gaels 0-8
By Denis J. Croke
CRETTYARD Gaels senior football championship dream came to a shuddering halt in O’Moore Park on Sunday. The Kilkenny border club, contesting their first ever senior semi-final, battled away bravely but in the end it was Stradbally’s experience that won out.
In some ways this game was the story of two players, Crettyard’s Evan O’Carroll and Stradbally’s Colm Begley.
Stradbally have been without the services of Begley for the past few years while he played his club football in Dublin. Since his return this year to the Little Town his experience and leadership have been central to their improvement. This was exemplified on Sunday when he led from the front and scored three good points to cap off a solid display.
On the other hand, despite making it to the last four, Crettyard have missed O’Carroll who has been out through injury. He made his return on Sunday but from early on it was evident he was not 100%. That said he kicked three crucial points in the opening half ensuring his side were still very much in contention at the break. But when he departed ten minutes into the second half Crettyard were left facing an uphill battle.
Both sides took time to settle, although Cha Dwyer wasted no time in getting Crettyard off the mark, finding the target after just 25 seconds. Evan O’Carroll made it two in the fifth. Two good from Colm Begley had the sides level four minutes later.
Evan O’Carroll edged Crettyard back in front midway through the half with a point that the umpire waved wide but was overruled by the linesman. However Gary Comerford immediately levelled.
Crettyard were looking that bit better at this stage with Stradbally continuing to shoot some terrible wides. Crettyard were back in front through a Cormac Murphy free and Cha Dwyer opened up a two point gap in the 24th minute.
By this stage Stradbally had hit seven very poor wides and went on to add another two before the break. However, they were to close that gap over the remainder of the half.
A Gary Comerford free narrowed the gap to the minimum, but O’Carroll replied from play. But a brace from Comerford, one from a free, the other and excellent point from play, had the sides together on six point as the interval.
Within a minute of the restart, after Greg Ramsbottom was fouled, Colm Kelly was left with a simple tap over to give Stradbally the lead for the first time, and they would not be headed again.
There was a touch of good fortune to their next point. Comerford’s poor effort fell short and retrieved by Crettyard keeper Jeff Moran. His clearance went straight to Eoin Buggie and he made no mistake.
Minutes later Ramsbottom delivered a delightful pass to Padraig Fitzpatrick who brought a full length save from Moran. But the rebound fell to Ramsbottom whose first time shot blazed over the bar from close range.
Play was becoming disjointed and scrappy by now as Stradbally hit another couple of wides before Jody Dillon put four between them with 42 minutes gone.
There was a niggle coming into the game at this stage which resulted in a mentor from both sides being ordered the stand by referee Brendan McCann.
Comerford (free) and Cristóir Maher swapped points at the mid-point of the half but by now Crettyard were only playing for their reputation.
Any hope of a revival were firmly quashed in the 48th minute. Following a sweeping move up the field, Conor Delaney fisted the ball across the goalmouth where the in-running Tom Shiel, who had been introduced for Fitzpatrick, was on hand to palm the ball to the net.
Cormac Murphy was to score Crettyard’s last point from a 43rd minute 45, and from there on it was all Stradbally, although they could only add three points, two from Dillon and the third, appropriately enough, from Begley.
Unfortunately the final was delayed for a long time after play was held up for close on ten minutes as Crettyard’s James Brennan received treatment before being stretchered off the pitch. It later emerged the midfielder had suffered muscle spasms in his back.
Stradbally now go on to face Portlaoise in the final, they first time they have done so since 2007.
STRADBALLY: Derek Beale; Colin Beale, Liam Knowles, Jamie Kavanagh; Cormac Delaney, Eoin Buggie (0-1), Damien Murphy; Darren Maher, Colm Begley (0-3); Greg Ramsbottom (0-1), Gary Comerford (0-5, 0-3f), Conor Delaney; Padraig Fitzpatrick, Jody Dillon (0-3), Colm Kelly (0-1f).
Subs: Tom Shiel (1-0) for Fitzpatrick (35m, inj), John Donoghue for Conor Delaney (53m), Fitzpatrick for Shiel (57m), Padraig Langton for Kelly (63m), Eamon Conlon for Kavanagh (63m)
CRETTYARD GAELS: Jeff Moran; Cormac Phelan, Ciaran Hosey, Sean O’Shea; Niall Purcell, Patrick Brennan, Paddy Gorman; Patrick O’Reilly, Evan O’Carroll (0-3); Cristoir Maher (0-1), Cha Dwyer (0-2), Paudge Lalor; Michael Nash, James Brennan, Cormac Murphy (0-2, 0-1f, 0-1 ’45).
Subs: Michael l Jordan for Purcell (40m), Paul Simms for O’Carroll (40m, inj), Conor Barry for P. Brennan (61m), Joseph Brennan for Dwyer (62m, black card), Jason Kealy for James Brennan (69m, inj)
Referee: Brendan McCann (Portarlington)