The Heath 3-10
By Denis J. Croke
YOU could say these two teams won the three major finals for senior football teams last year – Stradbally winning the county final while The Heath won the ACFL Division 1 final and the Relegation final.
So Sunday night’s result was a major turn around in the fortune of these two clubs in the space of less than 12 months. And there is no denying The Heath were fully deserving of their nine-point victory.
Once both sides settled into some class of a routine, although that took until the second half, The Heath looked the hungrier side, more up for the contest.
If the first game of Sunday night’s double header in O’Moore Park opened in a scoring flurry, this one could not have been more in contrast.
In what turned out to be a dour opening 33 minutes, we had to wait until the eighth minute for the opening score, a goal for The Heath. Chris Bergin picked out Eoin Delaney with an inch perfect diagonal pass. He passed to the in-running James Phelan who neatly slipped the ball under the advancing keeper.
Less than a minute later Colin Nestor made the best of another Delaney pass to raise the white flag.
Last year’s county final hero, Jody Dillon eventually got Stradbally with an 12th minute free and converted a second one five minutes later.
Over the next six minutes we managed just two more points, both going to The Heath, an excellent end to end score from Alan Whelan and a Daithí Carroll free.
In the meantime Stradbally were to shoot four wides before Colm Begley pointed a 24th minute free.
Stradbally brought on two substitutes late in the half, Gary Comerford for John Donoghue and Tom Shiel for the injured Damien Murphy, and both were to have an almost immediate impact.
With the half in time added on Jack Deegan send a lovely pass to Shiel who quickly transferred to the speedy Comerford who calmly put the ball beyond Wayne Comerford to send the sides into the break level at 1-3 apiece.
One can only speculate what both managers had to say in their dressing-rooms during the break but it seemed have the desired effect. Both teams certainly approached the restart with a greater degree of urgency.
And the two players who had finished the first half scoring, Shiel and Comerford, got the second half up and running with early points and push into the lead for the first time.
But it was not to last long. Four minutes into the new half Chris Bergin picked up the ball 25 metres out close to the terrace. He skipped his way past three or four challenges before unleashing a shot under Wayne Comerford for The Heath’s second goal. Padraig Whelan tapped over a point from the kick out.
The gap was out to two now and was soon to be five. In a sweeping move Carroll delivered long to Eoin Delaney on the left. He cut inside, passed to the in-running Robert Dowling, who in turn fed Brian Ging and he blazed to the net.
It was end to end stuff but The Heath always held the upper hand, while all too often when given scoring opportunities Stradbally kick them wide.
Colm Kelly and Jody Dillon (free) did mange a brace of points only to see them cancelled out by Colin Nestor and Ging. Kelly’s free in the 44th minute reduced the deficit to four points entering the final quarter.
Dillon further reduced it from a free which was cancelled out by a massive Carroll effort as the sides went head to head. Shiel and Ging then exchanged points to keep the gap at four with 52 minutes gone.
Last year’s goal hero, Dillon looked like he might just repeat that exploit when he cut in a fired a shot but he was denied by Joe Walshe who got a finger tip to it and deflect it over the bar.
The clock kept ticking down and Stradbally could make no further inroads into the lead. Carroll (free) and Eoin Buggie swapped points and the final point went to Chris Bergin in the 63rd minute, by which tine The Heath were well and truly into the winners draw for round two.
With the fear of relegation gone, The Heath can face into their next game against Graiguecullen with a degree of confidence. This result was a major blip for Stradbally but in truth they should had little trouble when facing up to Ballyfin Gaels in the qualifiers.
THE HEATH: Joe Walshe; Gary Roe Smith, Aidan Bergin, Alan Whelan (0-1); Ciaran Booth, Denis Booth, James Phelan (1-0); Robert Dowling, Colin Nestor (0-2); Brian Ging (1-2), Chris Bergin (1-1), JP Nerney; Daithí Carroll (0-3, 0-2f), Padraig Whelan (0-1), Eoin Delaney.
Subs: Mark Dunne for Nerney (41m), Andrew Booth for P. Whelan (55m)
STRADBALLY: Wayne Comerford; Colin Beale, Liam Knowles, Eamon Conlon; Padraig Fitzpatrick, Eoin Buggie (0-1), Damien Murphy; Jack Deegan, Colm Begley (0-1); Cormac Delaney, Greg Ramsbottom, John Donoghue; Jody Dillon (0-5, 0-4f), Colm Kelly (0-2, 0-1f), Brendan Lawlor.
Subs: Gary Comerford (1-1) for Donoghue (26m), Tom Shiel (0-2) for Murphy (27m, inj), Stephen Lawlor for B. Lawlor (47m), Conor Delaney for Cormac Delaney (55m)
Referee: Joe Brennan (Crettyard)