Laois Shopping Centre Senior Football Championship Rd 1
Crettyard Gaels 1-10
By Denis J. Croke
BALLYLINAN have a Gray Walsh master-class to thank for opening their championship with a win despite a strong fight-back from Crettyard Gaels.
Last year’s beaten county finalists always held the upper hand but they could never quite shake off a battling Crettyard Gaels side who managed to keep the deficit to a couple of points from most of the game.
It was not until the 60th minute that Ballylinan could breath easily when Walsh rounded off a great evening for himself and his team with a cracking goal.
Crettyard had opened the scoring inside the first minute with a Patrick Brennan point.
Within a minute the sides were level after Gary Walsh scored his first of the evening with a free.
Brennan added his second to put Crettyard back in front for the last time in the evening.
It was eight minutes in before the equaliser was scored, and it was worth waiting for as Walsh caught the ball, turn and split the posts. He then added another from a point to give Ballylinan a lead they would never relinquish.
They might also have had a goal after corner back Eric Kenna found himself up in attack but his shot was well saved by Crettyard keeper Jeff Moran.
Cormac Murphy did level the sides in the 11th minute and Crettyard were also unlucky not to have a goal. Murphy’s shot from distance dropped short but Patrick O’Reilly managed to get a fist to it only to see it come back off the woodwork.
By now Ballylinan were in command in most sectors and were turning possession into scores. Walsh landed another beauty, followed by an equally impressive point from Ciaran Farrell on the turn.
Walsh was again on target from a free and with Farrell adding another brace from play Ballylinan held a five point advantage with eight minutes of the half remaining.
But Crettyard were to finish the half strongly. A darting run from Cormac Murphy set up Evan O’Carroll to land a well worked point. And when Cristoir Maher found the target from distance Crettyard had closed the gap to 0-5 to 0-8 at half time.
Jamie Farrell opened the second half scoring only to see his point cancelled out by an excellent point from Evan O’Carroll, all of 55 metres out.
The sides could have been level four minutes into the new half but Cha Dwyer’s shot blazed across the Ballylinan goalmouth and wide.
Ciaran Farrell and Evan O’Carroll swapped points but in between Ballylinan’s centre-back Richie Ryan was black carded.
The gap was down to two pints after O’Carroll converted a 45 metre free.
Yet another brace, one a free, from Walsh opened up a four points gape entering the final quarter.
The previous evening we had seen Stradbally come with a late rally and almost catch Arles Kilcruise, and for a short while in O’Moore Park on Thursday evening a similar scenario was brewing up even if it did not quite evolve.
Inspired by Evan O’Carroll Crettyard were beginning to get a foothold in the middle of the park, and he was denied a goal by Aidan Walsh’s save. But they were also guilty of kicking a number of wides which would cost them dearly in the end.
O’Carroll did convert a free and when midfielder Patrick O’Reilly popped over a point in the 55th minute just two points separated the sides.
Then came the score that was to settle the outcome of this game. Alan Farrell broke down the right wing before moving the ball onto Walsh out wide in the corner. He rounded a couple of defenders as he made his way in along the end line before finishing to the top of the net from an impossible angle with his left foot.
There was just a minute of normal time remaining but there was still plenty of drama. From Walsh’s goal Crettyard worked the ball straight back down the field where Cormac Murphy’s first time pull was well stopped by Aidan Walsh’s finger-tip save.
But was to get his goal three minutes into time added on. When Evan O’Carroll was upended under a high ball referee Brendan McCann indicated for a penalty which Murphy dispatched to the net, but it too little too late.
BALLYLINAN: Aidan Walsh; Eric Kenna, Cathal Leonard, Kevin Byrne; Robbie Donoher, Richie Ryan, Gary Walsh; Jamie Farrell (0-1), Padraig McEvoy; James Redmond, Seamus Lacey, Alan Farrell; Ciaran Farrell (0-4), Gary Walsh (1-7, 0-4f), Liam Kealy.
Subs: Dermot Leonard for Ryan (38m, black card), Podge Walsh for Kealy (47m)
CRETTYARD GAELS: Jeff Moran; Paddy Gorman, Pierce Nash, Sean O’Shea; Shaun O’Reilly, Niall Purcell, Sean Downey; Evan O’Carroll (0-5, 0-2f), Patrick O’Reilly (0-1); Cha Dwyer, Cristoir Maher (0-1), Seamus Dowling; Ciaran Hosey, Patrick Brennan (0-2), Cormac Murphy (1-1, 1-0 pen).
Subs: Philip Brennan for Nash inj (50m), Paul Simms for Patrick Brennan (53m)
Referee: Brendan McCann (Portarlington)