Laois Shopping Centre Senior Football Championship Rd 1
Arles Kilcruise 2-15
By Denis J. Croke
WITH the clock approaching the 65th minute the opening game of this year’s senior football championship looked set for a replay. Then Fran Egan picked out Kevin Meaney and the Arles Kilcruise midfielder had the composure the fist the ball over for a point and rescue a game they had dominated.
From the start Lar Wall’s charges were in charge, controlling the game. While they found it hard to kill off Stradbally, with just nine minutes remaining they held a five point lead and apparently heading to the winners’ bowl for the round two draws.
But how that all changed.
The players too obviously thought they had it wrapped up. Stradbally began to get a hold of affairs and when Jody Dillon found the net from the penalty spot in the 56th minutes the sides were level.
The sides swapped points in time added on before Meaney popped up in the 65th minute to secure Arles Kilcruise a memorable victory after a cracking game of football. If the rest of the championship is half as enjoyable as this game we are in for a few great weeks of football.
Colm Kelly opened the scoring with a point just over a minute in and from their to the end it was all action.
David Conway opened Arles Kilcruise’s account while Ross Munnelly gave them a lead that would never be overtaken in the fourth minute. These two players were to torment Stradbally for the rest of the game and showed it is hard to beat class.
Stradbally’s cause was not held when they lost midfielder Darren Maher after just six minutes when he appeared to go over on his ankle and was replaced by Greg Ramsbottom.
Veteran Chris Conway put two between the sides with a free before we had the first goal. An inch-perfect 50 metre diagonal delivery from David Conway picked out Ross Munnelly in behind the defence and he tucked the ball into the bottom corner.
With 12 minutes on the clock Ross Munnelly put five between the sides with a free from 45 metres out wide on the right.
But within 30 seconds that gap had been dramatically narrowed when Ramsbottom send in a long ball which Darragh Mulhall latched onto before turning and finding the corner of the net.
And the gap was down to the minimum when Jody Dillon split the posts in the 17th minute.
While Kilcruise were impressing up front, they were having issues in defence. They were containing the Stradbally attack but when it came to clearing their lines they tended to overplay the ball and get themselves into trouble.
Conway and Munnelly struck two other great points to settle Arles Kilcruise and with Dillon and Conway then swapping pints three separated the sides with 22 minutes on the clock.
Within five minutes that was reduced to just a single point thanks to Kelly with a super effort and Jack Deegan point.
But it was Arles Kilcruise who finished the half the stronger. Caomhan Brennan somehow found the target from the narrowest of angles while Munnelly converted a free after Conway had been fouled.
In between those two points Mulhall might well have had a second goal but Colm Munnelly did well to get down and smother the shot.
And so at the break Arles Kilcruise held a 1-9 1-6 lead having played with the breeze.
Both sides were to hit a couple of bad wides on the restart before Arles Kilcruise struck for their second goal. Caomhan Brennan and Chris Conway combined before the latter passed to Ross Munnelly on the edge of the square. He pulled first time and the ball flew to the net after Kevin Meaney stuck out a hand to divert its flight.
Darragh Mulhall and Chris Conway (free) exchanged points while a fisted effort from Stephen Miller put seven pints between the sides with 19 minutes to play.
However, there were signs that Stradbally were beginning to get a handle on the game. They had certainly upped the intensity but at the Same time Arles Kilcruise looked to have taken their eye off the target.
Arles Kilcruise had their defence unsettled when Paudge Conway was black carded after hauling down Kelly en-route to goal. Kelly converted the free which David Conway duly cancelled out.
But Stradbally were now in full flow and looking impressive. Two points from Jody Dillon and another from substitute Jack Langton closed the gap to four points with ten minutes remaining. That was how it remained until the 53rd minute after David Conway and Colm Kelly swapped points.
A minute later just a goal separated the sides after Conor Delaney landed an excellent point. But even at that it did not look like Stradbally would be able to close the gap.
That all changed in the 55th minute when Darragh Mulhall was dragged down by Ciaran Lawlor as the full forward bore down on goal and referee Eddie Kinsella pointed to the penalty spot.
Jody Dillon took on the responsibility and sent Colm Munnelly the wrong way and the sides were level with four minutes of normal time remaining.
Chris Conway edged Arles Kilcruise back in front from a free which the referee brought in after some back-chat from a Stradbally player. Colm Kelly tied the sides yet again with a good point with 59 minutes and 20 seconds on the clock.
Then three minutes of time added on were then announced.
Both sides went in search of the winner but play was held up for a period after JP Conway picked up an injury.
Stradbally looked like they snatched an unlikely win when Colm Begley drove forward but his shot tailed just wide.
And a replay looked on the cards until Fran Egan picked out Meaney and he calmly fisted the winning points with 64 minutes and 15 seconds on the clock.
Granted it will be of little consolation to Stradbally to have been part of a cracking game of football but they should take a positive view of the performance and look forward to the next round.
Arles Kilcruise will be more than happy to have secured this win and they too will be in confident mood next day out.
ARLES KILCRUISE: Colm Munnelly; Cialann Mulhall, Ciaran Lawlor, Paudge Conway; JP Conway, Mikey Wall, Mark Wall; Kevin Meaney (1-1), Stephen Miller (0-1); PJ Lawlor, David Conway (0-5), Fran Egan; Chris Conway (0-3), Caomhan Brennan (0-1), Ross Munnelly (1-4, 0-1f).
Subs: Anthony McElroy for P Conway (40m, black card), Dermot Nolan for JP Conway (62m, inj)
STRADBALLY: Wayne Comerford; Colin Beale, Liam Knowles, Jamie Kavanagh; Justin Lalor, Conor Delaney (0-1), Damien Murphy; Colm Begley, Darren Maher; Jack Deegan (0-1), Tom Shiel, Jody Dillon (1-4, 1-0 pen); Podge Fitzpatrick, Darragh Mulhall (1-1), Colm Kelly (0-6, 0-1f).
Subs: Greg Ramsbottom for Maher (6m, inj), Jack Langton for Ramsbottom (42m), Joe Lacey for Beale (50m)
Referee: Eddie Kinsella (Courtwood)