Stradbally made no mistake at the second time of asking last Thursday night, as they outclassed a disappointing Ballylinan side in their replayed SFC quarter final at O’Moore Park, with the losers finishing the game with 13 men.
For Stradbally it was certainly an improvement on the drawn game, but still way short of the form they had shown against Graiguecullen, and they will know that a similar display will fall way short in the semi final against Portlaoise. Once again Darren Maher was missing but Gary Kavanagh and in particular Kieran Delaney upped their game considerably in his absence, and as a result John Kealy did not wield the same influence as in the drawn game.
Colm Kelly too was back in form and his goal after just five minutes was a wonderful score and it lifted his side and it left Ballylinan always chasing the game. It took Ballylinan all of 24 minutes to register a score and at the end all they managed was five points – the same as they scored in the drawn game. In the end their indiscipline was to cost them again, as they finished with 13 on the field after two players were shown straight red cards by referee Eamon Strong, and they could have no complaints.
Both now knew the prize at stake was a semi-final clash against red hot championship favourites Portlaoise and it was Stradbally that were up for that challenge from the very start with much more commitment in their play. Derek Beale had opened with a fine point before Colm Kelly weaved his way through the Ballylinan defence and planted the ball in the left corner after only five minutes of play.
It was a perfectly executed goal and after excellent play by Paudge Langton he set up Derek Beale for another superb point and Stradbally were off to a flier. Colm Kelly tapped over a 45 meter free with consummate ease and style and added a massive point from 40 metres within a minute before he set up Jamie Kavanagh, whose blistering shot for goal screamed over for a 1-5 to 0-0 lead after 16 minutes.
Five minutes later Kelly delivered a perfect pass across the front of the goals but Danny Kelly spurned the goal opportunity and chipped it over the bar.
It was the 24th minute before Pauric McEvoy opened the Ballylinan account, but again Stradbally missed another golden goal chance when again Colm Kelly set up Conor Delaney but his shot for glory from 10m crashed back of the crossbar.Ballylinan played their best football in the final minutes of the half with Brian Kenna hitting a fine point and Richie Ryan a splendid attacking score to leave the half time score 1-6 to 0-3.
Substitute Conor Harrington narrowed the gap on the restart but alas Ballylinan were not to score again until the closing minutes of the game, by which time they were numerically disadvantaged. Kieran Delaney really came into his own in the second half hitting three fine attacking points as Stradbally took a stranglehold in the middle of the park. After Colm Kelly again converted a free Delaney landed a beauty from out at the corner flag.
Minutes later Jamie Farrell was issued a straight red for an off the ball strike on Dan Dunne three minutes after getting a yellow for a similar incident with the Stradbally full back. Both times Dunne ended up on the deck and received treatment.
Midway through the half Jamie Kavanagh set up Kieran Delaney for his second point and after Colm Kelly beat three defenders for a brilliant score he then took a quick free to Delaney who popped it over for his third. Three minutes from time Ballylinan wing back Robbie Donagher saw red as the game fizzled out with Stradbally dominating in all sectors.
SCORERS - Stradbally: Colm Kelly 1-4 (0-2 frees), Kieran Delaney 0-3, Derek Beale 0-2, Jamie Kavanagh, Danny Kelly 0-1 each; Ballylinan: Pauric McEvoy (free), Brian Kenna, Richie Ryan, Conor Harrington (free), Alan Farrell 0-1 each
STRADBALLY: Robert Kelly; Damien Murphy, Dan Dunne, Michael Skelly; John Donohue, Paul Begley, Jamie Kavanagh; Gary Kavanagh, Kieran Delaney; Colin Beale, Paudge Langton, Conor Delaney; Danny Kelly, Colm Kelly, Derek Beale. Subs: Damien Fitzpatrick for Danny Kelly (48 mins), Jeremy Kavanagh for Dan Dunne (56 mins).
BALLYLINAN: David Heaney; Eric Kenna, Dermot Leonard, Alan Kehoe; Cathal Leonard, Paudge Leonard, Robbie Donagher; John Kealy, DJ Kealy; Pauric McEvoy, Richie Ryan, Brendan Kealy; Brian McEvoy, Ciaran Farrell, Brian Kenna. Subs: Conor Harrington for Paudge Leonard (half time), Jamie Farrell for Brian McEvoy (half time), Alan Farrell for Brendan Kealy (55 mins)
Referee: Eamon Strong (Emo)