Stradbally Parish Gaels came from behind to steal the county title from Graiguecullen’s grasp with Justin Lalor’s fifty-fifth minute goal clinching it for the Gaels side in a dramatic conclusion to the campaign.
U-16 A Football Final
Stradbally PG 2-8
Graiguecullen secured an emphatic start to the game with as they found themselves 1-3 to no score ahead with less than ten minutes on the clock. Midfielder Ryan O’Grady set the Graiguecullen charge in motion after just a minute as his effort sailed between the posts to give his side an ideal start to the game.
Half-back Brian Byrne followed this up with a superb swinging effort that matched the defenders run as Graiguecullen went two points ahead within three minutes of the throw-in. It was completely on-way traffic in the opining ten minutes, with Graiguecullen being awarded a penalty after five minutes. Ethan O’Neill stepped forward to take the penalty, but the Graigue attackers shot was magnificently saved by Stradbally goalkeeper Jack Larkin to deny Graiguecullen early on.
However, Graiguecullen were to get their goal two minutes later. This time James Brennan followed the high ball into the square to collect the loose ball and rattle the Stradbally Parish Gaels net after seven minutes as Graiguecullen pulled five points clear. A free from Brian Byrne completed a stellar opening ten minutes for Graiguecullen as the offensively-minded half-back grabbed his second point of the day.
Stradbally Parish Gaels finally put the occasion behind them after eleven minutes and clinched their first point of the day through a Tom Shiel free from the twenty-one yard line as they set about dismantling the Graigue lead.
Four minutes later Stradbally Parish Gaels raised the green flag to cut the margin to two points with Raymond Fitzpatrick capitalising on some sloppy defensive work to tuck the ball in to the Graigue net as Stradbally looked to have recovered from their shaky start.
Stradbally Parish Gael’s Joe Lacey and Graiguecullen’s Ryan O’Grady closed out the scoring for the half with an exchange of points to leave the half time score at 1-4 to 1-2, in Graiguecullen’s favour.
Stradbally restarted the second half as they meant to continue with Tom Shiel kicking his second point of the game, while cutting the Stradbally deficit to a single point. The one point margin was short-lived as James Brennan brought his personal tally to 1-1 for the day to restore a two point advantage for Graiguecullen.
Stradbally Parish Gaels drew level for the first time since the throw-in following points from Joe Lacey and Conor Whelehan as they began to get a foothold in the game. In a four minute scoring spree, both teams racked up two points apiece with Ryan O’Grady and substitute Jamie Regan rasing the flag for Graiguecullen, while Joe Lacey tormented the opposition as he grabbed his fourth point from half-back as the sides remained level approaching the final ten minutes.
With five minutes to go Stradbally clinched what was ultimately to be the decisive score in the game. With both sides eagerly looking for that all-important score, Dylan Byrne kicked a sensational pass over the Graigue defence and into the hands of the awaiting Justin Lalor who crashed the ball into the Graiguecullen to give Stradbally a two point lead with just minutes remaining.
Brendan Lalor followed it up with a well-taken point to set the Stradbally lead at three points with four minutes remaining. Graiguecullen searched relentlessly in teh closing minutes for a way back, but they simply couldn’t breach the Stradbally defence for the equalising goal and had to settle for a Ryan O’Grady point as Stradbally Parish Gaels ran out three point victors.
SCORERS - Stradbally Parish Gaels: Joe Lacey 0-4, Raymond Fitzpatrick and Justin Lalor 1-0, Tom Shiel 0-2 (one free), Conor Whelehan and Brendan Lalor 0-1 each; Graiguecullen: James Brennan 1-1, Ryan O’Grady 0-4 (one free), Brian Byrne 0-2 (one free), Jamie Regan 0-1
STRADBALLY PARISH GAELS: Jack Larkin; David Lalor, TJ Carolan, James O’Connor; Eoin Buggie, Liam Knowles, Joe Lacey; Tom Shiel, Justin Lalor; Dylan Byrne, Jamie Fenlon, John Clancy; Brendan Lalor, Conor Whelehan, Raymond Fitzpatrick. SUBS: Jamie Regan for Nathan Byrne-Fitzmaurice; Daniel Healy for James Brennan.
GRAIGUECULLEN: Daniel Bolger; Kyle O’Brien, David McEvoy, David Delaney; Babatunde Ogunfowora, Trevor Dowling-Collins, Brian Byrne; Daniel O’Reilly, Ryan O’Grady; Eoin Alsybury, Ethan O’Neill, James Brennan; Nathan Byrne-Fitzmaurice, Gerard Brennan, Jamie Sheehan. SUBS: Lee Bowe for David Lalor; Jack Deegan for Jamie Fenlon; Noel Delaney for Raymond Fitzpatrick.
Referee: Brendan McCann (Portarlington)l