Ballyroan Abbey staged one of the upsets of the championship as they triumphed over Stradbally in O’Moore Park on Saturday evening, with MJ Tierney steering them over the line with a personal haul of 1-7 for the day.
Laois Shopping Centre SFC Rd 2
Ballyroan Abbey came into this fixture as the underdogs, and understandably so. In a league campaign that saw Ballyroan Abbey fail to pick up a single win, as well as give three walkovers, they also lost out to Stradbally by 16 points back in late May.
When they came up against a highly-fancied Arles-Killeen side in the first round of the championship, they surprised many by making a game of it before eventually falling by seven points. This was same Ballyroan side that came out on the receiving end of a 6-14 to 0-8 loss in the same fixture in the League.
The first-half saw Stradbally kick a staggering and wasteful ten wides, they kicked five of those in the opening five minutes alone. After seven minutes of painstakingly poor composure, Stradbally opened the day’s scoring with Greg Ramsbottom shaving the overside of the crossbar with his perfectly measured shot to give them the lead.
Ballyroan Abbey opened their account with 14 minutes elapsed through wing-back, James Keegan, before Martin Scully adopted the play-maker role to pick-out MJ Tierney who, with the aid of an excellent pivot, created space before stroking the ball over the crossbar off his weaker right boot to give Ballyroan the lead.
A minute later, Tierney converted a free from the 20 metre line to ease Ballyroan into a two point lead with 12 minutes left in the half. As Stradbally continued to struggle in front of the posts, they eventually broke a near-fifteen minute drought with Greg Ramsbottom’s second point of the day, before Ramsbottom added his third directly after as he punished Ballyroan Abbey’s resulting kick-out to level the game.
Colm Kelly opened his account for the day shortly after with Stradbally’s first point from a free to see his side retake the lead. Ballyroan responded almost immediately with Tierney again applying the finish, although needing the aid of the post this time, as the game returned to stalemate.
Ballyroan Abbey looked to be taking a narrow one-point lead into the dressing room at half-time as Tierney stroked over a twenty-metre free with a minute to go, but Tom Shiel’s close-range free a minute into injury-time wiped the slate clean at five points apiece as Eddie Kinsella sounded the half-time whistle.
Stradbally restarted the game well with two points inside the opening ten minutes. Liam Knowles’ pin-point pass picked out Colm Kelly, who in-turn calmly split the posts, before Stradbally doubled their advantage three minutes later through half-time substitute, Podge Fitzpatrick.
Ballyroan Abbey pulled one back through Tierney’s fifth point of the day, his third from a free, before the County star bagged the only goal of the game five minutes later. With Ballyroan pushing Stradbally to the ropes at this point, Tierney latched onto Martin Scully’s long pass forward before dummying left then right to dispose of his marker, before side-stepping Derek Beale in the Stradbally goal to launch the ball into the roof of the net in a moment of pure inspiration from the Ballyroan man.
With their backs against the wall, Stradbally narrowed the gap to one point with Tom Shiel’s superb effort - before Shiel was given his marching orders two minutes later for a cynical foul on the goal-bound Padraig McMahon. Tierney popped over the resulting free to give Ballyroan a two point lead.
With eight minutes left to play, Tierney engraved his name on the Man-of-the-Match trophy with what was undoubtedly the score of the game from a thirty-five metre free right out on the left sideline that curled directly between the posts.
Three minutes from time Aaron Carroll gave Ballyroan a much-needed four point cushion, only for Colm Kelly to bring it back to three a minute later. With a goal between the sides and a minute left to play Stradbally went in search of the eqaulising goal, and had it not been for the acrobatic save from Gary Scully, they just might’ve found it through Ramsbottom’s blistering shot - but it wasn’t to be as Ballyroan Abbey deservedly held out for a narrow victory.
Scorers - Ballyroan abbey: MJ Tierney 1-7, 0-5f; James Keegan and Aaron Carroll 0-1 each. Stradbally: Colm Kelly (2f) and Greg Ramsbottom 0-3 each; Tom Shiel 0-2, 0-1f; Podge Fitzpatrick 0-1.
Ballyroan Abbey: Gary Scully; Gavin Tynan, Eoin Kearns, Mark Cahill; James Keegan, Ruairi Dunne, Aaron Carroll; Philip Shortall, Padraig McMahon; Mark McDonald, Ciaran Keegan, Adam Brennan; Jamie Whelan, MJ Tierney, Martin Scully. Subs: Daniel Molloy for Adam Brennan; John Murphy for Ciaran Keegan; Jamie Bartley for Mark Cahill.
Stradbally: Derek Beale; Colin Beale, Darragh Mulhall, Damien Murphy; Liam Knowles, Paul Begley, Jamie Kavanagh; Darren Maher, Stephen Lawlor; Tom Shiel, Colm Kelly, John Donohue; Podge Langton, Cormac Delaney, Greg Ramsbottom. Subs: Podge Fitzpatrick for Podge Langton; Cormac Delaney for Conor Delaney; Eoin Buggie for Stephen Lawlor; Joe Lacey for Colin Beale.
Referee: Eddie Kinsella