The Heath had been sweeping aside every challenge in the Intermediate football championship in their run-up to the final. That included a comfortable victory over Arles-Kilcruise in round two, whom they met once more in this decider.
Arles-Kilcruise tried to stifle The Heath here, but last year’s relegated side proved too strong again. Their defense was terrific in keeping Arles-Kilcruise to just seven points, while Leon Holland did the business again up front for them once more as they ran out eight-point victors.
The Heath 1-13
The Heath threw the first punch. Leon Holland, who has had a break-out year for the club, pointed a mark to get them on the scoreboard in O’Moore Park. Arles-Kilcruise cancelled that out immediately though through a David Conway converted free from close-range.
After a period of six minutes where The Heath struggled to find pathways into the Arles-Kilcruise defence, they eventually grabbed another score. Conor Booth was dragged back, with the corner-forward stepping up to knock over the free himself.
Midfielder Denis Booth then landed The Heath’s first score from play to put two between the teams. Arles-Kilcruise were struggling to get out of their own half in the opening quarter, as Neil Keane surged up to put The Heath men three to the good.
On the fifteenth minute mark, The Heath full-forward blasted over an effort to make it The Heath 0-5 to 0-1. Robbie Dowling ran forward minutes later to send over another point after patient build-up from the men wearing black and amber.
Arles-Kilcruise finally returned to the scoreboard after twenty minutes without a score. Ross Munnelly, who was starved off possession in that scoreless period, received possession from Caomhan Brennan and Munnelly swung over a beauty from the left-hand side.
Arles-Kilcruise couldn’t build any real momentum off that score though, as The Heath were tenacious and organised in their tackling and defensive structure. PJ Daly charged up from wing-back to fire over a bomb for The Heath and put them five ahead once more.
Leon Holland added another point for The Heath from a close-range free after the lightning-quick Dylan Kavanagh was fouled running through. Arles-Kilcruise did reply through a Ross Munnelly free though after the Laois veteran did brilliantly to win the foul.
That proved to be the last score of the first half as referee Clifford Ward blew to signal half-time. The Heath had dominated that half of football and led on a scoreline of 0-8 to 0-3.
Despite being thoroughly outplayed in that opening half, Arles-Kilcruise were still far from gone from this football match. David Conway curled over a free to cut the deficit to just four points upon the restart.
Leon Holland hit back for The Heath for their first score of the half. Holland sold his man a brilliant dummy before running through and fisting over the crossbar.
After a five-minute period without a score following that, Neil Keane eventually added another for the Heath from a mark after a sublime pass from corner-back Brian Ging. The Heath now held a six-point cushion with twenty minutes of normal time remaining.
Arles-Kilcruise continued to get turned over by a well-drilled The Heath defense. Their danger men, Ross Munnelly and David Conway, were being well marshalled by The Heath backs Alan Whelan and Ciaran Booth respectively.
Holland was very clinical for The Heath down the opposite end. He tapped over a free before notching over a lovely curling effort to push his team’s lead out to eight points.
Arles-Kilcruise, as well all know, will never give up a fight. David Conway slammed over two points from placed balls to cut the gap back to six with ten minutes remaining. However, the match was put to bed in the fifty-second minute.
Jimmy Nerney saw his effort come back off the posts, but the ball rebounded back to substitute Chris Bergin. There was only going to be one outcome from there, as the experienced Bergin buried it past Jamie Coogan and into the net.
Arles-Kilcruise went in desperate search of goals at this stage, but The Heath’s defensive continued to triumph. David Conway and Ross Munnelly added a point apiece from frees, but The Heath cruised home to the Intermediate football title and promotion straight back to the top-flight of Laois football.
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