Spectators flocked to Stradbally on Friday evening to witness the start of these respective side’s Championship campaigns, as St Joseph’s claimed victory over O’Dempsey’s on a margin of five points to progress in this year’s Championship.
St Joseph’s 1-13
After trading scores with O’Dempsey’s throughout the first-half, St Joseph’s blasted their way into an eight point lead before the break with a whirlwind scoring blitz and that laid the platform for them to go on and claim victory.
With less than a minute played the game suffered its first casualty in that of former All-Star and Laois footballer, Joe Higgins. The St Joseph’s clubman rose to claim a high ball, but unfortunately fell awkwardly on his way down and was forced-off with a suspected elbow injury. Higgins has been plagued by injuries in the past, and having just shaken off a recurring shoulder problem this latest injury will come as a huge blow to both St Joseph’s and to Joe himself.
The game resumed after a lengthy pause, but the first score of the day arrived shortly after. With seven minutes on the clock St Joseph’s opened the scoring through centre-back Liam Kealy, as he roamed up the pitch to get on the end of some intelligent build-up play and split the posts for the first point.
St Joseph’s continued to heap the pressure on O’Dempsey’s, and two points from Dan Dunne, one of which was an excellently struck long-range free, gave St Joseph’s a deserved early three point lead.
In what was a sluggish start from O’Dempsey’s, they finally opened their account with fifteen minutes on the clock. Stephen O’Leary’s incisive run resulted in a foul in the square, leaving referee Eamon Strong with no choice but to award the penalty. Having won the penalty himself, O’Leary stepped up to the spot and made no mistake as buried the ball into the corner of the net to level the game.
Despite their early dominance, St Joseph’s found themselves on par with the opposition following the penalty, and then completely against the run of play, O’Dempsey’s stormed into the lead for the first time on the day through a Stephen O’Leary free after eighteen minutes.
St Joseph’s responded in typical fashion and capitalised on their early dominance. With twenty minutes on the clock, Enda Butler, who is home visiting from Australia and is due to return next week, converted a difficult free for Joseph’s before the game was to swing in their favour.
A cleverly-taken quick free from St Joseph’s caught O’Dempsey’s off-guard, gifting Matty Campion with the opportunity on goal. Campion made a direct run towards the posts and unleashed a blistering shot that rifled off the crossbar and into the net to open a four point gap between the sides.
Joseph’s continued to attack, and were duly rewarded as they racked up a further five points through Jason Campion (2), Matty Campion, David Brennan, and Liam Kealy who had opened the scoring, then closed out the half with his second point of the day leaving St Joseph’s with an eight point advantage at the break.
O’Dempsey’s emerged for the second half fully aware of the task ahead of them, and after just twenty seconds they had rattled the crossbar. Direct from the throw-in, Brian Behan charged forward and unleashed a rasping shot that unfortunately rebounded straight to a St Joseph’s player, but signaled their intentions for the half to come.
O’Dempsey’s claimed the first score of the half through Brian Nugent with a little over a minute played, and it was Nugent again who claimed the next point with his second free of the half as the O’Dempsey’s comeback gained momentum.
Dan Dunne briefly interrupted the O’Dempsey’s fightback with his third point of the evening to restore a seven point cushion for St Joseph’s, but it wasn’t to last long as O’Dempsey’s continued to chisel away at the Joseph’s lead with points from Eddie Kelly and Brian Meredith.
Kevin Campion and David Brennan tagged on points for St Joseph’s, before Brian Nugent converted his third free of the half to leave six points between the sides. Peter O’Leary ventured forward with ten minutes remaining, but could only watch as his sizzling shot trailed wide.
Late points from Stephen and Peter O’Leary added to the referee’s scorecard, but the result had been sealed minutes earlier when Dan Dunne slotted his fourth point with another long range free as Joseph’s ran out five point victors.
Scorers – St Joseph’s: Mattie Campion 1-1, 0-1f; Dan Dunne 0-4, 0-2f; Jason Campion, Liam Kealy and David Brennan 0-2 each; Enda Butler (f) and Kevin Campion 0-1 each. O’Dempsey’s: Stephen O’Leary 1-2f; Brian Nugent 0-3f; Eddie Kelly, Brian Meredith and Peter O’Leary 0-1 each.
St Joseph’s : Dermot Kelly; Ian Donnelly, Martin Reilly, Tony Campion; Murtagh Condron, Liam Kealy, Kevin Campion; Brian Brennan, Noel Garvan; Enda Butler, Joe Higgins, Matty Campion; Dan Dunne, David Brennan, Jason Campion. Subs: Adam Campion for Joe Higgins; PJ Rowan for David Brennan.
O’Dempsey’s: Padraig Bannon; Bobby Sweeney, John Paul Kehoe, Conor Kavanagh; Ciaran Haberlin, Robbie Kehoe, Peter O’Leary; Brian Behan, Rory Bracken; Liam Finlay, Brian Meredith, Darren Finlay; Stephen O’Leary, Eddie Kelly, Brian Nugent. Subs: Eoghan O’Hora for Conor Kavanagh; Paddy Hyland for Brian Behan.
Referee: Eamon Strong
See this week’s Leinster Express for full reports on all the first round games in the Laois Senior Football Championship