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Stradbally Rise

STRADBALLY stormed to the top of the CCFL Division One table with a comeback victory over Shinrone yesterday.

Two second half goals gave Town the three points which saw them leapfrog Derry Rovers, Ballinahown and Gallen United to the summit.

The manner in which Stradbally approached the second half has to be applauded as they were richly rewarded for a new sense of purpose which had been largely absent before the interval whistle.

Shinrone, seeking the victory which would have also seen them climb to the top of a very tight division, took a very early lead.

There were only 68 seconds gone when referee Alan Dunne glanced at his watch when John Bevans opened the scoring by heading a Michael Cordial free kick past Robbie Moore into the Stradbally net.

The only consolation from conceding a goal so soon in any match is that there is ample time to muster a reply but in this contest at the Lawn in Stradbally, it was Shinrone who should have increased their lead.

Darren O'Meara and Anthony Deane both spurned decent opportunities and the visitors should have been more comfortable at the break.

Equally, Shinrone will have been all too aware that they had already lost to Stradbally in the league this season and had surrendered points when in winning positions against both Gallen and Killeigh Ramblers.

Stradbally looked a far more potent outfit when play resumed and swept forward quickly in the opening minutes. They were rewarded seven minutes after the restart when Derek Gorman located Colin Beale and he shot home from inside the box, though in truth the Shinrone defence gave both players too much time to size up their options.

Shinrone conceded again when in the 63rd minute Beale found himself eight yards out and virtually lying on the turf but he somehow managed to push the ball over the line from an awkward position.

Shinrone did not give in and in Derek McLoughlin they have a midfielder well capable of spraying the ball around effectively to get attacks moving and Stradbally had to be vigilant at all times.

One such ball saw him find O'Meara but the Shinrone man shot wide and the south Offaly side then decided to alter their formation, leaving Aaron Kirwan, Michael Cordial and Donal Morkan at the back with substitute Mike Holland as a screen in front of them.

With Podge Fitzpatrick and Derek Gorman enjoying a reasonable amount of space, Stradbally were able to control the game for spells and looked safe when they forced two late corners.

But in the 92nd minute they had a narrow escape when McLoughlin crossed for O'Meara to knock the ball in the net only for Dunne to signal offside against the man who made the assist.

Then just before the final whistle Stradbally gave the ball away in their own half on the left flank and Shinrone worked it into the box where McLoughlin had a gilt-edged opportunity to level but he angled his shot too far to the right and saw it go wide.

STRADBALLY TOWN: Robbie Moore; Dan Dunne, Alan Delaney, Steven Buggy, Ger Byrne, Damien Murphy, David Power, Justin Lawlor, Colin Beale, Derek Gorman, Podge Fitzpatrick. SUB: Mark Gannon for Dan Dunne (46 mins).

SHINRONE UTD: Conor Doughan; Shane Hoctor, Aaron Kirwan, Michael Cordial, Donal Morkan, Jamie Byrne, Michael Whyte, John Bevans, Darren O'Meara, Derek McLoughlin, Anthony Deane. SUBS: David Downey for Anthony Deane (56 mins), Mike Holland for Shane Hoctor (68 mins), Daniel Doughan for Michael Whyte (80 mins).

REFEREE: Alan Dunne (Offaly Branch).