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County Final Memory: The Heath get the better of Emo in 1974

The Heath team that won the Laois SFC final in 1974

The Heath 0-8 Emo 0-7
1974 Laois SFC Final

“Pure grit is hard to beat,” read the opening line of the Nationalist match report in 1974 after The Heath had ended a 12-year wait since their last Laois SFC triumph.

And they did so in thrilling fashion, beating their neighbours Emo by a point after a replay.

“The Heath had more than their fair share of grit when they captured their 10th championship – and their first since 1962 – by pipping the ’72 title holders Emo in a pulsating final replay,” added Paul Donaghy’s report which referenced an “electrifying second half”.

“The new champions had to survive severe Emo pressure, which in fact threatened to engulf them several times.”

In what was a well-balanced era of Laois football, The Heath had lost the 1971 final to Portlaoise while Emo had won their first title in 1972 when they beat Graiguecullen before St Joseph’s got their breakthrough win in 1973 by beating Timahoe.

Emo duly knocked St Joseph’s out early in 1974, before beating a Stradbally side that had needed three games to beat Timahoe.

On the other side of the draw, The Heath booked their place in the final thanks to wins over Graigue and Arles after a replay.

And The Heath v Emo was a novel final, one laced with local rivalry. Not only were the clubs right on top of each other but many of the players had played underage together and won championships on the same team when Emo won back-to-back minor titles in 1964-65.

And in what was a real season for draws, the final needed a replay as well after Jimmy Dowling scored a late equaliser at the first time of asking.

Two weeks later and on the last Sunday in October the sides met again.

With a strong wind, The Heath raced into a 0-8 to 0-2 lead at the break. Leading the way in the scoring stakes for The Heath was Denis Booth. After scoring 1-3 of The Heath’s 1-5 in the drawn game, he scored four of their eight points in the replay, leading the Nationalist to describe him as “a real match winner”.

“Apart from his four points from frees – one from 51 yards – he infused a winning spirit into the side.

“Men like Mattie Hyland, who played a glorious first half, Jack Hyland and the elusive Murt Treacy needed no encouragement to snatch what chances came their way.”

Emo slowly but surely eat into the six-point lead throughout the second half as The Heath failed to score again and hung on defiantly.

The Emo team that played The Heath in the 1974 Laois SFC final

“It was not the wind which swung the game slightly in Emo’s favour in the second period, but rather a desperation which compelled them to increase their effort,” went the match report.

“However, when they did, The Heath were prepared and rose to the challenge.” The solid Heath defence was praised with Michael Hyland, Andy Lambe, Mark Delaney and Richard Booth praised for their efforts.

In the almost 50 years since, The Heath have reached just other final – when they beat Ballyroan in a replay in 1993 – while Emo have lost finals in 1986, 1994, 2004 and 2015.

How the Nationalist reported the game

SCORERS – The Heath: Denis Booth 0-4, Jackie Hyland 0-3, Michael Treacy 0-1. Emo: Tony Byrne 0-4, Frank Walsh 0-1, Johnny Lawlor 0-1, Michael Nerney 0-1

THE HEATH: Sean Whelan; Michael Hyland, Andy Lambe, John Ging; Richard Booth, Mark Delaney, Peter Ging; Matt Bergin, Seamus Doran; Matt Hyland, Jackie Hyland, Dar Whelan; Paddy Ging, Denis Booth, Murt Treacy.

EMO: Brian Fenlon; Eddie Bailey, Paddy Lawlor, Pat Treacy; Frank Walsh, Gabriel Lawlor, Christy Wheeler; Tom Dowling, Jimmy Dowling; Johnny Lawlor, Arthur McCloskey, Pat Brophy; Tony Byrne, Brian Lawlor, Michael Nerney. Subs: Eamon Mulhall for T Dowling, Christy O’Connor for B Lawlor

REFEREE: Brendan Byrne (Ballylinan)

SEE ALSO – Check out more from our County Final Memory series here