Castletown GAA ground where Ballinlough had their big win.

Ballinlough serve up sparkling display to take title

Susan Farrell

Ballinlough and Rathkenny/St.Mary’s met not quite half-way in Castletown on Saturday afternoon for the Division 5 MFC final.

The last time these sides met in the group stage the amalgamated side blitzed the Lough, recording 10 goals and 10 points in the process for a resounding victory, so one could be forgiven for assuming Ballinlough were entering this game as firm underdogs.

The young men from Ballinlough had different ideas though and proceeded to rip up the perceived script and put in the best performance of the year to silence the doubters and come home with the silverware.

Right from the opening minutes Ballinlough signalled their intent, assisted by a stiff breeze, when Ryan Corcoran pointed an early free before Jadan Mollison fired over a super point from play in the third minute.

Rathkenny/St.Mary’s hit back with two points from play to level the sides in the seventh minute. Another Ryan Corcoran free from a very tight angle restored Ballinlough’s lead before a Rathkenny/St.Mary’s free the other end levelled matters again.

With Ballinlough controlling midfield in the early stages they were causing a threat every time they strode forward with the ball, forcing the Rathkenny/St.Mary’s defenders into conceding frees, with the red hot Ryan Corcoran calmly making difficult kicks look easy as he stroked the ball over the bar once again in the 11th minute.

From the next play Ballinlough really exerted their dominance with Charlie Lynch pouncing on a poor kick out and sent a quick inch perfect pass into James Brooks, who kept his composure as he rounded the keeper and rolled the ball to the back of the net to roars of approval from the large Ballinlough support in attendance.

Charlie Lynch got on the scoreboard himself in the 18th minute when he made a barnstorming run before firing over the bar to give Ballinlough a five point lead.

A goal chance for Ballinlough was thwarted in the 21st minute but Ryan Corcoran did manage to salvage a point from the situation to extend the lead to six points and Corcoran was to be accurate again from the placed ball with a free in the 24th minute.

A Rathkenny/St.Mary’s point from a free gave them their first score in over fifteen minutes but it was quickly cancelled out when Luke Harte sauntered up the field from centre back and added his name to the scoresheet with a well taken point in the 26th minute.

Further points were traded with Ryan Corcoran adding his sixth point of the half and second from play in the 29th minute, before Rory Smith ensured Ballinlough would take an eight point lead into the break when he jinked past several defenders and while almost off balance still got enough power in his shot to lift the ball up and over the bar in the 30th minute.

So when Referee Paddy Clarke, who was as consistent and professional as ever, blew the half time whistle Ballinlough led on a score line of 1-10 to Rathkenny/St Mary’s 0-05.

The half time team talk for Ballinlough was clearly in stark contrast to the one being given to the Rathkenny/St Mary’s team on the other side of the field but whatever the Rathkenny/St.Mary’s mentors said had the desired effect as they came out of the blocks flying and bagged themselves a goal in the 32nd minute, Callum Reilly doing well to stop the initial shot but there was nothing he could do about the rebound as it landed in the back of the net.

The last time the sides met, an early second half goal resulted in the floodgates being opened as Rathkenny/St.Mary went to town hitting four more goals in quick succession to blow Ballinlough away so there was a real danger of history repeating itself in Castletown.

But credit to the Ballinlough players who refused to entertain that notion and collectively stepped up their efforts to ensure there was not going to be any way back into the game for the opposition yesterday.

Rory Smith was unlucky to see his goal effort come pounding back towards him off the crossbar in the 33rd minute but despite not getting the goal Ballinlough did take the next three points with Ryan Corcoran(2) and Dan O’Brien combining perfectly to restore Ballinlough’s eight point lead.

Another goal chance went a begging when Dan O’Briens effort was cleared off the goal line but it was only a brief respite for Rathkenny/St.Mary’s as a Séan McDonnell point effort dropped short, with the keeper fumbling possession and James Brooks was on hand to poke the ball to the back of the net in the 41st minute.

While the Ballinlough forwards were scoring at one end their defenders were doing an outstanding job at keeping Rathkenny/St.Mary’s out at the other end with Paddy White in particular being rock solid at full back, ably assisted by his u-13 teammates Jack McDonnell and Evan Connell, while Luke Harte, Philip Daly and Robert O’Brien provided the links from defence to attack time and time again.

A Rathkenny/St.Mary’s point in the 44th minute lowered the deficit ever so slightly but Ballinlough were still in flying form and driven on by Captain Fantastic Rory Smith he added two more points from play, one off the left and one superb effort in the 49th minute to leave 12 points between the sides.

With time running out on the clock, for the first time all afternoon Ballinlough began to take the foot off the gas and allowed Rathkenny/St.Mary’s to finish with a bit of a flourish as they added four late points in the last ten minutes, but there was only ever going to be one winner today as Ballinlough held on to record an eight point victory on a score line of 2-15 to Rathkenny/St.Mary’s 1-10.

Cue scenes of unbridled joy from the Ballinlough Faithful as the rain began to pour, the tears of happiness came spilling out too for a group of young men who never in their wildest dreams could have imagined they would emerge at the top of the pile in what was a very competitive and tough Championship throughout.

There was still time for one final touching and greatly appreciated gesture when it came to presenting the shield to the winning Captain, as Minor County Board Secretary Brian Kelly graciously handed over the honour of presenting the Shield to Ballinlough’s No.1 Supporter Tom Lynch.

With that it was back to the clubhouse in Ballinlough for food and revelry before bed while one or two of the mentors may have carried on the party a-bit later into the night.

Ballinlough - C.Reilly, J.McDonnell, P.White, E.Connell, P.Daly, L.Harte(0-01), R.O’Brien, C.Lynch(0-01), J.Mollison(0-01), S.McDonnell, R.Smith(0-03), D.O’Brien(0-01), J.Brooks(2-00), R.Corcoran(0-08(5f)), J.Duffy

Subs - C.Tunney for D.O’Brien 57, L.McKeon for J.Brooks 58’