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Champions stumble over first hurdle

Sport

 

Breaffy House Resort Mayo Senior Championship

Champions stumble over first hurdle

SFC Section A
Crossmolina     0-8
Ballinrobe     0-6

Edwin McGreal
Flanagan Park

IN time they might say that the result, and not the performance, was what was important but in the immediate aftermath of this scarcely deserved win Crossmolina will have to ask serious questions of themselves.
The defending county champions stumbled past Ballinrobe last Saturday evening and left no real calling card of their intent to retain the Moclair Cup. Fifteen wides were accrued during the course of the game and for long spells of the second half Crossmolina looked in real danger of slipping up. Had the hosts a small bit more ability in front of goal there is little doubting they would have taken the two points on offer. Only three moments of pure class from Ciaran McDonald in the final quarter, after a poor display to that stage, put Cross’ clear.
Ballinrobe will take great heart from their performance and every unit of their team, save for the one closest to Paul O’Donnell’s goal, functioned as well as they could have expected. However, they carried no threat inside and for all their undoubted industry, neither Keith McTigue nor Adrian Flannery ever looked like troubling Crossmolina.
The first period was one dominated by the Deel Rovers yet they went in level at the break. Eight wides were kicked, two of which were goalscoring chances – for McDonald and Paul McGuinness – while all bar one were from imminently scoreable positions.
    There were only 95 seconds gone when McDonald got Crossmolina off the mark with a free after Stephen Rochford was fouled. The last-named turned over possession soon afterwards to Ronan Macken who set up Declan Costello who in turn placed David Killeen to point well from forty yards.
McDonald (after Rochford was fouled again) and James O’Malley (after Macken was fouled) exchanged frees while Ballinrobe, economical with their first half chances, took the lead after Mark Walkin took on and beat Declan Keating before fisting over a superb score.
Gabriel Walsh fielded well to place Joe Keane for the equaliser while his midfield partner, Henry McLoughlin, whose influence was growing, played the leading role in placing McDonald for a rare point off his right foot.
Injury time saw Maurice Horan set up Walkin for the equaliser and as Ballinrobe went in at the break there was a realisation that this game was there for the taking.

The third quarter of the game saw the homeside go for it in every way but on the scoreboard. Colm Jennings, Declan Costello and David Killeen excelled at the back while the industry of players like Mark Walkin, Ruairí Keane, James O’Malley and Ronan Macken (prior to his withdrawal) had Ballinrobe on top. A converted free from Horan after O’Malley was hauled to the ground had them deservedly in front five minutes into the second half. However, for all their dominance, that would be Ballinrobe’s second last score, their last coming three minutes into injury time 28 minutes later. Brian Benson equalised for Cross’ after good graft from Joe Keane but Ballinrobe were still on top. A bad wide from Maurice Horan, a long range effort from David Killeen which rebounded off the post and poor turnovers from McTigue and Mark Walkin meant the ‘Robe could not retake the lead. When a touch of class was needed McDonald obliged. With eight minutes remaining he fielded a James Nallen free, drove to the left and pointed superbly from a tightening angle. He followed that up with a well converted ’45, in itself a rarity, after James Nallen’s goalbound effort was deflected wide by Paul Tiernan. Nallen provided his third consecutive assist for McDonald in injury-time and Crossmolina were home and hosed. James O’Malley converted a late free from distance to narrow the gap to two but Crossmolina had done enough. Just.

The main man
James Nallen Crossmolina
McDonald may have provided the scores late on but Nallen was consistently good at everything he did throughout. Also provided the three crucial assists at the end.

Crossmolina
P O’Donnell; J O’Boyle, T Nallen, D Syron; P Gardiner, J Nallen, D Keating; G Walsh, H McLoughlin; P McGuinness, C McDonald (0-6, 2fs, 1 ’45), S Rochford; L Moffatt, J Keane (0-1), B Benson (0-1). Sub: E Lavelle for Rochford (54mins).
Ballinrobe
P Tiernan; P Costello, P Finnerty, C Jennings; D Costello, D Killeen (0-1), M Feeney; S Grimes, R Macken; M Walkin (0-2), M Horan (0-1, f), J O’Malley (0-2, 2fs); R Keane, A Flannery, K McTigue. Subs: T Walkin for McTigue (48mins), K Sheridan for Macken (inj 56mins), K Murphy for Flannery (60mins).

Referee: V Neary (Bonniconlon).

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