BALLAGH’ snatched a dramatic victory over Charlestown in a passionately contested quarter-final at Ballyhaunis on Sunday. For long spells this game appeared destined to end on level terms and the teams were dead-locked as the game moved into time added on. But two terrific points from Barry Regan and another from Michael Solan pushed Ballagh’ beyond the reach of their neighbours and saw them book a place in the semi-final against Knockmore.
After Ballaghaderreen hit the front in the early stages with scores form Maurice O’Gara and Derek Moran, a point from a free by Martin Mulvaney steadied the Charlestown challenge and they drew level after Michael Divilly hit a good point following nice approach play by Mark Caffrey and Mulvaney.
Regan and Mulvaney exchanged points before Charlestown began to show well and Tom Parsons placed Sean Higgins for the point that edged them ahead for the first time in the game. Richard Haran kicked two points from frees, one a spectacular long range effort, to move them three clear.
The dogged and consistent work of Stephen Drake in the Ballagh’ half-back line yielded fruit just before the interval when he won good possession before finding Barry Regan whose fine delivery to Andy Moran saw the Mayo player kick a good point which left the half-time score at 0-6 to 0-4 in favour of Charlestown.
There was a new sense of urgency to their play and they sprinkled the ball around in liberal fashion and drew level after two sweet strikes by Barry Regan and Pearse Hanley. Hanley made an immediate impact on his introduction and was to become a central player as the second half unfolded.
The effective Richard Haran converted a free as Charlestown nosed in front again. There followed a period of intense play over the next eight minutes as both sides strove to gain the decisive advantage. And when Richie Haran kicked a superb point for Charlestown following an exquisite long range pass from Kevin Deignan, and at a time when David Tiernan, Dermot Higgins, Ray Lenehan, Mark Caffrey and Aiden Higgins were leading a strong push for the Sligo border lads, the pendulum appeared to have swung slightly in their favour.
A towering point from Andy Hanley, a rallying score of the finest calibre, ignited the Ballaghaderreen spirit again. Some superb play by the excellent James Kilcullen, whose high fielding was superb, and good work by Barry Kelly helped Ballagh’ in a special way in those closing minutes.
Five minutes from the end of normal time, Pearse Hanley cut through the Charlestown defence only to see his pile-driver crash back off the crossbar. But Barry Regan, alert as ever, availed of the chance to shoot the equaliser.
The same two players were involved in the score that saw Ballagh’ edge ahead with Hanley providing the pass for Regan to hit the target again. Their tails were up at this stage and Regan, finishing majestically, kicked a marvellous point, and Michael Solan, not to be outdone, repeated the effort with another class score a minute later. Charlestown never gave up the fight but a point from a free by Richard Haran was to be their final score in the 2006 championship.
Barry Regan was an inspirational player for Ballaghaderreen and apart from his match winning scores near the end was a central figure throughout the encounter. Stephen Drake was rock solid in the half-back line, showing powerful commitment at all times, while Thomas Regan was highly effective at corner back. Jimmy Kilcullen, Barry Kelly, Andy Hanley, Michael Solan, Joe McCann and Pearse Hanley were others to shine for the winners.
Charlestown’s brave hearts were two points clear entering the final ten minutes before being caught in the late Ballaghaderreen whirlwind. Richard Haran had a fine game for Charlestown .
O Flanagan; J McCann, D McGarry, T Regan; S Drake, D Kilcullen, G Conway; B Kelly, J Kilcullen; A Hanley (0-1), D Moran (0-1), M Solan (0-1); A Moran (0-1), B Regan (0-5), M O’Gara (0-1). Subs used: P Hanley (0-1) for D Moran, K Cunniffe for D Kilcullen (inj), B Solan for M O’Gara.
D Sloyan; S Lenehan, R Lenehan, K Duignan; B O’Connell, A Higgins, D Higgins; D Tiernan, A Mulligan; M Caffrey, M Mulvaney (0-2), T Parsons; M Divilly (0-1), R Haren (0-5), S Higgins (0-1). Subs used: P Mulligan for S Higgins, B Quinn for M Divilly.
Referee: D Corcoran (Islandeady).
THE MAIN MAN
He showed a touch of class and his three late points from play were crucial. His overall contribution to the game was excellent.