BALLINA dominated possession for long stretches of this game but their failure to make territorial superiority count in the early stages of either half meant that Shrule were always in with a fighting chance at McHale Park on Saturday evening.
Indeed, the South Mayo side, looking to reach consecutive county finals, made Ballina sweat in the final minutes and greater composure in advantageous positions might well have handed them the victory. That failing ultimately cost them a place in the last four. Having said all that though, Ballina certainly deserved their victory.
Both teams suffered from ring rustiness, hardly surprising given the lack of real competitive club football in the county this summer. Ballina lined out with their county contingent in place and the big surprise was the location of David Brady at full-forward. Brady’s conversion was not exactly ‘Donaghyesque’ but it had its moments and he was arguably the winner’s most influential player.
Shrule also had their county men back in their line-up, leading to some fascinating head-to-head battles around the field. Trevor Mortimer attempted to shackle Ger Brady while his elder brother, Kenneth, did the marking job on David. Conor Mortimer was picked up by Kenny Golden and the Stephenites man did a decent job, restricting him to one point from play. Mortimer must be such a frustrating player to play with and manage at times. Undoubtedly talented, he scored five points and was fouled for the penalty that led to Shrule’s goal, his contribution could have been so much greater had he had the nous to stay close to the Ballina goal in the closing stages. At that juncture, Shrule were chasing the game and winning plenty of ball but their most penetrative forward was out the field. How the Ballina defence must have breathed sighs of relief at such a sight.
As suggested earlier, Ballina were always the likely winners but they struggled to put their opponents away despite being well on top. Their tactic of hitting David Brady with plenty of early ball paid some dividends and he was involved in practically all of the scores that allowed the winners enjoy a five point lead with the opening half nearly up.
That lead could have been greater had Pat Harte goaled from a penalty kick when David Brady was fouled instead of putting the ball over the bar. That was his second of the game and added to efforts from Liam Brady (2) and Adrian Kelly, the North Mayo team looked comfortable at that stage.
Two minutes before the break any such illusions were shattered when Conor Mortimer managed to win a penalty when the referee Michael Daly deemed that Colm Leonard had fouled him. Mark Ronaldson buried it low past David Clarke to leave just two points in it at the interval.
An Adrian Kelly goal after another pass from David Brady kickstarted Ballina’s half after nine minutes. Allied to earlier scores from Pat Harte and Ronan McGarrity, Ballina led by six points and looked secure enough. But Shrule/Glencorrib, with James Lohan and David Geraghty gaining supremacy over a tiring Harte and McGarrity at midfield, battled their way back. Two points from Conor Mortimer and one from Mark Ronaldson left just three points in it with nearly ten minutes to play. The composure referred to earlier could have helped Shrule reduce the gap further but instead it was Ballina who finished the stronger and points from Pat Harte and Eanna Casey saw them ease five ahead.
Declan Ronaldson’s team did finish with further points from Dermot Geraghty and Kieran Conroy but by then the damage was done and Ballina were safely through. The winners finished the game with fourteen men after Kenny Golden was dismissed after picking up two yellow cards, the second for a rash foul on Conor Mortimer.
D Clarke; M Wynne, E Casey (0-1), K Golden; B Ruane, C Leonard, G Cafferkey; P Harte (0-5, 3f), R McGarrity (0-1); D Brady, G Brady, P McGarry; A Kelly (1-1), L Brady (0-3, 2f), S Melia. Subs used: R Campion for Kelly; S Hughes for Melia; P McHale for L Brady.
P Conroy; P Hyland, K Mortimer, Dermot Geraghty; R Walsh, T Mortimer, K Duffy; J Lohan, David Geraghty; D Walsh, K Walsh, K Conroy (0-1); C Mortimer (0-5, 4f), S Sweeney, M Ronaldson (1-1,1-0 pen). Subs.: L Garvey for Duffy; S Dowd for Garvey (inj); N Sullivan for K Walsh; E Ronaldson for D Walsh; D Murphy for S Sweeney.
Referee: M Daly (Ballyhaunis).
THE MAIN MAN
BallinaHe lined out at full-forward and was involved in most of the good things that Ballina produced. Laid on the goal, was fouled for the penalty, and gave the forward line the steel they required.