Ballagh’ make breakthrough as Charlestown fail final test
FINALLY they came of age. All the pain and loneliness of losing those past few years finally melted in thirty minutes of excellence at McHale Park when Ballaghaderreen at last fulfilled their promise.
Into those thirty opening minutes they packed all of their collective talents, building a lead which they spent almost all of the second thirty minutes defending.
It all added up to a throbbing finale as Charlestown bravely came to grips with their dilemma, and stripped a nine-point deficit back to four. But just when they seemed poised to deliver a knockout blow they blew it with inexcusable wastage.
No one at half-time expected it would come to that. Ballaghaderreen’s determination to make full use of the gale that favoured them had created a winning foundation. And Charlestown could only watch and wonder . . . until their turn came after the break. By then it looked too late.
Barely five seconds had passed when Barry Regan availed of the first kick of the game, by Barry Kelly, to snap the opening point. Charlestown’s Richard Haran replied from a free three minutes later. That was as close as they came.
Rapidly, the gap widened. More to the point, Ballagh’ had started with greater conviction than at any point in their qualifying games. For a change they won the breaks at midfield. And when Charlestown did work the ball forward they were faced with the gritty, tenacious defending of Stephen Drake, Pearse Hanley and Gary Conway.
By the time Richard Haran had Charlestown’s second point in the 10th minute, Conway, Kelly and Michael Solan had brought Ballagh’s pile to five. But it was in the following sixteen minutes they turned the screw fully with a flurry of unanswered points, one from Andy Hanley, the other five from the accurate boot of Barry Regan.
The burly Regan was their talisman in the first half. Four of his six points came from frees. But Michael Solan, Barry Kelly, and Andy Moran were also devastatingly effective. The work rate of the team in general left Charlestown wondering how on earth to rescue the game. Trailing by 0-11 to 0-2 at the interval they were set a mammoth task.
The second half was no more than two minutes old when Andy Moran stretched that deficit to ten points against the strong, swirling, tricky wind. And no sooner had Paul Mulligan grabbed Charlestown’s third point than lively substitute Peter Kelly replied with Ballagh’s thirteenth . . . in the 35th minute.
But that was to be their last score. From that moment on Ballagh’ were forced to defend with every fibre as Charlestown at last found their attacking rhythm.
They used the wind to good effect with long, high ball into the heart of the Ballagh defence. It made for a great duel between Stephen Drake and full-forward Tony Mulligan. For the first time also the tactic threatened to destabilise the Ballagh defence.
Tom Parsons came good at midfield. David Caffrey, Dermot Higgins and Kevin Deignan made inroads into the Ballagh’ defence. Haran bagged two points from frees and Dermot Higgins another. And when Paul Mulligan poked the ball to the net, Tom Parson’s high centre having spilled away from Ollie Flanagan, the lead was down to a manageable four points.
That goal came ten minutes from the end. And for the first time in the game, the mental strength of Ballaghaderreen was under a rigorous test. They held out thanks to the great work of Drake, Conway, Thomas Regan, Pearse Hanley and Noel Tuohy.
But it was the unstinting assistance they received from Barry Kelly, who played himself to a standstill in those final minutes, that saved the day for them. It was Kelly’s finest hour.
Yet Charlestown contributed to their own downfall with some awful misses in the last minutes. Frees they would normally convert with closed eyes were carelessly squandered by Paul Mulligan, Ollie Conway, David Tiernan and Dermot Higgins. They had the chances to force a draw. In the end it was they, not Ballaghaderreen, who panicked.
O Flanagan; S Drake, P Rogers, T Regan; N Tuohy, P Hanley, G Conway (0-1); B Kelly (0-2), J Kilcullen; M Solan (0-1), B Solan, A Hanley (0-1); A Moran (0-1), B Regan (0-6,4fs), J Dillon.
Subs used: P Kelly (0-1) for B Solan; G Conway for M Solan; D Drake for P Kelly.
J Casey; E Casey, S Lenehan, D Caffrey; D Higgins (0-1), A Higgins, K Deignan; D Tiernan, T Parsons; R Haran (0-4, 4fs), M Caffrey, P Mulligan (1-1); O Conway, T Mulligan, S Morris.
Subs used: R Lenehan for Morris; M Divilly for E Casey; B O’Connell for R Lenehan.
Referee: C Collins (Lacken)