SFC Section 4
THEY haven’t gone away you know.
Despite getting their campaign off to the worst possible start, the Stephenites are back in the quarter-finals, as group winners. And on the evidence of this impressive show of strength last Sunday afternoon they will be formidable opponents in the knock-out stages.
Any analysis of Ballina’s victory, however, needs to be done in the context of a very disappointing show by Claremorris as they flattered to deceive, yet again, when the chips were down.
Consider these statistics as proof of the Claremorris capitulation; they managed only one point in the first half (from a free), scored a total of four points from play, and allowed Ballina to rack up 1-10 from play at the other end.
On paper Brendan French’s side lost out on a place in the quarter-finals on scoring difference (by seven points). But, in reality, they were a long way off the mark after putting in a lethargic, disjointed display.
Ballina, on the other hand, couldn’t have been much more impressive.
With Ronan McGarrity the master of all he surveyed in the first half at midfield, the Stephenites bossed the game and deservedly led by 0-7 to 0-1 at the interval.
Ger Cafferkey had tied down Claremorris full-forward Ger Brady, Austin O’Toole proved an excellent foil for McGarrity, and a plentiful supply of ball meant that Ballina’s potent attack were always on the prowl for scores.
Liam Brady (3), Evan Regan (free), Stephen Hughes, Pat Harte and Ger Brady posted the first half points with Patrick ‘Gazza’ McHale helping to direct operations from the half-forward line.
However, it was McGarrity who dictated the pace and tempo of Ballina’s game-plan and his industry and craft would certainly have caught the eye of watching Mayo selector Tom Prendergast.
The only Claremorris contribution to the scoreboard came from a James Shaughnessy free after five minutes as the locals failed miserably to break down an organised and very disciplined Ballina backline.
A fisted point from Shane Prendergast after the restart suggested that Claremorris might try and make a game of it but Ballina quickly put any ideas of a revival to bed.
McGarrity swung over a trademark, spectacular point from the right wing before Liam Brady did likewise on the left-hand side soon after. It was one of those days.
The illusion of a contest was ended on 43 minutes when Austin O’Toole’s strong run down the middle ended when he was pulled down in the square.
The wily Stephen Hughes smacked the resultant penalty past Brendan English in the Claremorris goal and the show was over. It was 1-10 to 0-3.
Mayo minor Evan Regan then nailed his third point of the day to extend Ballina’s advantage before Claremorris midfielder Liam Feeley countered with a couple of defiant scores.
They were merely footnotes to the result though as John Healy ran the Ballina bench (and also brought himself on in the closing stages to replace the injured David Clarke).
The rout was completed in injury-time when Scott Kinevan, a lively substitute, fired in a second goal to seal the deal.
D Clarke; S Melia, G Cafferkey, D O’Mahoney; B Ruane, A Tighe, T Doherty; A O’Toole, R McGarrity (0-1); G Brady (0-1), P Harte (0-1), P McHale (0-1); E Regan (0-3, 2fs), L Brady (0-4, 1f), S Hughes (1-1, 1-0pen).
Subs used: P McGarry for G Brady; S Kinevan (1-0) for McGarrity; C Leonard (0-1) for O’Toole; L Healy for Ruane; J Healy for Clarke (inj).
B English; B Fahy, V Walsh, J Broderick; D Griffith, A Feeley, P Ring; B Gallagher, L Feeley (0-2); Shane Prendergast (0-1), Seán Prendergast, R Quirke; J Shaughnessy (0-2, 1f), G Brady, D Feeley.
Subs used: D Egan for Walsh; C Griffith for Brady; T Griffin for D Feeley; J Hutton (0-1, 1f) for Shane Prendergast.
Referee: M Daly (Ballyhaunis)