ALL TOGETHER NOW Ballinrobe captain Kenneth O'Malley (left) and injured colleague, Shane Biggins, lift the Mayo U-21 B Championship trophy together last Saturday evening. Mayo GAA Bord na nÓg Chairman, Mike Connelly, watches on.?
Pic: Michael McLaughln
Goals ruin Charlestown’s dream
CHARLESTOWN’S dream died in a hail of goals scored during an eight-minute blitz by Ballina Stephenites. The goals came as planned, with the Bradys at the heart of each. Once David took up position at full-forward thoughts of his goals against Ballaghaderreen were revisited. But few expected a repetition of similar devastation on Sunday.
Unlike Ballaghaderreen, Charlestown had been forewarned of Brady’s latent danger as a full-forward. They must have known that his selection at midfield was fooling nobody and that the big man would take up position in front of their goal with all the danger his physical strength entailed.
In fairness to him Sean Lenehan handled the big man competently throughout the first half. A murmur of anticipation swept through the 4,000 strong attendance whenever a ball was lobbed towards the full-forward, but against a vigilant defence Brady found no easy passage to goal. A snap shot earned him a point, the sum of his efforts, and Charlestown could feel pleased at the end of the half with a job well done.
Nor had Ballina in general shown any sign in that first half of the transformation to come. Paul McGarry had found little support for his industry around the middle of the field and portents of their return to the languor of earlier rounds were not confined to neutrals.
All of the good football had been played by Charlestown. They had proceeded to dismantle every argument about Ballina’s advantage in experience and expertise. After McGarry had the opening point, the men from the east assumed control, and for nineteen minutes Ballina were restricted to that single score while Charlestown systematically built a lead of five.
Much of their success stemmed from their halfback line, especially wingers Dermot Higgins and Kevin Deignan. Even at midfield where Ronan McGarrity and Pat Harte were expected to dominate, David Tiernan and Tom Parsons were balancing the exchanges.
McGarrity was targeted for some rough tactics and Tiernan, already booked, was fortunate not to have escaped the wrath of referee Martin Murphy, whose handling of the game in general was excellent. Wisely, the Charlestown officials called their fiery midfielder to the line for the remainder of the half, and having cooled down they restored him to midfield at the break.
Tiernan’s solid performance was missed during his absence, and Ballina, mainly through the unstinting work of McGarry, got a foothold that was the key to their goals in the second half.
It was Charlestown, however, that created all the good football in the first half. Ballina never once engineered a score with the flourish and skill of the losers’ first point. Paul Mulligan was involved and David Caffrey before Deignan took a pass and split the defence with a lightening run providing space for Ollie Conway to grab the score.
There was conviction in their play, an authority that must have pinched Ballina’s complacency. When Ger Brady did finally break through, after evading a number of tackles, to clip their second point in the 19th minute, Tony Mulligan’s response was emphatic. In the final minutes of the half David and Ger Brady cut the lead to three points, and even though John Casey was forced into two brilliant reflex saves early on, the Ballina gloom had not lifted at half-time.
The collapse of Charlestown’s dream came without warning. Dermot Higgins had just responded to Paul McGarry's opening point of the second half, with an inspiring run up the right wing and an elegant point when McGarry, popping up all over the field, fired the ball high and measured towards the goal.
It was the ideal centre for David Brady and he grabbed it tightly despite close attention from Sean Lenehan. Brady fell in the process and the defence seemed to have all avenues closed off. But he found a gap and through it moved the ball swiftly to his brother Ger who had escaped the attentions of the defence and found himself face to face with John Casey in the Charlestown goal. Even for a man given to erratic kicking there could only have been one result . . . and for the first time Ballina scented hope.
McGarry and the third Brady brother, Liam, were involved in the second goal while Charlestown were still reeling from the first, still trying to pick up the pieces. From Liam the ball came in a low trajectory. David followed its flight and guided it in under the crossbar, his greater physical strength impossible for a despairing defence to check.
David was also at the centre of Ballina's third goal two minutes later when he grabbed the broken ball and set up brother Liam for the pass to the unmarked Stephen Hughes to finish, and with it to finish off Charlestown’s hopes.
It was a tough lesson and a perfect example of the advantage of having strength in the vital positions on every team. All of Charlestown’s quality football was lost under the weight of those three goals carved from the muscle of David Brady.
Just as Kerry discovered the value of a big full-forward at a time when they were struggling last year, Ballina finally unearthed the dormant qualities of David Brady as a full-forward. Only when they found themselves floundering a little at midfield in the semi-final did they call on the big man to lead the attack, and now past Mayo managers must be asking themselves why had they not thought of it.
Yet his success on Sunday would not have been possible without the diligence of Paul McGarry in providing the opportunities for the Bradys. No one gave more to Ballina’s victory than their redoubtable centre half-forward who occupied the full-forward berth in the heyday of All-Ireland success. When they were searching for leadership on Sunday it was McGarry who supplied it.
His support for midfield ensured that Ronan McGarrity and Pat Harte edged ahead of David Tiernan and Tom Parsons, and he was also back in defence complementing the stable work of Colm Leonard, Martin Wynne, Enda Devanney and their best back, Kenny Golden.
A month ago we did not predict a county title for Ballina. Now we are wondering whether they are good enough to recapture the Connacht title. There were no embellishments to their game. They played it simply . . . hoof the ball in to Brady, and the full-forward will do the rest.
Charlestown did not abandon their system even amid the turmoil which the goals had created. They stuck with it constructively and bravely to the end, Enda Casey, Kevin Deignan, Richard Haran and the Higgins and Mulligan brothers, continuing to take the game to Ballina.
Paul Mulligan hit back with a point from a free after Ballina’s third goal and a minute later Tony Mulligan was unfortunate with a shot that glanced back off an upright. A goal them might have acted as a rallying call. They got enough points back to cause concern to Ballina but time was against them.
End justifies the means for gritty Ballintubber
THEIR win by a single point in injury time will compensate Ballintubber for the unexpected defeat of their minors and U-21s. A last minute point by substitute Kevin McGuinness denied Kiltimagh the chance of a replay after they had drawn level as normal time ran out.
It was not a game that will stick in the memory. Heavy rain during the first half made conditions difficult for the players and good football became impossible. Not even the excitement of the last few minutes when Kiltimagh wiped out a deficit of two points, and McGuinness grabbed the late winner could cover over earlier mistakes. But Ballintubber will have no regrets. They have worked hard for the title, and they will adorn the senior ranks.