TOO LITTLE, TOO LATE Ballina’s David Brady acknowledges his team’s late goal against Nemo Rangers at Cusack Park, Ennis last Sunday. Pic: Sportsfile
Stephenites find Nemo too good
IF this performance is perceived across the country as the epitome of Mayo’s football health, our adversaries will be smiling to themselves today.
That goal in the dying seconds by Enda Devenney cannot mask the anaemic opposition Ballina Stephenites offered Nemo Rangers at Ennis on Sunday.
At no stage did the Mayo champions produce the battling quality that was rooted in their successful All-Ireland challenge of three years ago. The sad fact is that many of their supporters left Cusack Park convinced that the heart of this team, which has served the club so well for so long, is no longer beating with the same vitality. Time has caught up with some of their old stars. The mileage is considerable. To build a new Ballina must now be the club’s main objective.
At no stage, in no sector, did they compete adequately with the Munster champions. In comparison, they were sluggish, yards slower and far less sharp. Unable to match the fielding qualities of Ronan McGarrity at midfield, Nemo were content to knock the ball away, in the knowledge that they could win the breaks. Again and again they cleaned up at midfield.
Those of us regretting the absence of the Ballina stars from the Mayo team will not be convinced by this performance that John O’Mahony will gain any real advantage from their immediate return. They looked like a side coming to the end of a season rather than beginning. They were lethargic and lifeless. They dragged their feet as if in weariness.
One glaring example of this inertia was captured in the second half when three Ballina players allowed the prostrate Dylan Meighan, Nemo’s centre half-forward, to stand, drive through them, and solo forty yards unchecked before forcing a save from David Clarke.
In their refusal to allow the likes of Pat Harte and Ger Brady to play with the county team, Ballina, to this observer, were over protective. Match practice provides the cutting edge they lacked on Sunday. Their preparation did not provide the tough competition of inter-county league, and they may now need some time working on John O’Mahony’s whetstone before attaining the edge of their county colleagues.
In fairness to the Ballina men, they were forced to line out without Kenny Golden, their best defender. And the game was no more than nine minutes old when their young full-back, Ger Cafferkey, was forced to retire with a hamstring injury.
The full-back position, which he took over, was not new to Martin Wynne, but as a unit they were upset, and Wynne did not have the agility to cope with Nemo’s best forward, James Masters.
The Cork star was at the heart of almost all Nemo’s scores in the first half, even more accurate than Conor Mortimer in Mayo’s first half against Donegal. He split the posts from all angles. Five of Nemo’s seven points in the first half came from the full-forward. Ballina¹s lone score came from the boot of Stephen Hughes
Playing with the help of a strong wind, it was not an irrecoverable lead. But Nemo were so far ahead in speed and dynamism and energy that it was hard to see a way back for the Mayo champions even with the help of the wind in the second half.
And while Liam Brady offered a glimmer of hope with the first score after the resumption, Masters soon was confirming what we had already guessed. By the 47th minute they were eight points ahead, and attempts by Liam Brady, Shane Sweeney and Pat Harte had gone widely off the mark.
Harte was Ballina’s hardest worker. He started at centre half-forward and did not get much change from Martin Cronin, Nemo¹s best defender. But although Ballina did not win midfield, it was not for lack of effort in the second half.
The large Ballina following were hoping that the move to full-forward of David Brady would, as it had done in the county championship, reap rich dividends. But Nemo were able to counter the move.
The final blow came ten minutes from the end when Shane Sweeney was sent off for a severe challenge on a Cork player. Ballina did not submit there and then, but Nemo played all the football. If Devenney’s goal had come earlier it might have brightened the exchanges, but it would not have changed the result.