CENTRAL FIGURE Ballinrobe’s Evan O’Brien was the hero in last Sunday’s Connacht Junior Cup quarter-final win over Galwegians. Pic: Conor McKeown
Tries: E Dowling, J Beatty, A Abayomi
Convs: S O’Brien (2)
Tries: J Ormsby, C McHugh
Conv: E O’Brien
Pens: E O’Brien (3)
ALL good cup runs have turning points.
Ballinrobe’s came midway through the second half in Galway on Sunday when trailing by thirteen points after a frustrating battle with Galwegians.
Evan O’Brien was the catalyst, his speed and agility allowing him to evade three tackles with good footwork to help create space for Jack Ormsby to score a try.
The dam had broken and the South Mayo lads didn’t look back from there.
A second try from Chris McHugh, and a penalty late on from the nerveless O’Brien — who had missed a couple before that, but didn’t shirk the responsibility with the game on the line — saw Ballinrobe storm home to a fine victory in the winter sun at Crowley Park.
In the process, they booked a place in the semi-finals for a third season in succession and, this time, they’re hoping to go one better.
The fact that O’Brien’s late grandfather, Michael Connolly, was well-known in Galwegians RFC circles, also added to the occasion for Evan’s family.
Ballinrobe had the better of the opening quarter and led 6-0 thanks to two Evan O’Brien penalties that had come from set-piece dominance in scrums and line-outs.
Jack Beatty had been yellow-carded for Galwegians in those early exchanges as their discipline became an early issue, a needless off-the-ball tussle leading to the call from the officials.
It cost his side the two scores.
But when he returned the number 13 was instrumental in Galwegians’ revival as they scored two tries; experienced scrum-half and team captain Eamon Dowling grabbing the first when he spotted space in behind the Ballinrobe defence and chipped over the top when a kick seemed the wrong option. He won the race to the loose ball and touched down.
The conversion was missed, but it was now a one-point game.
Minutes later, Galwegians were in front when Beatty made a superb break and again used the ‘kick and chase’ tactic to finish off the move with try number two.
This was converted by club player-coach, Shane O’Brien, but their momentum was lost again when replacement Ian Garambois gave away a needless yellow card for a late tackle.
The second such transgression from the home side.
Ballinrobe dominated again with the extra man but, despite tireless work from man of the match Craig Hansberry, and a dominant scrum, they couldn’t get the break.
A key referee’s call against their front row cost them a try late in the first half, and a missed penalty from O’Brien after half-time underlined a scoreless return from the second sin-bin advantage.
To make matters worse, Galwegians scored again with impressive second row Abudulhag Abayomi powering over to give them a 19-6 lead after Shane O’Brien’s conversion.
The gauntlet was laid down and Ballinrobe answered emphatically over the closing 25 minutes. Ormsby was at his very best in those closing stages and his try really did turn the tide, bringing the score to 19-13 after Evan O’Brien added the extras.
Chris McHugh’s try was an even bigger moment as it came off the back of a brilliant catch and drive from a line-out by the visitors. Dave Madden’s superb work in the line-out was the launching pad and the tireless Ballinrobe pack stormed over form there.
The conversion hit the post, however, so the hosts still led 19-18 even though Ballinrobe were now totally dominant. Ill-discipline once again cost Galwegains as Garambois broke up a Ballinrobe attack with a deliberate knock-on; it was his second yellow card which meant ‘Wegains’ were down to 14 men for the final eleven minutes, including injury time.
Ballinrobe had work to do but the scrum proved the catalyst as James McTigue, McHugh and Hansberry overpowered the opposition on their own ball to win a penalty 30 metres out.
O’Brien had missed two by this stage and he had an option to hand over kicking to replacement Steven Conroy. But that wasn’t even considered by the Ballinrobe ten as he backed himself and delivered a huge three points under pressure, much to the delighted of the big travelling support. The South Mayo men saw the contest out from there with minimal fuss.
Galwegians’ full-back, MJ Duffy, a native of Claremorris delivered a solid display.
MJ Duffy; J Munn, J Beatty, J Kennedy, C O’Flaithearta; S O’Brien, E Dowling; C Joyce, N Lawless, J Pfeiffer; E Tarmey, A Abayomi; A Lagaaia, D Moran, J Butler.
Replacements used: G Keane, I Garambois, T McDonald, R Aghabueze, K Smith, Z Rather, A Walshe.
L Burke; E Lynagh, T Staunton, S Biggins, A McDonnell; E O’Brien, D Vaughan; J McTigue, P Finlay, C Hansberry; D Madden, P Mylotte; T Lynagh, J Ormsby, R Murphy.
Replacements: C McHugh for Finlay; C Walsh for E Lynagh; S Conroy for Biggins; K McAleenan for McDonnell.
Referee: C Rudd