LET nobody be in any doubt; Knockmore GAA Club is alive and well. In fact, on the evidence of this comprehensive victory last Saturday at McHale Park, it is only a matter of time before the Moclair Cup returns to their clubhouse for the first time since 1997.
In truth, Ballina were a huge disappointment and Nigel Reape’s well-drilled winners were never in any danger of losing a lacklustre championship final in front of a paltry crowd.
The Stephenites went 48 minutes without a score of any kind and their only flag from play was an extremely fortuitous goal two minutes into injury-time. They were simply outclassed in every sector.
Knockmore won the game in the first half, attacking with gusto with the stiff breeze at their backs. Man of the match, Trevor Howley, was outstanding in their defence while Aidan Kilcoyne wreaked havoc despite the best efforts of Ballina’s best back, Ger Cafferkey.
Knockmore kept things simple, feeding their forward line quickly and often. The result was a 1-7 to 0-1 lead by half-time and Ballina were dead and buried.
The winners were physically stronger, much sharper and in Aidan Kilcoyne had a forward with poise and pace. He shot three excellent points from frees inside the first 12 minutes to ease Knockmore into a 0-3 to 0-1 lead and then struck for the game’s decisive score.
Ballina’s defence was under incessant pressure during the first quarter and the dam broke on 17 minutes when Trevor Howley landed a sublime 50 yard pass into the lap of Kilcoyne who was felled in the small square.
The same player then saw his penalty pushed onto the crossbar brilliantly by Ballina ‘keeper, Joshua Tierney, but Kilcoyne was following up to stab the rebound to the net.
This score seemed to drain the Stephenites of confidence and they struggled to make any impression up front against an uncompromising Knockmore backline.
Paul Coleman and Kevin McLoughlin were superb in the full-back line while Kenny Corcoran, Darren Reape and the imposing Trevor Howley took no prisoners outside them.
Ballina could find no way past the impregnable Knockmore defence against the wind, and instead could only watch in admiration as Kieran Langan drilled two points from play from distance and Aidan Kilcoyne landed a ’45 and another free.
Michael Daly’s half-time whistle sounded with Knockmore leading by nine points. It would have been even more were it not for a litany of wides and a smart save from Joshua Tierney to deny the razor-sharp Kilcoyne a second goal.
The anticpated Ballina revival never materialised after the restart, much to the disappointment of their management and meagre travelling support.
A poor third quarter saw Knockmore tighten their grip on the game. Aidan Kilcoyne tagged on two frees and sprinted through to point on the run while Craig Reape also split the posts as Ballina chased shadows all over the field.
Ahead by 1-11 to 0-1 after 47 minutes, Knockmore started to drop down the gears. To their credit the Stephenites never stopped plugging away either and they actually outscored the winners by 1-4 to 0-1 in the final quarter.
The points came from David O’Mahony (two frees and a ’45) with Ian O’Dowd also converting a free to gloss the final scoreline.
The hard-working Jarlath O’Hora grabbed the point his industry deserved to respond-in-kind for Knockmore but the score everybody left talking about was a goal from Ballina sub’ Patrick Crowe.
It was ironic that a very ordinary game was concluded with an extraordinary score as Crowe’s speculative delivery from 45 yards went all the way to the Knockmore net past a bemused-looking Derek Butler.
Alas, it was much too little too late and the final whistle brought scenes of unbridled celebration for Knockmore. It also doubled as an act of mercy for Ballina who never got going and were always playing catch-up.
Knockmore captain Trevor Howley (who was holding his 21st birthday party that night) accepted the silverware afterwards and spoke of the sacrifices that his team-mates had made to win this competition. Onwards and upwards they go.
D Butler; P Coleman, K McLoughlin, K Gardiner; K Corcoran, D Reape, T Howley; J Ruddy, K Langan (0-2), C Reape (0-1), J O’Hora (0-1); A Kilcoyne (1-8, 6fs, ‘45), B Gibbons, G Gaughan. Subs used: B Langan for C Reape; J Noone for Gibbons; A Flynn for Ruddy; J Horan for O’Hora; D Walsh for Corcoran.
J Tierney; R Lyons, G Cafferkey, T Duffy; S McCarron, T Doherty, J Harrison; K Sweeney, R Smith; D Fielding, I O’Dowd (0-2, 2fs), L Healy; R Campion, D O’Mahony (0-3, 2fs, 1’45), B O’Hora. Subs used: L Tierney for Fielding; S Langan for McCarron; S Mullins for Sweeney; P Crowe (1-0) for Healy; C McHale for Lyons.
Referee: M Daly (Ballyhaunis)