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Ballina left down and out

Sport
Ballina left down and out

QUARTER-FINALS
Merry Monk 68
Ballina
Abrakebabra Tigers  81
Tralee

CORMAC O’MALLEY
BALLINA


COLLAPSES don’t come much more dramatic than this. A stunning third quarter display by Merry Monk Ballina had the capacity crowd in the Ballina Sports Centre in raptures last Saturday night. By the end of the fourth quarter they were just stunned.
At one stagein the third period the Mayo side were 13 points clear and cruising. There looked to be no way back for the team from the Kingdom. That was until Merry Monk stopped playing and allowed their opponents to score at will. A huge score of 32 points in that fateful final quarter saw the visitors turn a 10-point deficit into a scarcely imaginable 13-point victory, and most importantly a berth in the televised semi-final stages of the National Cup.
Many people came to see the clash between two GAA stars, Ronan McGarrity and footballer of the year Kieran Donaghy. However, that sideshow never really made it onto centre stage. McGarrity was superb for the majority of the game, to the fore of Ballina’s attacks and proving just as adept in defence. Donaghy, who enjoyed a mixed reception from the home crowd, spent the entire final quarter on the bench, but such was his team mate’s dominance, they did not miss him at all.
The first action of the game actually saw McGarrity intercept a Donaghy pass, much to the delight of the home contingent, and set up Chris Smith for a simple lay-up. But the Tigers quickly stormed back and had built up a five-point lead four minutes in. The play rattled back and fourth in the opening quarter and although they didn’t at any juncture hold the lead, Merry Monk managed to keep Tralee within range. Despite being only four points down (18-22), Merry Monk had not played particularly well during the opening quarter. This was to continue into the second period, but still they did not allow Tralee to slip out of their sight. Nine points from McGarrity helped their cause in that respect, but with Chris Smith the only other home player to make an impact on the scoreboard during the quarter, it was easy to see where the problems lay. A superb pass by the master Deora Marsh allowed McGarrity tie the scores with three minutes left in the half but Donaghy and Wilder Auguste replied to leave the Tigers six clear, 33-39, at the interval.
The home supporters were looking on the bright side during the half-time break. They believed that having played so poorly in the first half, they couldn’t play any worse again, and six points was not an insurmountable lead. And they were proved correct – up to a point. Ballina did play far better in the third quarter. Unfortunately they then played far worse in the final quarter.
Slowly clawing their way back led by the ever reliable Paul Freeman, and thanks to two three-pointers from Smith and Scott Kinevane, Merry Monk wrestled the lead away from their opponents midway through the quarter. Four points from the night’s leading scorer Wilder Auguste restored the lead for Tralee by a solitary point, but Ballina hit top form as the quarter progressed. In a three-minute period the Mayo side hit 14 unanswered points, sending the crowd wild with excitement and muting the previously vocal Tralee fans who had made the long journey up for the clash. McGarrity (7), Smith (5) and Freeman (2) were the finishers during the purple patch, but the entire team were on fire as they started to turn the screw on their opponents. A free throw from Donaghy settled visiting nerves slightly, and Auguste added two more. McGarrity unfortunately just missed with two of his own free throws, but nonetheless Merry Monk looked on course for a place in the semi-finals at the end of the quarter leading by 59-49.
What happened next will haunt the Ballina players and management for years to come. From a seemingly perfect platform they let a golden opportunity slip. Tralee were far more committed in the fourth quarter, and they reduced the gap to five points in the opening minutes. A basket by Smith restored a seven-point advantage for Ballina with just under nine minutes remaining, but after that it was all downhill. The home side’s shooting completely deserted them, and Tralee reeled off 16 points in a row, largely thanks to Fannning, who ended the quarter with a personal haul of 15 points. Now Ballina were staring down the face of a nine-point reversal. Two from McGarrity turned out to be only cosmetic as Fanning and John Tehan hit another seven points to blow Ballina’s chances out of the water. The streams of supporters leaving the action accompanied by the jeers and laughter of the Tralee faithful told its own sad story. The last couple of minutes seeped away leaving the Tigers eventual winners by 13 points on a sad night for Ballina basketball fans, players and management.

TEAM MERRY MONK BALLINA

C Smith 25, R McGarrity 18, R Taylor 15, P Freeman 7, S Kinevane 3, J Marriott, B O’Malley, D McGarrity, S Freeman, M Lacken.
ABRAKEBABRA TIGERS TRALEE
W Auguste 31, D Fanning 20, J Mooney 8, J Tehan 7, K Donaghy 7, M Quirke 6, R Patterson 2, T Collins, K O’Donoghue, L Culloty, A Holden.

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