After shooting a staggering amount of wides in the opening 20 minutes of last Friday’s Connacht Colleges Juvenile C Championship Final in St. Michael’s Park Ballyfarnon, Ballinamore Post Primary Schools finally made their class tell as they proved far too strong for Castlerea Community School.
On a day when the Connacht GAA Council demonstrated a staggering lack of interest in this competition with an unlined pitch and no refereeing turning up for the game at the appointed throw-in time, Ballinamore finally managed to put that all behind them as they proved far too good in almost every area of the field for their Roscommon opponents.
With Ballinamore forced to start without both Conor Gaffney and Peter Reynolds, the Leitrim lads were handicapped at the start but they created more than enough chances to win this game easily by the time the injured duo were introduced.
The game had a 12.00 throw-in and with both teams on the field, fans in the stand and media from both counties all ready to go, all that was missing was a referee and as the players, who had undergone their usual warm-up, waited and waited, there was no sign of any officials. Contact was made with the Connacht GAA Council in quick order but despite assurances that a referee was on his way, it wasn’t until just before 1 pm that referee Charlie Candon arrived.
By the time Candon was ready, the referee was not the appointed official and answered an SOS, over an hour had elapsed and it had gotten to a stage that the Castlerea management had told Ballinamore officials that they could not afford to wait and were heading home.
It was, frankly, a disgraceful way to treat both schools and counties and certainly does nothing for the image of Gaelic football in the Province. Certainly, one can’t imagine a Provincial Soccer or Rugby Final be treated in such a way but, then again, neither can you imagine that any team from Mayo or Galway would receive similar treatment.
Ballinamore were simply on a different wave-length to Castlerea who possessed two remarkable players in Ronan Raftery and Aidan Brogan but they couldn’t match the strength in depth of Ballinamore who had starring performances from Luke Murphy, a man that kept his head when the rest of his team-mates were missing easy chances.
Ryan O’Rourke worked his socks off with little reward on the scoreboard while Mark Plunkett, Dean McGovern and Kevin Mullen showed flashes of real potential. In defence, Ballinamore were never seriously tested by J.J. McGovern, Conor McGoldrick and Conor Gilheaney were especially solid for the impressive winners.
Ballinamore opened with a Niall McGovern free while keeper Daire McNiffe was alert to deny Aidan Brogan a goal a minute later, Ronan Raftery pointing seconds later to tie the score.
Then came a remarkable period of Ballinamore dominance but without scores as the Leitrim lads kicked seven wides and wasted two clear cut goal opportunities in the next 16 minutes, including a block on Luke Murphy’s goal-bound shot after good work from O’Rourke.
Murphy finally got the score that lifted Ballinamore’s spirits on 20 minutes from a free and before halftime, Kevin Mullen, from a free, and Murphy would kick five further points as Murphy in particular was impressive. Aidan Brogan replied with a point but Ballinamore also had Conor Gilheaney to thank for a fine block on Raftery, leaving the halftime score at 0-7 to 0-2.
With Castlerea having the wind, Ballinamore got a great break when Oisin Murray’s speculative long range shot deceived keeper Gery Mannion, who thought it was going wide, to end up in the net. Owen McPartland added a point before a point apiece from Brogan & Raftery cut the gap.
Mark Plunkett scored a fine point after a high catch and Luke Murphy capped a fine display by finishing off a swift passing mvoe to the Castlerea net on 12 minutes. Castlerea had a mini-rally with a Brogan point and a goal from Raftery, a quite superb effort as he broke through three hefty challenges, spun around and drove the ball to the net.
Conor Gaffney, on after ten minutes of the half, made a big difference and two points from the County Minor stalled any Castlerea come-back with Brogan replying twice. A dominant Ballinamore finished off the game with points from O’Rourke & J.J. McGovern to complete a fine win.