They may have had to sweat a little in the closing stages of last Saturday’s Connacht Gold Senior Championship but there was no denying the sense of class St. Mary’s Kiltoghert displayed against an earnest if limited Ballinamore Sean O’Heslin’s in Cloone.
Ballinamore’s strength of character and refusal to lie down made this game far tighter than perhaps it should have been as they worked incredibly hard, didn’t bend and buckle but the absence of Wayne McKeon and a few more injured players was a burden far too heavy to absorb for a young team.
True Ballinamore had quite a deal of possession and shots in the closing stages but there didn’t appear to be much conviction behind many of their attempts in the closing stages.
When St. Mary’s started to move the ball at speed, their scores came easier and exposed gaps in the Ballinamore backline that they were unable to deal with; the baffling thing was that the Carrick men didn’t use their obvious speed advantage in the forward line far more often.
St. Mary’s may not be quite the team that reached last year’s County Final but their younger line-up is undoubtedly lighter and not as physically strong but they are fast, mobile and have scoring threats from all over the forward line.
Despite the loss and injured players, there was enough in Ballinamore’s spirit to suggest that they have a good chance of making the quarter-finals. Their defence will need to tighten up but the spirit they showed will serve them well in the remainder of the championship.
Despite a bright start from St. Mary’s, the first half was an evenly balanced affair as Mary’s opened with two Ray Mulvey frees and a Micheal McWeeney score in the first seven minutes, Shane McWeeney responding. However points from Stephen McTague, a huge effort, and James McWeeney had the sides level by 17 minutes.
Mulvey and Shane Murphy swapped points but after Joe O’Rourke & Niall Comerton both hit the crossbar in the one move, Ballinamore made the most of their close shave when Shane Moran edged them into a 0-5 to 0-4 halftime lead with an injury time free.
The second half was a much different story as St. Mary’s hit an unanswered 1-4 in the first eight minutes of the half. Niall Comerton put over a free and then drilled home a second minute penalty after Nicholas McWeeney was fouled on his way through on goal.
Points quickly followed from Ray Mulvey, Comerton and Joe O’Rourke, set up by a lovely James Glancy pass. Shane McWeeney steadied Ballinamore with two frees in the space of four minute, Ray Mulvey putting over a free in response.
With St. Mary’s starting to retreat, Ballinamore began to push forward and Sean Murray was desperately unlucky when Liam Ferguson’s long shot came off the crossbar and fell to his team-mate but his close range shot went inches wide.
It did, however, seem to inspire Ballinamore into a last gasp effort as Shane McWeeney swapped frees with Niall Comerton before points from David Duignan and Shane McWeeney left just a goal between the teams with less than two minutes to go.
However, Mary’s answered the challenge with Clement Cunniffe scoring a great long range effort just seconds later while Robbie Lowe, after an impressive display, set up Micheal McWeeney for a fine point two minutes into added time.
Shane Moran pulled back a point but it was too late to stop St. Mary’s from taking the win.
Best for St. Mary’s were Jonathan Cassidy, Vincent McDermott, Robbie Lowe, Micheal McWeeney, Ray Mulvey and Niall Comerton while for O’Heslin’s, James McWeeney, Paul McLoughlin, David Duignan and Ronan O’Rourke worked hard.
St. Mary’s Kiltoghert
Anthony Conway, Jonathan Cassidy, James Flynn, Vincent McDermott, Conor Farrell, Clement Cunniffe (0-1), Dermot Reynolds, Robert Lowe, Jimmy Guckian, Michael McWeeney (0-2), James Glancy, Ray Mulvey (0-5), Nicholas McWeeney, Niall Comerton (1-3), Joseph O’Rourke (0-1).
Ballinamore Sean O’Heslin’s
Philip Farrelly, Matthew Murphy, Patrick McLoughlin, Philip Murphy, David McLoughlin, Liam Ferguson, David Duignan (0-1), Shane Moran (0-2), Paul McLoughlin, Sean Murray, Shane Murphy (0-1), Stephen McTague (0-1), James McWeeney (0-1), Ronan O’Rourke, Shane McWeeney (0-5). Subs: John Fanning & Conor McTague for J. McWeeney & Paul McLoughlin (44 mins), Rory O’Rourke for R. O’Rourke (50 mins), Ryan Gavin for Murray (55 mins).
Referee: Frank Niblock.