Glencar/Manor's Aaron Hickey is tackled by Ballinamore's Donal Feely. Photo by Therese Foy
A superbly disciplined and highly organised Glencar/ Manorhamilton reached their third Senior Final on the trot when ending the dreams of an unbeaten Ballinamore Sean O’Heslin's.
The Ballinamore men had gone into Saturday's first semi-final in Pairc Sean Mac Diarmada as slight favourites on the back of an unbeaten run but it was the potent mix of hard won experience and youthful exuberance that won the day for Glencar/Manorhamilton.
Two first half goals and a third, slightly fortunate one, were the difference on the scoreboard but that doesn't tell the full story of a superb Manor display that upset all the areas were Ballinamore were strong and ruthlessly exploited where they were weak.
James Glancy was at the heart of a deadly Manor attack but it was Niall Brady who benefited most, getting onto the end of incisive passes as the Ballinamore defence couldn't cope with the movement of the duo along with Evan Sweeney.
In the middle of the park, Ballinamore's expected dominance never materialised as Glencar/Manor flooded the area and forced Ballinamore into contact where the ball was turned over, Killian McGriskin and Thomas Coyle over-shadowing their vaunted rivals, McGriskin in particularly disrupting O'Heslin's supply lines to great effect in the second half.
And when Ballinamore did escape the midfield battle, they found a Manor rearguard that simply refused to take a step back, where Paddy Maguire, Thomas McDonald, James Rooney and Pat Gilmartin excelled.
Yet Ballinamore were only four points in arrears when Paddy Maguire got the bounce of the ball with a speculative shot on 19 minutes as despite not playing well, they were still in contention.
Glencar/Manor started positively when Niall Brady fisted a long free over the bar and they were almost through for a goal only for Brian Leydon to divert a Brady pass, intended for Adrian Croal, out for a fifty that was converted by Aaron Hickey.
Niall McGovern hit a wide but Luke Murphy converted a free after a foul on Wayne McKeon on five minutes but two minutes later, Glencar/ Manor took a decisive grip on the game thanks to good work from James Glancy who gathered a ball that came over his head near the endline.
The veteran forward produced a lovely pass into Brady and a great finish gave Farrelly no chance.
A rattled Ballinamore missed two opportunities and with James Glancy running riot, the former Leitrim captain fired over on 10 minutes, Wayne McKeon converting a free a minute later to steady O’Heslin’s.
The action came thick and fast at both ends but it was Ballinamore who were missing most chances - Paddy Connaughton shot wide across the Manor goal after a good move and Keelan McHugh dropped a poor shot into the keeper thanks to great pressure from Brian McDonald.
But a quick free found Wayne McKeon for a brilliant point to cut the gap to three points but just as Ballinamore were finding their feet, Glencar/Manor struck in deadly fashion, James Glancy again beating his man.
Glancy’s shot was half-blocked but fell right into the path of Brady who was taken down well inside the square for a clear-cut penalty, expertly dispatched by Aaron Hickey.
Glencar/Manor would add a Niall Brady score to their tally before the break, leaving them with a 2-4 to 0-3 halftime lead but Ballinamore would now have the strong wind behind them in the second half.
Ballinamore set about reducing that lead, Luke Murphy firing a shot over the bar in the first minute after as Glencar/Manor hit three wides, Wayne McKeon fired over a free on seven minutes.
Aaron Hickey and Wayne McKeon then swapped frees but after Aaron Hickey’s misplaced pass was intercepted, Shane Moran fired over from distance. Adrian Croal swapped points with Dean McGovern, the Ballinamore man scoring from 40 yards.
Croal fired over another point and the game was ended as a contest on 19 minutes when Paddy Maguire’s long ball looked as if it was going to be met by Niall Brady and a defender but somehow the ball squirmed underneath and through them and keeper Philip Farrelly as it rolled gently into the net.
That left Glencar/Manorhamilton eight points up with just over ten minutes left and although Ballinamore would pull back good points from Dean McGovern and a Wayne McKeon free, a great score from a fifty yard free, but they never got even a sniff of the goal they needed.
With Glencar/Manor impenetrable in defence, they could flood their defence and hit on the break, James Rooney getting the last score of the game with a well worked point just over two minutes from the end of normal time.
Ballinamore kept looking for a goal, Niall McGovern seeing a fisted shot easily fielded while sub Mark McGrory, lucky to be still on the field, swept a shot wide and Shane Moran saw a free diverted out for a fifty but Manor were never in any danger.
GAME AT A GLANCE
Main Man: Killian McGriskin, Paddy Maguire, Pat Gilmartin, James Glancy, James Rooney and Niall Brady were all outstanding, Glancy pulling the strings and McGriskin providing the drive. Shane Moran, Donal Feely, Philip Farrelly and Brian Leydon stood out for an off-kilter Ballinamore.
Talking Point: They needed two games to get over Aughawillan but this was a major step up from Glencar/ Manor who mightn't have won the title since 2011 but have now reached three Finals on the trot.
Turning Point: Aaron Hickey's penalty gave Manor a platform for the second half but Paddy Maguire's somewhat fortunate goal 11 minutes from time killed off O'Heslin's at a time when they were threatening a comeback.
Ref Watch: Patrick Guckian did a good overall job but should have penalised a Mark McGrory offence a good deal more severely.
Highlight: James Glancy's link-up play and forward work, Killian McGriskin's combativity and the sheer desire of the entire Glencar/Manor team.
Lowlight: Some bad misses, from both teams it must be said, prevented a tight and tense affair from really opening up and showing what two attacking teams are really capable of.
TEAMS & SCORERS
Scorers: Niall Brady 1-2; Aaron Hickey 1-2, 1 pen, 1 50; Paddy Maguire 1-0; Adrian Croal 0-2; James Rooney & James Glancy 0-1 each
Team: Anthony McDonald; Thomas McDonald, Pat Gilmartin, Fearghal Rooney; James Rooney, Paddy Maguire, James O'Brien; Killian McGriskin, Thomas Coyle; Brian McDonald, Aaron Hickey, Adrian Croal; Evan Sweeney, James Glancy, Niall Brady. Subs: Conor Dolan for Sweeney (42), Ronan Flynn for Croal (59)
BALLINAMORE SEAN O’HESLIN’S
Scorers: Wayne McKeon 0-5, 4f; Luke Murphy (f) & Dean McGovern 0-2 each; Shane Moran 0-1 each
Team: Philip Farrelly, Conor Moran, Paddy McLoughlin, James Hamill, Keelan McHugh, Liam Ferguson, Donal Feely, Wayne McKeon, Shane Moran, Brian Leydon, Dean McGovern, Shane Murphy, Luke Murphy, Niall McGovern, Paddy Connaughton. Sub: Mattie Murphy for C. Moran, Mark McGrory for Connaughton, Oisin McCaffrey for Leyden, Peter Reynolds for L. Murphy (48), Jack Cullen & James McWeeney for S. Murphy & P. Reynolds (62)
Referee: Patrick Guckian