From the ecstasy of victory to the hollow despair of crushing defeat in a week is what an unfortunate Leitrim Gaels endured last Sunday when an impressive and physically imposing Ballinasloe over-powered the new Leitrim champions with some ease in Pairc Sean Mac Diarmada.
The wild celebrations that followed the Junior Final victory in Cloone no doubt did not help Leitrim Gaels but there is little doubt that the result would have been the same as Ballinasloe look far too good to be competing at Junior level, their impressive strength in depth putting many Senior clubs to shame.
From the word go, Ballinasloe set the pace and with Leitrim Gaels off the pace in the first half, the Galway men gradually ground down Leitrim Gaels, even absorbing a controversial sending off midway through the first half to lead by six points at the break.
In the second half, the power and quality of Ballinasloe shone through even more as they out-scored Leitrim Gaels by 3-8 to 0-5, a statistic that emphasises the difference between the teams as the home side lost their man advantage ten minutes into the second half when James Keane received a second yellow card.
If there was any controversy from the Gaels point of view, it came with Ballinasloe’s opening goal when referee Declan Corcoran appeared to momentarily halt play from a Ballinasloe side-line ball before letting it resume as the Galway men surged in to goal.
In fairness to Leitrim Gaels, they came up against a Ballinasloe team that would appear far too good for the Junior grade and they are far from the first Leitrim team to suffer a heavy defeat at the hands of the Galway champions.
The Leitrim title was obviously their main focus for the year and the proximity of the two games did not help their cause. However, it is important that they lift themselves for their remaining League game as they will need to play Division 2 football if they are to make an impact in the Intermediate championship next year.
Ballinasloe quickly set the tone of the game with points from Paul Whelehan and Liam Lynch in the first three minutes, points that were added to when Lynch and Paraic Cunningham in the first ten minutes.
Leitrim Gaels got a break when Eoin Fenton was very harshly booked when Aaron McLoughlin appeared to jump into him after taking a shot, Michael McManus converting the free.
Galway Senior panelist Keith Kelly soloed through to point on 13 minutes but Leitrim Gaels were handed a lifeline when Fenton was given a second yellow on 17 minutes for what seemed to be just his second transgression.
Leitrim Gaels were also in yellow card trouble as James Keane was carded for a foul, Paul Whelehan converting the free. Keane was lucky to escape a second yellow for another foul four minutes later with Kelly pointing the free.
Ballinasloe got the benefit of a decision as Liam Lynch hit a point that seemed to be well wide but the Gaels got their second point when Aidan Flynn’s lovely run and score narrowed the gap. Lynch replied with a free but a defiant Leitrim Gaels gave their supporters something to cheer when Andrew Guckian set up Luke Donnellan for a good point.
Ballinasloe led 0-9 to 0-3 at the half with Ricky Wynne firing over after just 10 seconds after good work from Conor Guckian & Aidan Flynn but Ballinasloe hit right back with points from Darrach McCormack & Whelehan.
Michael McManus and Wynne combine to set up Treacy for a fine point but the game took a major turn on five minutes and with a good deal of controversy – Ballinasloetook a quick sideline ball, the linesman correctly and clearly indicating the right decision.
But referee Declan Corcoran seemed to halt play before waving it on and Ballinasloe, taking advantage of hesitation in the Gaels defence, surged through for Paul Whelehan to force the ball over the line from close range.
Protests followed but the goal stood and Ballinasloe were unlucky not to add a second when Gary Canavan hit a bad wide when through on goal. The Gaels tried to hit back when Wynne crossed the ball, keeper Nathan King claiming the ball but then losing it.
King dived in to reclaim the ball and with the Gaels trying to force the ball over the line, a free out was awarded. That was as close as it got as James Keane received his marching orders for a second yellow card, Aidan Flynn joining him in the book for a heavy foul.
Ballinasloe moved the ball the length of the field for Whelehan to fist the ball to the net after a pass from Canavan on 14 minutes.
That second goal killed off the game and although sub Mick McWeeney, Ricky Wynne and Aaron McLoughlin all added points, Ballinasloe were in full flow, adding five more points and another goal from Daragh Burke to complete an easy win.
Mark Chandler, Damien Flynn, James Keane, Aaron McLoughlin (0-1), John Farrell, Andrew Guckian, Paul Guckian, Liam Moreton, Conor Guckian, Michael McManus (0-1), Aidan Flynn (0-1), Eunan Treacy (0-1), Ricky Wynne (0-2), John Casey, Luke Donnellan (0-1). Subs: Anthony Mulvey & Michael McWeeney (0-1) for Farrell & D. Flynn (36 mins), Brian Gilroy for Casey (39 mins),
Nathan King, Shane Kelly, Declan Nevin, Eoin Fenton, Marcus Kelly, Keith Kelly (0-2), Shane Kenny, Luke Tierney, James Shaughnessy, Gary Canavan, Paraic Cunningham (0-3), Daragh Burke (1-0), Darrach McCormack (0-2), Liam Lynch (0-6), Paul Whelehan (2-3). Subs: Niall Stankard for S. Kelly (46 mins), Lloyd Kelly (0-1) & Denis Glynn for Canavan & Whelehan (49 mins), Conor Kelly for S. Kenny (52 mins), Cormac Casey for McCormack (55 mins).
Referee: Declan Corcoran (Mayo).
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