There can have been few finishes as dramatic as last Saturday’s second Connacht Gold Senior Championship clash in Pairc Sean Mac Diarmada as Ballinamore Sean O’Heslin’s came from nine points down to snatch an incredible draw against a stunned Annaduff.
Annaduff looked a class above for ninety percent of this encounter, dominating the game against a Ballinamore team who simply failed to show up for three quarters of this game as Annaduff were sharper, more controlled and displayed far more cohesiveness as a unit.
Two goals in the space of a minute midway through the second half gave Annaduff a 3-5 to 0-5 lead with nine minutes of the game left and few hints of the drama to come. Liam Ferguson’s drilled goal with eight minutes to go seemed nothing more than a consolation score.
But when Shane McWeeney’s shot, maybe going wide, maybe going in, hit a defender and went into the net with four minutes to go, things got interesting.
Ballinamore came charging forward but there didn’t seem to be much hope until the under-performing Shane Moran rose to the occasion, driving a shot to the net that keeper Jim McCormack might have had covered had it not hit a defender and flown into the net.
With three minutes of added time to be played, Ballinamore came searching for an equaliser but even when the three minutes elapsed, play continued and O’Heslin’s almost won it when David McLoughlin’s late shot cannoned off the post and rebounded to safety.
Shane McWeeney put over a late free as Ballinamore, instead of thanking their lucky stars that they had secured a remarkable draw that seemed desperately unlikely, were left cursing that they didn’t score a famous, famous win.
A shell-shocked Annaduff must wonder exactly what happened – their defence, superbly led by David Duignan, Nigel & Matty Cox, were in control, Ronan McCormack & Brendan Guckian dominated midfield and Sean McNabola, Ray Cox, Cathal Cox and Joe Cox were always dangerous.
But Annaduff didn’t make their dominance in the first half tell on the scoreboard as they should have been out of sight. Now they face a game with St. Mary’s next weekend where they must get something to ensure they advance in the top two.
Ballinamore must be wondering if they can produce on a consistent basis what they have shown in the last ten minutes of each minutes of each of their games. It is a mystery that will plague them as they haven’t delivered a full performance despite undoubted commitment and heart.
Two Sean McNabola points were the only two scores in the first 15 minutes as both sides kicked wides, Annaduff the more guilty. Shane Murphy pulled back a point on 20 minutes but the first goal came two minutes later when Ronan McCormack drilled home after a McNabola free hit the upright and fell right into his lap.
Annaduff should have had a second goal when Ray Cox was clear through but blasted wide. Shane Moran finished the half with a nice chipped point three minutes into added time, Annaduff leading 1-2 to 0-2 at the break.
Ray Cox and Shane McWeeney swapped points in the first four minutes before a Stephen McTague point narrowed the gap to two after 12 minutes.
The game changed completely within two minutes as Mattie Cox’s long ball saw Ray Cox get a touch to the ball and after it looked like he was going to lose control the county man flicked out his arm and diverted the ball past Philip Farrelly.
From the kick-out, Ray Cox gained possession and set up Joe Cox for a close in finish. Despite a Shane Moran point, Annaduff extended their lead with points from Cathal and Joe Cox before Liam Ferguson ventured up from defence to drill a great goal to the bottom right corner on 22 minutes.
Sean McNabola hit back with a point from long range but Ballinamore got a second goal when Shane McWeeney saw his low shot go into the net off an Annaduff defender. Suddenly Annaduff were jittery and a missed free didn’t help their nerves.
Those nerves were on high alert when Shane Moran’s shot was deflected past the keeper a minute into added time and as Ballinamore came searching for a win, David Duignan hit a wide and David McLoughlin rattled a shot off the post. But salvation came when Shane McWeeney put over a free nearly five minutes into added time.
Jim McCormack, Gary Bohan, Conor McLoughlin, Nigel Cox, Jimmy Cox, David Duignan, Matty Cox, Ronan McCormack (1-0), Brendan Guckian, Conor Reynolds, Sean McNabola (0-3), Dylan Keane, Ray Cox (1-1), Cathal Cox (0-1), Joe Cox (1-1). Subs: Alan Cox for McNabola (57 mins).
Ballinamore Sean O’Heslin’s
Philip Farrelly, Matthew Murphy, Patrick McLoughlin, Philip Murphy, David McLoughlin, Liam Ferguson (1-0), David Duignan, Paul McLoughlin, Conor McTague, Shane McWeeney (1-2), Shane Murphy (0-1), Stephen McTague (0-1), Sean Murray, Shane Moran (1-2), Ronan O’Rourke. Subs: Anthony McTague for Murray (26 mins), Adrian Smith for O’Rourke (HT), John Fanning for C. McTague (42 mins).
Referee: James McCaffrey.