AIB Connacht Intermediate Championship Final

The story remains the same

Ballinamore Sean O'Heslin's quest for Connacht title falls short after poor first half despite battling effort

John Connolly

Reporter:

John Connolly

The story remains the same

Peter Reynolds battles with Westport's Kevin Keane during the AIB Connacht Intermediate Club Championship Final. Photo by Willie Donnellan

John Connolly

A battling effort it certainly was but unfortunately, it was also the same old story for another Leitrim team as Ballinamore Sean O’Heslin’s bid for glory fell short.

Sunday's AIB Connacht Intermediate Club Championship Final saw Sean O'Heslin's fight and scrape for each inch but, in a common theme for Leitrim teams, they couldn't match the speed, movement and skills of the Mayo men.

O'Heslin's never got out of the blocks in the first half as errors in defence were pounced upon by a clinical Westport and the attack found the pace and strength of the Westport defence impossible to crack as only one Ballinamore forward was on target all day.

At halftime, Ballinamore fans were fearful of a scoreline like that of Aughawillan and St. Brigid's but the Leitrim champions showed real spirit to batten down the hatches and try to take the game to Westport in the second half.

Unfortunately, they were climbing a mountain as stage-fright seemed to infect the Ballinamore men in the first half with misplaced passes directly leading to 1-2 for Westport in the first 17 minutes.

And as much as O'Heslin's got their fans going during the second half, Westport looked more than content to hold what they had and did not play with the same urgency that they displayed in the first half.

While everyone will point to Ballinamore's missed chances in the second half, Westport also kicked seven wides in that second period, the same as Ballinamore while O'Heslin's never threatened goals in the same way Westport did.

The problems that beset Ballinamore were the same that beset Aughawillan the previous week and the same that have beset so many club and county teams in recent years as the opposition played at a pace and with a skills execution that is alien to Leitrim's teams.

When the game was in the melting pot, Ballinamore's attackers couldn't escape their markers, defenders and midfielders couldn't evade their opponents as time & space on the ball was clinically denied them time and time again.

That led to players rushing to off-load the ball leading to interceptions and turnovers as the cycle repeated itself over and over again and it was only when Westport took their foot off the pedal that O'Heslin's started to make any headway.

Westport tackled Ballinamore head on as the influence of Wayne McKeon & Dean McGovern was nullified in the middle of the park as they targeted quick, long ball to exploit gaps in the Ballinamore full-back line.

That is not to take anything away from O'Heslin's second half display - the Ballinamore men showed real pride in their jersey, fought for every inch and did have more of the ball but just one score in the first 20 minutes of the second half was nowhere near enough for a miraculous fightback.

Philip Farrelly made two fantastic one-on-one stops to prevent certain goals and was joint top scorer with two wonderful fifties while Keelan McHugh raided from defence with great aplomb as Leitrim's defenders coming from deep made more headway than their attacking teammates.

Luke Murphy was the exception to that rule as his hard running disrupted a rock solid Westport defence and it wasn't until Liam Ferguson & Wayne McKeon pushed forward in the last quarter that Ballinamore made any real headway and even then, they were relying on placed balls and defenders joining the attack.

Niall McGovern caused problems early on but as midfield was over-powered, the service disappeared while the second half saw Donal Feely, McKeon, Ferguson & Oisin McCaffrey on the ball far more in what has to be encouraging for a young Ballinamore team that will be a major force in Leitrim in the coming years.

No, Sunday's Final and the Aughawillan game appears to be more a systematic failing in Leitrim football and, as the Observer pointed out at the beginning of the club championship, serious questions need to be asked but more than that, something needs to be done.

Sean O'Heslin's are a fine team with enormous potential for the years ahead, both for club and county and, with their shrewd management team, they will challenge for Senior honours next year.

But the question has to be asked - are Leitrim teams being failed by the structures within the county and the standards needed to achieve success at the highest level?

If the answer is yes, and that appears to be the case, clubs need to be shouting loudly for change or else players like Dean & Niall McGovern, Luke Murphy, Donal Feely, Oisin McCaffrey and many others like them in other clubs, won't be challenged enough to drive them on to greater heights in the years ahead.

Otherwise the cycle will repeat itself time and time again and that will be an almighty disservice to the young footballers of Ballinamore and so many other clubs in Leitrim.

GAME AT A GLANCE

Main Man: Ballinamore's main man was undoubtedly Philip Farrelly who made two crucial one-on-one saves and scored two excellent fifties. Keelan McHugh & Wayne McKeon had some great cameos while Luke Murphy was the only forward to make any sort of headway. But all the big performers were in Westport blue.

Talking Point: The five point scoreline probably flatters Ballinamore. They did miss chances during the second half but Westport registered the same number of wides in the same period as they appeared content to hold what they had while Philip Farrelly kept  his team in contention with two excellent saves.

Turning Point: Brian McDermott's third minute goal set Westport on their way and set the tone for the game.

Ref  Watch: Sligo's Marty Duffy annoyed some with a few calls but did a good job overall.

Highlight: Credit Sean O'Heslin's for their battling spirit in the second half as they kept plugging away and never let their heads drop. Credit also to the large Ballinamore contingent in the stand who never stopped supporting their heroes.

Lowlight: The first half isn't one that will live long in the memory of Ballinamore fans. Westport started strongly and a nervous O'Heslin's appeared caught in the headlines to a large degree.

GAME AT A GLANCE

Main Man: Ballinamore's main man was undoubtedly Philip Farrelly who made two crucial one-on-one saves and scored two excellent fifties. Keelan McHugh & Wayne McKeon had some great cameos while Luke Murphy was the only forward to make any sort of headway. But all the big performers were in Westport blue.

Talking Point: The five point scoreline probably flatters Ballinamore. They did miss chances during the second half but Westport registered the same number of wides in the same period as they appeared content to hold what they had while Philip Farrelly kept  his team in contention with two excellent saves.

Turning Point: Brian McDermott's third minute goal set Westport on their way and set the tone for the game.

Ref  Watch: Sligo's Marty Duffy annoyed some with a few calls but did a good job overall.

Highlight: Credit Sean O'Heslin's for their battling spirit in the second half as they kept plugging away and never let their heads drop. Credit also to the large Ballinamore contingent in the stand who never stopped supporting their heroes.

Lowlight: The first half isn't one that will live long in the memory of Ballinamore fans. Westport started strongly and a nervous O'Heslin's appeared caught in the headlines to a large degree.