Ennis-inspired Ballinagore win battle of Maroon and Whites
Westmeath Examiner Report, Sunday, 10th June, 2007
BALLINAGORE 0-10 TANG 0-7
In Castletown Geoghegan on Sunday last Ballinagore booked their place in the Intermediate Football Final for 2007 with an emphatic victory against a listless and out of sorts Tang side.
This game was all about one man - Michael Ennis - who was simply superb and a major factor in a three point win for his side; but so too was Tang's tactic of playing high ball into full forward Paul Conway. From early on Ballinagore had pulled midfielder Stuart Gavin back to deal with that threat and still the Tang players persisted and they wasted more pressure and good ball with their aimless kicking.
Ballinagore were easing through the game without ever having to extend themselves and looked as if they could raise another gear. The 3 point winning margin does them little justice but this was poor fare in front of a huge crowd that was looking forward to a tight battle but in the end were treated to a minor skirmish.
Ballinagore started as they meant to go on with two great scores in two minutes from Michael Ennis and Dan Gavin respectively.
Tang began their aerial bombardment of the Ballinagore square. It reaped absolutely nothing and but for a missed Niall Bannon goal chance they never threatened Paddy Maloney`s goal. One could almost feel their frustration and when they were caught on the back foot Eoin Miller drilled a ball across the field to David Deegan who put three between the sides.
Niall Bannon narrowed the gap from a 25 metre free after Tommy McCormack was fouled but Dan Gavin nullified that with a fine score after a lovely pass from James Durkan.
Five minutes of inactivity followed before Alan Higgins and Eoin Miller swapped scores from mistakes by either defence but Tang wasted two good chances from McCormack and Colm Conlon who both would normally tap them over for fun and when Ennis, Durkan and McDaniel combined to get Ennis free there was only one outcome and the gap was now out to 4.
Higgins then had a good goal chance but chose to fist a point. Ennis was all over the pitch at this stage and he popped up again after some poor Tang defending to restore his side`s 4 point cushion and the final score of the half went to tang when Denis Bannon was fouled and brother Niall converted the 25 metre free to leave the score 0-7 to 0-4 in Ballinagore`s favour.
If the first half was mildly entertaining then the opening 20 minutes of the second were little shot of dross. Neither side could string more than two passes together and the football was horrendous to watch as Ballinagore sat back waiting for the Tang comeback and Tang not willing or able to raise their game above the mediocre. Tang possibly had the better of the chances but their shooting and shot selection was woeful and allied to some good defending it led to frustration for them and inspiration for Ballinagore.
Still the first score of the game did not arrive until the 53rd minute. It was Michael Ennis after a long winding and excellent solo run who slotted right between the post.
After a long build up Tommy McCormack eventually got Tang`s 5th score but it had taken 24-odd minutes and that was a telling factor into why Tang lost this game.
David Deegan restored Ballinagore`s advantage with a ball that looked well wide of the post but was given; and with 5 minutes to go it should have been all or nothing for Tang but they barely made an indent until Niall Bannon`s shot rebounded off the post. After a Ballinagore indiscretion Bannon kicked the free but the game fizzled out after that and lost all its appeal when Ennis and Dan Gavin combined to put the tie beyond any doubt and the scoreline was only doctored with a 64th minute free from Niall Bannon that put a shinier gloss on the score. In all truth the game had long passed Tang by.
Ennis was imperious and covered the whole pitch at least 10 times such was his appetite for work and he had good assistants in Dan Gavin, David Deegan and Durkan while Enda McCann and Pat Heduan were excellent in the full back line and Ciaran Carey outstanding at wing back. Miller and Gavin were solid at midfield with Miller the attacker and Gavin helping out his defence but all around the field Ballinagore had better players in virtually every position. Tang had few who played up to their potential and Colm Donoghue and Eamonn Carey were the pick of the backs while the Conlon brothers tried hard at midfield.
Higgins and McCormack gave cameos but they are capable of so much better and that will rankle with them until they return to battle for the Peter Geraghty Cup next year but Ballinagore have the eye on the prize now and they will take some beating
Scorers; Ballinagore; Michael Ennis 0-5, Dan Gavin 0-2, David Deegan 0-2, Eoin Miller 0-1
Tang; Niall Bannon 0-4 4 frees, Alan Higgins 0-2, Tommy McCormack 0-1.
Ballinagore: Paddy Maloney, Louis Ennis, Enda McCann, Pat Heduan, Ciaran Deegan, Peter Deegan, Ciaran Carey, Stuart Gavin, Eoin Miller, J.J.Hegarty, Dan Gavin, James Durkan, Thomas McDaniel, Michael Ennis, David Deegan subs: Martin Linnane for Hegarty 52 mins, Shane Heraty for McDaniel 56 mins, Ian Seery for Durkan 62 mins
Tang: Dean Reddin, Damian Gill, Pauric Reilly, Michael Bannon, Eamonn Carey, Colm Donoghue, Ciaran Duncan, Joe Conlon, Colm Conlon, James Tormey, Alan Higgins, Niall Bannon, Tommy McCormack, Paul Conway, Denis Bannon subs; Michael McKnight for Gill 36 mins, Aidan Burke for Tormey 37 mins, Dermot Bannon for Denis Bannon 58 mins
Referee Sean Carroll (The Downs).
Westmeath Examiner Report, Thursday, 11th October, 2007
Ballinagore 0-9 Shandonagh 0-6
Ballinagore reached the promised land at a rain-soaked Cusack Park on Sunday afternoon last, as two late points from David Deegan helped the men in maroon and white defeat a wasteful Shandonagh side in this year`s intermediate football championship decider.
Westmeath Gaels can now look forward to seeing the likes of James Durkan, Eoin Miller and county star Michael Ennis play senior grade football in 2008, with the south Westmeath club now set to dine at the top table of county football for the first time since the 1940s.
It`s a spectacular climax to three rollercoaster years for Ballinagore, who appeared to be in decline after being consigned to junior grade in 2004. But they fought back with great spirit, capturing the 2005 junior crown, before marching on to memorable success in the Leinster junior championship.
For Shandonagh, meanwhile, it`s back to the drawing board. The Ballinea-based club, who contested IFC semi-finals in 2003, 2004 and 2005, appear to be chained to bridesmaid status as year after year, the title continues to elude them.
But the men in blue will not be able to hide from the fact that they were responsible for their own demise on Sunday afternoon. While both sides played their part in what was a dour affair, Shandonagh`s atrocious tally of 23 wides (in contrast to Ballinagore`s six) spoke volumes about their shortcomings, though inclement weather conditions certainly played a part.
Ballinagore were dealt a severe blow shortly before Sunday`s final when it emerged that young forward Durkan, one of their most potent weapons, had failed a fitness test. Although the county minor star made a brief appearance late on, his team-mates had to soldier on without his talents.
Unfazed, they moved into a 0-5 to 0-1 lead with seventeen minutes gone, with braces from Thomas McDaniel and Eoin Miller putting the maroon and whites in command. They led only by two at the interval (0-5 to 0-3), but this was for the most part thanks to some wild kicking from Shandonagh, who registered 15 wides by half time.
The Mullingar side suffered from similar demons when play resumed, and despite drawing level, seemingly simple scores turned into wild misses as their title hunt went awry. In all honesty, Ballinagore were far from impressive, and would have easily lost this game had Shandonagh been at the races. But when it came to the crunch, Gerry Feery`s troops had the psychological edge, and this counted for everything.
Ballinagore dominated the opening quarter, making a solid start to the game when Thomas McDaniel pointed after latching onto a pass from David Deegan in the second minute. Four minutes later, Eoin Miller doubled their lead with a free, after Shandonagh`s John Rushe was adjudged to have fouled McDaniel.
On 12, Miller converted his second free after Michael Ennis was fouled, and Ennis himself extended the lead to four after a quick move involving Deegan and Shane Heraty.
Sixteen minutes had elapsed, and Shandonagh had kicked six wides before they managed to get off the mark, with Mickey Boyle making a successful kick under pressure from Peter Deegan.
But the Mullingar side went into panic stations moments later, when Ballinagore`s Westmeath and Leinster star, Ennis broke free of the defence with a goal on his mind. Tracking back furiously, John Rushe opted to foul Ennis to forestall a goal, and Thomas McDaniel converted the resulting free.
Alan Hickey kicked two points for Shandonagh before half time (one from a free) to reduce the arrears to two. But if they had kicked just half of the 15 wides they had accumulated by the break, the Blues would have been nicely poised for the win. But Hickey, Danny Foster, David Duffy and sub Pádraig Lynn all missed the target, as Shandonagh put on an atrocious display of kicking in the final ten minutes of the half.
Shandonagh levelled matters within five minutes of the restart, but they were still dogged by poor form in front of goal. Enda Kincaid linked up with Mickey Boyle for a point, before Alan Hickey tapped over the equaliser from a free, after Michael Ennis had floored Danny Foster.
Dan Gavin restored the Maroon and Whites` advantage on 37, but Foster kicked another leveller for Shandonagh moments later, finishing off a terrific move involving Colin Galligan, Alan Hickey and Andrew Fox. It was a very brief glimpse of what Billy Flanagan`s men are capable of, but ultimately turned out to be the Mullingar side`s final sniff at goal.
Ballinagore moved ahead once again, as Michael Ennis demonstrated what an inspirational talisman he can be with a terrific long range point. Shandonagh had no answer, and David Deegan doubled their opponents` advantage on 52.
In the meantime, the Mullingar side`s frustration intensified. Colin Galligan found himself yellow carded for a rash challenge on Louis Ennis - the only booking in a game where referee Barry Kelly at times showed extraordinary leniency.
As play continued, Alan Hickey`s battle with erratic kicking continued with another two wides, and wing-back Declan Barry also missed a brace at a time when Shandonagh needed scores desperately.
But the surprise introduction of James Durkan late on gave Ballinagore the psychological edge in the last five minutes, and victory was clinched after David Deegan cut in from the left to kick an impressive 40 metre point in injury time.
Ballinagore: M. Ennis, D. Deegan, T. McDaniel (1 free) and E. Miller (frees) 0-2 each, D. Gavin 0-1.
Shandonagh: A. Hickey 0-3 (2 frees), M. Boyle, E. Kincaid and D. Foster 0-1 each.
Ballinagore: Paddy Maloney; Louis Ennis, Enda McCann, Pat Heduan; Kieran Deegan, Peter Deegan, Ciarán Carey; Stuart Gavin (capt.), Eoin Miller; J.J. Hegarty, Dan Gavin, Michael Ennis; Thomas McDaniel, David Deegan, Shane Heraty. Subs used: Martin Linnane for Hegarty (38), Peter Heraty for S Heraty (50), James Durkan for M Linnane (55), James Sheerin for L Ennis (inj., 59).
Shandonagh: Damien Fox; John Rushe, John Maher, James Kiernan; Thomas Barry, Kevin Hickey (capt.), Declan Barry; David Duffy, Seamus Killian; Andrew Fox, Alan Hickey, Enda Kincaid; Michael Boyle, Colin Galligan, Danny Foster. Subs used: Pádraig Lynn for S Killian (23), Philip Smyth for Lynn (48), Damien Moran for Foster (54).
Referee: Barry Kelly (Mullingar Shamrocks).
Westmeath Examiner Report, Saturday, 17th November, 2007
Ballinagore 3-5 St. Columbas 0-9
In the beautiful setting of Derrycasson on the shores of Lough Gowna last Sunday afternoon, what has been a fairytale chapter in Ballinagore's proud football history continued apace, when the newly-crowned Westmeath intermediate champions knocked out the hosts, St. Columba`s, by a somewhat flattering five-point margin in the first round of the provincial championship.
Despite the odd dark cloud hovering over this most picturesque of venues, conditions remained perfect for football, with not a hint of a breeze. The local club deserve enormous credit for their organisation of this fixture and the large crowd - the majority of whom seemed to be supporting the visitors - were treated to a tough but fair match, which was enjoyable all through.
Ironically, Ballinagore`s first and last scores were opportunist goals from their promising teenage corner forward, Thomas McDaniel, the second of which wrapped up the contest in second half added-time after the hosts had gone into an all-out attack in an attempt to rescue the game.
St. Columba`s started the game the brighter and were rewarded with a second-minute fisted point from lively corner forward J.J. Matthews. Two minutes later, Donal McElligott, displaying a placekicking style á la Jonny Wilkinson, dropped a 35-metre free short of the target.
In the eighth minute, somewhat against the run of play, the visitors took the lead when, having taken possession of the ball from Michael Ennis` quick free, Dan Gavin sent in a great ball goalwards and, after initial hesitation, Thomas McDaniel poked the ball with his fist to the St. Columba`s net. Soon afterwards, the winners could have increased their lead, but James Durkan (returned from injury but appearing to be lacking match sharpness) overplayed the ball when well positioned.
Midway through the half, Donal McElligott`s unusual freetaking pose let him down again when a point seemed very much on the cards. However, Conor McElligott showed the way when he thundered forward from centre half back to kick a great point.
The sides were level in the 17th minute, when Conan Brady did exceptionally well to prevent a wild shot from Francis Mulligan going wide, before picking out the inrushing Christy Reilly who duly fisted over his side`s third point.
A great piece of fielding by Eoin Miller then led to a well taken point from Dan Gavin. Within a minute, David Deegan increased Ballinagore`s lead with a great 35-metre point, with the young full forward having done well to win possession in the first instance.
With nine minutes of normal time remaining, the maroon and whites went a goal up when, following a great catch by Eoin Miller, Michael Ennis played a one-two with Thomas McDaniel and the Westmeath senior star fisted a fine point. Ennis proceeded to win the ensuing kick out and, after embarking on a trademark solo run, he released the ball to David Deegan, but the full forward shot narrowly wide. Donal McElligott was eventually successful from a free in the 24th minute, tapping over from 15 metres in front of the posts.
The same player then shot the ball harmlessly into the grateful hands of Paddy Maloney. At the other end, Eoin Miller missed a difficult free, after Michael Ennis was impeded. However, the winners soon made amends when a fine move involving Stuart Gavin, Eoin Miller and Michael Ennis ended with Dan Gavin dissecting the posts, after making a good angle for himself.
Ballinagore were then dealt a bad blow when team captain, Stuart Gavin had to leave the pitch, clutching an injured hand. Ballinagore custodian, Paddy Maloney did well to hold Shane Mulligan's high shot but, exactly on the half-hour mark, he was powerless to prevent a rasping shot from Donal McElligott flying over the bar. Surprisingly, the referee elected to play no injury-time and he blew the half-time whistle from the ensuing kick out, with Ballinagore ahead by 1-4 to 0-5.
Within 80 seconds of the restart, Ballinagore regained their one-goal advantage, when substitute Martin Linnane instinctively picked out Thomas McDaniel and the number 13 cut in goalwards before fisting the ball over the losers crossbar. St. Columba's then almost snuck in for an equalising goal but Shane Mulligan was unable to find the target.
In the seventh minute of the second moiety, the home side spurned a great chance of a point when Donal McElligott was badly wide from a straightforward free. Soon, a move involving J.J. Matthews, Dermot McCabe and Shane Mulligan ended with the latter shooting powerfully, but again not threatening Paddy Maloney's goal.
St. Columba`s had another period of ascendancy at this juncture and it took superb defending by Michael Ennis to force Mel Dermody into shooting hastily wide. However, the home side continued to attack in waves and were rewarded in the 14th minute with a lovely 25-metre point from Shane Mulligan, having been picked out by J.J. Matthews.
Two minutes later, the latter player availed of a rare error by Eoin Miller and soloed through the visitors` defence before slotting the bar over from 20 metres, leaving just the bare minimum between the sides. The Longford champions soon had a chance to equalise, after Paddy Maloney fumbled Ruairí McElligott`s free over the endline, but Eoin Miller superbly caught Shane Mulligan's resultant '45 to avert the danger.
Within a matter of seconds, Ballinagore counterattacked and David Deegan and Thomas McDaniel combined well to set up the inrushing Michael Ennis who did brilliantly to find the net from a tight angle, under severe pressure.
As this move was building up, a scuffle had arisen at the far end of the pitch and the referee, after consulting with his umpires, booked Ballinagore`s Enda McCann, with the home crowd baying for a red card. Thomas McDaniel came close to sneaking in for another goal for the visitors and the same player then underhit a point opportunity.
Having clearly tired of Donal McElligott's tedious and unsuccessful routine, the St. Columba's management handed the freetaking duties to J.J. Matthews and the corner forward duly pointed a placed ball from 25 metres, with five minutes of normal time remaining.
The visitors were up against it at this juncture and their mentors decided to re-introduce injured skipper Stuart Gavin, in an attempt to bolster a tiring midfield. A patient St. Columba`s move then ended with a foul on Conor McElligott and J.J. Matthews pointed the resultant 20-metre free.
Soon afterwards, the home team was awarded what appeared to most spectators to be a mysterious '45 but, as it transpired, it was not converted. In a welter of excitement, St. Columba`s continued to press forward at every opportunity.
A minute into added time, Gerry Feery's charges wrapped up the tie with a goal worthy of winning any match, when they broke from the back and, with the home defence marked absent, David Deegan picked out Thomas McDaniel who curled the ball exquisitely into the bottom corner of St. Columba's net. Unlike the first half, the referee played a significant portion of added-time but the nearest either team came to increasing their tally was when another McDaniel curler, this time for a point, came back off the upright.
Interested spectator, Tomás Ó Flatharta must have been impressed with quite a number of the Ballinagore side. Louis Ennis and Enda McCann were heroic in the full back line, while the high-fielding Eoin Miller was a tireless worker throughout. Michael Ennis' incredible stamina has already assured him of an esteemed place in Westmeath football folklore and the best tribute that can be paid to Dan Gavin last Sunday was that he matched the Leinster player`s workrate on the day.
Thomas McDaniel's two goals were taken with the aplomb of a veteran, while David Deegan continues to improve as a target-man full forward. The winners now face a home tie against Suncroft of Kildare next weekend.
St. Columba's were well served by corner back Seamus Corcoran, midfielder Ruairí McElligott, and forwards Shane Mulligan, Donal McElligott and, in particular, the ever-threatening J.J. Matthews.
Ballinagore: Paddy Maloney; Louis Ennis, Enda McCann, Pat Heduan; Kieran Deegan, Peter Heraty, Ciaran Carey; Eoin Miller, Stuart Gavin (capt); James Sheerin, Dan Gavin (0-2), Michael Ennis (1-1); Thomas McDaniel (2-1), David Deegan (0-1), James Durkan. Subs: Shane Heraty (for Sheerin, 19 mins), Martin Linnane (for S.Gavin, 28 mins), J.J. Hegarty (for P.Heraty, 33 mins), Stuart Gavin (for Durkan, 55 mins).
St. Columba`s: Patrick Rogers; Seamus Corcoran, Thomas McCabe, Declan Kiernan; Bernard Donohue, Conor McElligott (0-1), Francis Mulligan; Mel Dermody, Ruairí McElligott ; Christy Reilly (0-1), Dermot McCabe, Shane Mulligan (0-1); J.J. Matthews (0-4, 0-2 from frees), Donal McElligott (0-2, 0-1 from a free), Conan Brady. Sub: David Donohue (for Reilly, 58 mins).
Referee: Con Costelloe (Offaly).
Longford Leader Report of Mullinalaghta game, Published on Wednesday 7 November 2007
Ballinagore (Westmeath) 3-5 Mullinalaghta St Columba's 0-9.
Report: Aisling Kiernan. Mullinalaghta St. Columba's failed to convert the numerous scoring chances that came their way in losing out to defiant Westmeath opponents Ballinagore in the Leinster Club Intermediate Football Championship first round tie at Derrycasson on Sunday last.
St Columba's dominated the first half and were in control throughout most of the second half but the vital scores that the team needed were not produced and a lack of self belief in the sides ability allowed a lucky Ballinagore to emerge winners thanks to three crucial goals.
The north Longford side went into this game without their captain, star forward and senior county player Kevin Mulligan, who is currently recovering from injury and were forced to tog out in the Northern Gaels colours as the Ballinagore side were wearing the same maroon and white strips on this occasion.
St Columba's scored the first point of the game when a brilliant pass from Conan Brady to Mel Dermody set up JJ Matthews in perfect position to punch the ball over the bar. The next 10 minutes of the game were totally dominated by the north Longford side. Two frees awarded to St Columba's provided the team with opportunist scores, however on both occasions Ruairi McElligott sent the ball narrowly wide.
The strong defence by the home side spearheaded by Seamus Corcoran, Thomas McCabe and Declan Kiernan insured that the Westmeath side struggled to register a score until the 15th minute of the game when a mistake by St Columba's goalkeeper Patrick Rogers provided a goal opportunity for Ballinagore's James Durkin. The St Columba's goalkeeper ran out from goal which provided the Ballinagore forward with a perfect goal opportunity and he shot the ball past the unassuming Rogers, landing it perfectly in the right hand corner of the net.
The St Columba's side were not to be deterred and a free awarded seconds later to Declan Kiernan for a high tackle on him was easily converted over the bar by county minor player Donal McElligott. This was followed in quick succession with another point from the north Longford side when Conan Brady once again demonstrated his quick thinking ability with a pass to Christy Reilly who booted the ball over the bar to leave the sides all square.
Ballinagore bounced straight back into the game following the equaliser and when the ball was carried up the field, Dan Gavin in the half forward line made the most of his scoring chance when he quickly converted over the bar to put the side ahead. At this stage the south Westmeath side began to battle hard and registered another point on the scoreboard.
A couple of wides followed in the Mullinalaghta camp and another point from Ballinagore's Michael Ennis left the St Columba's men trailing by a goal. A foul on Donal McElligott provided a vital scoring opportunity and he made no mistake in the conversion over the bar when he stepped up to take the free. Both teams then scored a point apiece before the half-time whistle blew and the north Longford side trailed by 1-4 to 0-5.
Ballinagore registered the first score of the second half when Dan Gavin converted the ball over the bar. The St Columba's side continued to work hard and when Shane Mulligan set up JJ Matthews for a scoring chance he easily converted over the bar. Matthews was on fire in the full forward line and a pass from Conon Brady set him up nicely to produce another point from play.
A free to St Columba's taken by Ruairi McElligott resulted in a '45' for his side and when county player Shane Mulligan stepped up to take it, the ball dropped short into the square and was knocked back out to JJ Matthews. A late tackle on the St Columba's corner forward went unnoticed by Offaly referee Con Costello and the immediate counter-attack resulted in a goal for the Westmeath side.
This fueled emotions on the sideline and the umpire was forced to speak to the referee who decided to allow the goal and instead issued a yellow card to centre back Peter Herety for the serious foul on JJ Matthews. Two Ballinagore players were then issued with yellow cards for serious tackles on the men from north Longford and then came the final blow for the St Columba's side.
Ballinagore full forward David Deegan, who performed well throughout the game, drove the ball past Mullinalaghta keeper Patrick Rogers to secure a third goal and guaranteed victory for the Westmeath Intermediate champions.
MULLINALAGHTA: Patrick Rogers; Seamus Corcoran, Thomas McCabe, Declan Kiernan; Bernard Donohue, Conor McElligott (0-1), Francis Mulligan; Mel Dermody, Ruairi McElligott; Christy Reilly (0-1), Dermot McCabe, Shane Mulligan (0-1); JJ Matthews (0-3), Donal McElligott (0-3), Conan Brady.
Subs used:- David Donohoe, Liam Reilly.
BALLINAGORE: Paddy Maloney; Louis Ennis, Enda McCann, Pat Hedguan; Ciaran Deegan, Peter Herety, Ciaran Carey; Owen Miller, Stuart Gavin; James Sheerin, Dan Gavin (0-2), Michael Ennis (0-1); Thomas McDaniels (1-1), David Deegan (1-1), James Durkin (1-0).
Subs used:- Martin Linnane, JJ Hegarty.
Referee: Con Costello (Offaly).
Westmeath Examiner Report, Saturday, 24th November, 2007
Suncroft, Kildare 1-8 Ballinagore 0-10
Inspired by the classiest player on view, their captain, Michael Harnett, Kildare champions, Suncroft qualified for the semi-final of the Leinster Club Intermediate Football Champions when pipping Westmeath kingpins, Ballinagore thanks to an injury time point. It was fitting that it was Harnett who should prove the matchwinner for he had been outstanding all the way through and he broke Ballinagore hearts with a goal just on the hour mark when the hosts thought they were within sight of victory.
Louth referee, Mr. Paul Finnegan who did not endear himself to either set of supporters in Ballinagore on Sunday elected to add on four minutes of injury time and up popped Michael Harnett once more to take a pass from Killian Brennan before steering home the winning point.
Elation for Suncroft parallelled heartbreak for Ballinagore, who led by four points with just three minutes of normal time remaining. However, all credit to the visitors who never gave up the ghost and with Trevor Moran leading the charge from midfield, they pummelled the home defence, which finally wilted.
In a game which was played in a good, sporting fashion one flash point led to the dismissal of Westmeath inter county star, Michael Ennis and Suncroft midfielder, Martin Brennan. Both received straight red cards following a very timid looking incident and certainly the loss of Ennis was a major setback for his Ballinagore colleagues.
On a bitingly cold afternoon, it was Ballinagore who were quicker to settle but after chances were missed at either end, it took an Eoin Miller free to open the scoring on five minutes. The home side put together a splendid move on ten minutes involving Thomas McDaniel, David Dillon and James Durkan before Shane Heraty was placed for a splendid point.
Two minutes later, Michael Harnett finally got Suncroft off the mark, converting a free after he had been impeded and four minutes later, he reacted smartest to an Alan Middleton punt to level the game. There was to be just one further addition the scoreline in the opening moiety and it came from the boot of Eoin Miller who floated over the lead point from a free.
In the final moments of the half, Ballinagore had a couple of gilt edge chances particularly one from Ciaran Carey who was most unfortunate to see his goal bound shot cannon back off the upright with Suncroft custodian, Paul Sinnott well and truly beaten. Anthony Rainbow, who had a rather quiet game by his standards came to his side`s rescue at the death when he claimed a very dangerous ball close to his own line.
On the change of ends there was certainly more urgency in evidence and Suncroft had restored parity by the second minute with Alan Middleton hitting the target. Thomas McDaniel, who was a handful for the visitors defence all day, played a key role in restoring Ballinagore`s advantage, firstly winning a free which Eoin Miller converted before raising a white flag himself after a flowing move.
The men in maroon and white moved three clear on nine minutes when Michael Ennis fired over.
Suncroft had a justifiable claim for a penalty when Michael Harnett was bundled over close in but the referee indicated a 13 metre free which the former duly converted. The margin was down to the minimum almost immediately when substitute, Ciaran Dowling who had just replaced David Dillon drilled over a good point.
But Ballinagore kicked on again and Michael Ennis and full forward, David Deegan worked an opening for James Durkan who applied the finish. A splendid piece of interplay between Shane Heraty and Dan Gavin saw the latter push Ballinagore three points in front again as the game entered the final quarter.
Suncroft had no intention of giving this game up without a fight and after Michael Ennis and Martin Brennan had been sidelined, Trevor Moran lifted his side with a point. With six minutes remaining, a superb point from Thomas McDaniel restored Ballinagore`s advantage and when Dan Gavin added his second, things were looking rosy for the home side.
However, Michael Harnett`s heroics were about to change all that. A point in the 28th minute, from a free, was followed by their stunning goal. On reflection, it emanated from a moment of hesitancy on the part of the home defence and when the adventurous John Brown ballooned the ball towards Paddy Maloney`s goal, the nerves began to jangle.
And with good reason. It was a ball Ballinagore simply had to win but unfortunately for the men in maroon and white, it was worked to Harnett and he duly crashed the leather beyond the helpless Maloney. The impetus was now with the visitors and Suncroft crushed Ballinagore when Captain Fantastic grabbed a pass from Killian Brennan and slotted the winner three minutes into stoppage time.
Along with Harnett, Suncroft were well served by John Philips and John Brown in defence, the tireless Trevor Moran in midfield and Alan Middleton, Killian Brennan, who had replaced the selected Cathal Byrne before the throw-in and Liam Harnett.
When the Ballinagore management reflect on Sunday`s outcome, there are areas which might merit consideration. Too often in the second period, the half forward line, in particular, were sucked out of position and inevitably, it put greater pressure on the home side`s defence. It also meant that players such as Thomas McDaniel and David Deegan were left isolated and in those circumstances, chances were somewhat restricted.
However, Ballinagore are still on a learning curve and they have made great strides in the past few years and no doubt they will stake a claim for inclusion at the highest level in the coming years. On a day of ultimate disappointment on Sunday, Pat Heduan, Peter Deegan,, Stuart Gavin, Michael Ennis, Dan Gavin and Thomas McDaniel worked extremely hard to take the Westmeath champions through to a second provincial semi-final but it was not to be.
Scorers: Suncroft - M. Harnett 1-5, A. Middleton, C. Dowling and T. Moran 0-1 each. Ballinagore - E. Miller 0-3, D. Gavin 0-2, S. Heraty, T. McDaniel, M. Ennis, J. Durkan and D. Deegan 0-1 each.
Suncroft: Paul Sinnott; John Philips, Anthony Toft, John Corr; Maurice Moran, Anthony Rainbow, John Brown; Trevor Moran, Martin Brennan; Alan Middleton, Killian Brennan, Michael Harnett, captain; Liam Harnett, David Dillon, Michael Conneely. Subs. Ciaran Dowling for Dillon, Cathal Byrne for Conneely.
Ballinagore: Paddy Maloney; Louis Ennis, Enda McCann, Pat Heduan; Kieran Deegan, Peter Deegan, Ciaran Carey; Stuart Gavin, captain, Eoin Miller; Shane Heraty, Dan Gavin, Michael Ennis; Thomas McDaniel, David Deegan, James Durkan. Subs. JJ Hegarty for Heraty, James Sheerin for Durkan.
Referee: Mr. Paul Finnegan, Louth.