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2008 Senior Football Championship Reports

 Black and Ambers do just enough as Ballinagore falter in senior football debut

Westmeath Examiner Report, Saturday, 31st May, 2008

The Downs 1-12, Ballinagore 0-11

St. Mary’s, Rochfortbridge grounds was the venue for the Senior Championship clash between the perennial contenders, The Downs and new kids on the block, Ballinagore.

It must seem like a lifetime ago that the maroon and whites won the Intermediate Championship but they got a baptism of fire on Sunday last as in the early stages they were totally overwhelmed by a slicker Downs outfit.

To their credit Ballinagore hung on in there and gave their more experienced opponents a slight fright as they finished with a flourish. Indeed had they not wasted good free taking opportunities in the first half then this game could have gone either way but the wily heads of The Downs did just about enough to win this one and it would have been harsh on them if they did not claimed victory.

For long periods of this game they were completely dominant but they failed to shake off the Ballinagore boys and that will be a worry to Ray Smyth and his management team but this was an enjoyable game that had plenty of good football and great scores on the opening weekend of Championship 2008.

From the throw-in The Downs stated their intentions as they tore into the game at high speed and at times mesmerised their opponents but it still took five minutes for them to register a score when Tommy Cleary pointed a free. Ballinagore did not delay long in replying, when James Durkan equalised from a free. Cleary put The Downs ahead after another placed ball but David Deegan replied for Ballinagore when he hit a marvellous point from a very narrow angle. Luke Folan should have scored a goal moments later for The Downs but his final effort was just wide while at the other end Durkan missed a couple of very scoreable frees.

Tommy Cleary put The Downs back in front after Folan had been fouled and then Barry Conroy combined with Greg Crowley, Cleary and Sean O`Leary to work the ball from his own 14 yard line for a magnificent score. Missed chances from Durkan and Thomas McDaniel at the other end were costly as Conroy latched on to a long pass from Vincent Conneely to put The Downs further in front. Durkan missed another free at the opposite end and it looked as if the occasion was getting to Gerry Feery`s side.

Jack Hogan made a lung busting run for The Downs that ended with Cleary scoring a beauty and then The Downs really put daylight between the sides when Folan cut along the end line and fisted across the square where Shane Power palmed the ball to the net past a helpless Paddy Moloney.

Many another team would have thrown in the towel at this stage but Ballinagore were not going to just roll over tamely and after Durkan had missed another free he made amends and split the posts after a foul on Ennis and at the break it was The Downs 1-6 Ballinagore 0-3 and in honesty, if Ballinagore had taken their opportunities then it would have been so much closer.

Ballinagore started the better in the second half but could not convert their superiority on to the scoreboard but Michael Ennis did point from a short free by Eoin Miller. Tommy Cleary restored The Downs six points lead with possibly the best score of the game up to that point and Barry Conroy pushed them further in front from a free but Ballinagore were their own biggest enemies as they hit some awful wides from eminently scoreable positions. Sean Loughlin missed a good goal chance for The Downs when his shot went just the wrong side of the post and at the other end Ennis took over the free taking duties and pointed immediately. Barry Conroy should have really scored a goal shortly after but just at the crucial moment he lost control and fumbled but Folan gathered the rebound and slotted over a fine point to give his side a seven point cushion.

Ballinagore knew they needed to up their game and that they did and The Downs resorted to fouling and Michael Ennis converted two frees from their indiscretions and David Deegan could have narrowed that even further when he was in on goal but a resolute Downs defence repelled that and from the break away Cleary kicked a wonder score and seconds later Folan added another equally as good. With eight odd minutes left on the clock, the game looked comfortable for the Black and Ambers but Ballinagore were finishing the stronger and they took the game completely to a fading Downs challenge.

Ennis converted a free before Durkan hit two majestic scores, one involving Miller and Ennis and with four minutes remaining anything looked possible but Ballinagore wasted a couple of good chances while The Downs defence really fronted up as well and Folan got the insurance point when he ran the length of the field to convert. Ballinagore then made one last stand and David Deegan was very unlucky to see his goal bound shot blocked and after Michael Ennis had converted another free a scramble in the Black and Ambers goalmouth was just about rebuffed and the final whistle brought a slight relief to The Downs and a lesson in reality to Ballingore.

The victors were truly excellent at times and, certainly when they opened up, had Ballinagore chasing shadows. Some of their scores were excellent but they did foul a lot a and found it very hard to finish their opponents off and thy will be concerned that they wilted badly in the last 10 minutes or so.

Still in Folan they had the best player on the park and he was excellent when he was needed most while Cleary and Conroy too played well up front. John Smyth and Greg Crowley held their own at midfield while at the back, Conor Carley and particularly, Niall Nolan had fine games and they will be glad to have this potential banana skin out of the way and they will improve.

For Ballinagore it was a lesson in what it takes to survive at the top level and they will benefit greatly from this game. Ennis was superb and there were also fine contributions from Marty Linnane, Ciaran Carey, Miller and Gavin at midfield and McDaniel was a constant threat up front but they will need to start better and not have to play catch up all the time but the signs were good and their campaign will be interesting. The Downs will certainly be one of the favourites for this group and they will be happy to start on a winning note as they look to repeat their title winning ways of 2005 and they will certainly be a force to be reckoned with.

Scorers: The Downs - Tommy Cleary 0-6, 3 frees, Luke Folan 0-3, Barry Conroy 0-3, 1 free, Shane Power 1-0. Ballinagore - Michael Ennis 0-6, 5 frees, James Durkan 0-4, 2 frees, David Deegan 0-1.

The Downs: Brendan Cleary, Niall Nolan, Sean O`Leary, Stephen Cleary, Vincent Conneely, Jack Hogan, Conor Carley, John Smyth, Greg Crowley, Barry Conroy, Tommy Cleary, Noel Molloy, Keith Shanley, Luke Folan, Shane Power. Subs; Sean Loughlin for Shanley H/T, Mark Dalton for Stephen Cleary 42 mins, Paul Shanley for Tommy Cleary, Joe Corroon for Molloy 58 mins

Ballinagore: Paddy Moloney, Louis Ennis, Enda McCann, Pat Heduan, Ciaran Deegan, Martin Linnane, Ciaran Carey, Stewart Gavin, Eoin Miller, JJ Hegarty, James Durkan, Paul Robinson, Thomas McDaniel, Michael Ennis, David Deegan. Subs: Peter Heraty for Hegarty 41 mins, Ian Seery for Robinson 48 mins.

Referee Pat Greene, Tubberclair.



Late rally earns point for Coralstown/Kinnegad

Westmeath Examiner Report, Tuesday, 8th July, 2008

Ballinagore 1-10 Coralstown/Kinnegad 1-10

Ballinagore and Coralstown/Kinnegad fought out an entertaining draw in the Lagan Cement Senior Football Championship Division 2 game played at the excellently appointed Lakepoint Park, St. Loman"s, Mullingar on Wednesday evening last. Ballinagore will be disappointed not to have had their maiden victory in the championship as they held a six-point lead after 12 minutes of the second half.
However, Joe Giles" Coralstown/Kinnegad charges showed all their battling qualities as they came back before eventually equalising in "added-on" time. Following their first round win over St. Loman"s, Mullingar, they are now in a very strong position to qualify for, at the least, the quarter-final of the championship, while Ballinagore, if they continue this form, also have a strong possibility of making the knock-out stages.

Over the course of the game Ballinagore defended superbly with corner backs, Louis Ennis and Pat Heduan particularly prominent. Ennis, in particular had a superb first half. His direct opponent, Eamon Fleming, had moved outfield but Ennis stayed "at home" and cleared a number of Coralstown/Kinnegad attacks.

Midfielders, Eoin Miller and Stuart Gavin had a superb battle against the Coralstown/Kinnegad pairing and honours were probably even over the hour.

The youthful pairing of James Durkan and Thomas McDaniel were outstanding all through with their incisive running and accurate shooting a feature. Michael Ennis, fresh from an outstanding performance in Croke Park two days earlier, ran himself into the ground in pursuit of club glory. He is a tremendous servant to Ballinagore.

For Coralstown/Kinnegad, Evan Curran was very solid in goals with his long and accurate kick-outs very impressive. David Cole and Ronan Doyle were the pick of their defence with David Kilmartin working very hard, making a fantastic effort to curb the Michael Ennis threat.
As mentioned earlier, their midfield pairing of Fergal Dardis and Niall Kilmartin seemed to share that area with Dardis" high catching a feature of the first half. Mark Gorman was the pick of their attack, with Enda Leonard giving able assistance, weighing in with their vital goal which hauled them back into the contest. Second half substitute, Wayne Fox added considerable punch when introduced.
Coralstown/Kinnegad were straight into attack from the throw-in and moved into an early lead when Alan Giles pointed a 30-metre free. They doubled the lead when Ronan Foley snapped up a breaking ball and slotted over after three minutes. Ballinagore then mounted a couple of attacks and were rewarded with their first score when Durkan had his first point of the match when he notched a 20-metre from the right of goal, after Michael Ennis had been fouled.
Following this point, Evan Curran"s kick out was fielded superbly by Fergal Dardis and he sent his side on the offensive. Following a good passing movement involving Eamon Fleming and Alan Giles, Mark Gorman scored a fine point to put his side two points clear once more. From the kick out James Durkan gained possession for Ballinagore, he laid the ball off to David Deegan and Deegan"s ball across the goal was expertly cut out by David Kilmartin at the expense of a "45", as Michael Ennis closed in. Following the "45", James Durkan finished wide.
In their next attack, after 12 minutes, Coralstown/Kinnegad opened a three-point lead when Alan Giles scored his second free after midfielder, Niall Kilmartin was fouled. At this stage, Ballinagore came more into the game and Thomas McDaniel scored a fine point from 30 metres to reduce the gap to two points. They continued in the ascendancy and, again, it was McDaniel at the end of a fine passing movement who cut the deficit to the minimum. The equaliser came in the 20th minute when Durkan pointed from 30 metres, following patient play when the original attack was built on the left wing before being switched to the right, when Thomas McDaniel found Durkan with an excellent crossfield pass.
Coralstown/Kinnegad lifted the siege and Mark Gorman"s point put them back in front with another wonderful Fergal Dardis catch a feature in the build-up. The decisive play of the first half came in the 23rd minute when Thomas McDaniel released a "flying" Michael Ennis, who was unceremoniously dragged to the ground for a penalty. James Durkan belied his youth as he coolly slotted the penalty to Evan Curran"s left to give Ballinagore the lead for the first time, 1-4 to 0-5. Following a brief flare-up in the 25th minute, Coralstown/Kinnegad defenders, Jason Lynch and Ronan Doyle were yellow-carded.

There followed a strong Coralstown/Kinnegad attack which showed the Ballinagore defence at their best as they pushed the attack back out the field before Michael Ennis gained possession. He, in turn, passed to David Deegan who was fouled as he played a long ball towards McDaniel. James Durkan, once again stepped up to leave his side 1-5 to 0-5 up at half time.

Fantastic second half start for Ballinagore
Within 11 minutes of the restart, Ballinagore had stretched their lead to six points. The first three points of the half were excellent scores from James Durkan (2) and Thomas McDaniel. The performances of these two young players really showed that they have very bright futures.

Coralstown/Kinnegad got a lifeline in the 13th minute when a speculative shot from 45 metres from substitute, Wayne Fox was flicked to the net by Enda Leonard. Their comeback continued when Fox gained possession from a poor kick out, raced through and finished over the bar to reduce the Ballinagore lead to two points.

However, Ballinagore regained the initiative and two magnificent scores from James Durkan and Michael Ennis increased their lead to four again. Coralstown/Kinnegad continued to battle and, when Alan Giles scored his third point of the evening after 23 minutes, the lead was down to three.

If there was a definite turning point of the match it arrived after 25 minutes when, firstly Ballinagore had a "goal" from David Deegan disallowed for a "square ball" before Coralstown/Kinnegad swept down the field and Eamon Fleming scored his first point of the game to reduce the deficit to two. In their next attack, Coralstown/Kinnegad reduced the lead to the minimum when Mark Gorman rose highest in the square to punch Alan Giles" "45" over the bar.
As the game entered added-time, the comeback was complete when Enda Leonard snapped up a high ball played in by Wayne Fox to finish left-footed over the bar and leave the scores level at 1-10 each at the final whistle.
Ballinagore: Paddy Maloney, Louis Ennis, Enda McCann, Pat Heduan, Martin Linnane, Peter Heraty, Peter Deegan, Eoin Miller, Stuart Gavin, JJ Hegarty, James Durkan (1-6, 1-0 from a penalty, 0-2 from frees), Michael Ennis (0-1), Thomas McDaniel (0-3), Paul Robinson, David Deegan. Subs: Dan Gavin (for Peter Heraty, 44 mins), Kieran Deegan (for Martin Linnane, 54 mins).
Coralstown/Kinnegad: Evan Curran, Jason Lynch, David Cole, Andrew Cannon, David Kilmartin, Ronan Doyle, Derek Griffin, Fergal Dardis, Niall Kilmartin, Alan Giles (0-3, 0-2 from frees), Ronan Foley (0-1), Mark Gorman (0-3), Eamon Fleming (0-1), Enda Leonard (1-1), David Flynn. Subs: Wayne Fox (0-1) (for Ronan Foley, 35 mins), Stephen Bracken (for Derek Griffin, 42 mins), Jamie Wilson (for David Flynn, 54 mins).
Referee: Brendan Keena (Ballynacargy)



Killucan edge out Ballinagore to claim first points in SFC

Westmeath Examiner Report, Tuesday, 19th August, 2008

Killucan 1-10, Ballinagore 1-8

An unanswered blast of 1-4 between the 43rd and 47th minute dragged Killucan from a four-point deficit to a three-point lead and laid the foundations for their first win in the Championship for 2008.

Chief amongst the scorers during that mini-blitz was Brian Smyth who kicked three great points that dragged his, until then, lacklustre comrades right back into the game and into a lead that they would not relinquish to a visibly wilting Ballinagore side.

Up to that point the Maroon and Whites looked all over winners as they had used their limited possession expertly and had used Thomas McDaniels as an able target man up front to great effect. But Killucan showed their experience and upped their game in the final quarter and by that stage Ballinagore had gone to the well too often and just ended up running out of steam.

Played in ideal conditions in Cusack Park last Tuesday evening, this was an enjoyable if somewhat error-ridden game but was always nip and tuck throughout and the Saffrons of Killucan will greatly accept the two points. With local derbies to come against The Downs and Coralstown/Kinnegad, they will certainly see themselves at least reaching a play-off place.

The game had barely a minute played when Killucan corner forward Paul Briody gathered from a Padraig Leavy pass and kicked the first score of the game. James Durkan equalised for Ballinagore moments later from a long-range free but a Padraig Leavy free from a foul on Brian Smyth put Killucan ahead once again, only for Michael Ennis to reply with a free for Ballinagore moments later. Killucan the went wide crazy and made several poor attempts to get a score. Paul Greville was guilty of a pick off the ground when a goal seemed at his mercy.

The Killucan defence was also jittery and when another ball was poorly cleared, James Durkan pointed to put Ballinagore ahead and, moments later, JJ Hegarty put two between the sides from a super catch and pass by David Deegan. Killucan got one back when former county star, James Nugent kicked a lovely score after a long move from defence and they could have had a goal seconds later when a high-hanging Shane Leavy delivery was dropped by Paddy Maloney in the Ballinagore goal and it took a brave clearance from Peter Deegan to lift the danger.

Padraig Leavy brought his side level when he converted a 45 yard free and then Paul Greville put Killucan one ahead when he fly-hacked over. Ballinagore could have had a goal when a fine delivery from Stuart Gavin was fielded superbly by McDaniels. He shipped the ball on to Michael Ennis but his goal effort went over rather than under the crossbar and, for the next few minutes of the half, the sides exchanged poor wides leaving the half time score 0-5 apiece.

After the break Killucan had the better of the early exchanges but their shooting was poor and from a break out Ballinagore turned the game on its head when Durkan"s high ball was fielded by Bryan but he was dispossessed on the way out by McDaniels and the nippy corner forward made no mistake from close range. Killucan needed something quick but again they wasted opportunity after opportunity and, when Michael Ennis and James Durkan combined several times before Ennis converted for a point, Ballinagore were suddenly four points up with 20 minutes to go.

Smyth went on his one-man crusade and, after scoring two great points himself, it was his fielding that gave the ball to Stephen Morley and his through ball was fisted to the net by Nugent and now Eamonn Gallagher"s charges were a point ahead. It was certainly the turning point in the game and when Smyth fisted another point after a mazy, lengthy run Killucan were pulling away. Smyth"s heroics were lifting all around him and when Paul Greville scored from a narrow angle and distance, the pendulum had really swung in the Saffron"s favour.

Smyth added to Ballinagore"s woes when he collected a poor kick out and, with the goal at his mercy, took the sensible option of a point to leave four between the sides with six minutes to go. Ballinagore did stage a mini-rally toward the end and McDaniels scored a wonderful point and they were still on the attack in the final seconds when midfielder Eoin Miller strangely chose to point rather than go for goal. From the kick out, referee Barry Kelly called for the ball to end the encounter.

Scorers: Killucan - Brian Smyth 0-4, James Nugent 1-1, Paul Greville 0-2, Padraig Leavy 0-2 (2 frees), Paul Briody 0-1; Ballinagore - Thomas McDaniels 1-1, Michael Ennis 0-3 (1 free), James Durkan 0-2 (1 free), JJ Hegarty and Eoin Miller 0-1 each.

Killucan: David Bryan, Tony Doyle, Brendan McKeogh, Stephen Morley, Conor Jordan, Frank Boyle, Niall Flanagan, Brian Smyth, James Nugent, Alan Doyle, Shane Leavy, John Shaw, Paul Greville, Padraig Leavy, Paul Briody. Subs: Cormac Boyle (for Briody, 43 mins).

Ballinagore: Paddy Maloney, Louis Ennis, Peter Heraty, Pat Heduan, Kieran Carey, Peter Deegan, Kieran Deegan, Eoin Miller, Stuart Gavin, J.J.Hegarty, James Durkan, Michael Ennis, Thomas McDaniels, Paul Robinson, David Deegan. Subs: Dan Gavin (for Peter Deegan, 37 mins), Paul Maloney (for Louis Ennis, 43 mins), Rory Lynam (for Robinson, 52 mins), Ian Seery (for Hegarty, 57 mins).

Referee: Barry Kelly, Mullingar Shamrocks.



Late points ease St. Loman"s to another championship win

Westmeath Examiner Report, Tuesday, 26th August, 2008

St. Loman’s, Mgr. 0-16 Ballinagore 0-7

St. Loman"s, Mullingar maintained their impressive run in this year"s Westmeath senior football championship with a deserved win over a gallant Ballinagore outfit in the first leg of last Sunday evening"s double-header at Cusack Park, even if the nine-point winning margin somewhat flattered the blue and whites.

The winners now look certain to feature in the knockout stages of the championship, while the losers will have a fight on their hands if they are not to return immediately to the intermediate ranks. Overall, the game never reached any particularly high standards, but the Mullingar men always looked the likely winners and they are definitely a side who have improved considerably in 2008, after some lacklustre campaigns in recent years.

Ballinagore had the advantage of a slight wind in the first half and they were straight out of the traps with their promising young midfielder, James Durkan, rifling over a terrific point after only 30 seconds. After a poorly-struck free by Paul Martin, Enda Matthews took over the placekicking duties and his 40-metre shot from the ground came back off the Ballinagore crossbar, but Ciaran Kilmurray was unable to poke the rebound home. By the tenth minute, St. Loman"s had edged in front, courtesy of two great points from the boots of Tommy Lambden and Paul Martin.

Both sides proceeded to miss chances, including a most untypical effort from Michael Ennis straight into the grateful arms of St. Loman"s custodian, Stephen Gallagher, before Thomas McDaniel found the range to level the contest in the 17th minute. The winners regained the lead with a brace of well-taken points from lively corner forward, Enda Matthews - Ciaran Kilmurray and Paddy Dowdall being the respective providers. In the 20th minute, John Aherne fed Conrad Reilly and the left half forward clearly had a goal on his mind as he bore down on goals, but his shot flashed wide of the target. Another two half-chances of goals for St. Loman"s soon followed but, firstly, Ciaran Kilmurray was adjudged, perhaps harshly, to be in the small square before Conor Lynam"s dangerous high ball arrived and then Enda Matthews pounced on a loose clearance from Dan Gavin, but his first-time shot along the ground was parried by Paddy Maloney, and Matthews fired the rebound wide.

Ciaran Kilmurray again did well to set up Enda Matthews for another point in the 23rd minute and, three minutes later, the full forward picked out the inrushing Conrad Reilly who opted to take a point, when a goal was on the cards. Westmeath star, Michael Ennis had been relatively quiet to up to this point, but he chipped in with a brace of very good points as the first moiety came to a close, sandwiched between which Conrad Reilly slotted over his second point. In the first minute of added-time, Eoin Miller, who was now much more prominent in an outfield role than in his original full forward slot, kicked a marvellous long-range point to leave his side trailing at the inverval, on a scoreline of St. Loman"s 0-7 Ballinagore 0-5.

Within 45 seconds of the restart, the blue and whites increased their lead with an exquisite finish from Enda Matthews. Just over a minute later, Ballinagore responded with a stylish point from substitute Ian Seery. However, the winners were well in control for most of the remainder of the game and a converted free from Paul Martin, followed by a lovely score from Conrad Reilly, opened up a four-point advantage by the mid-point of the second half. Ballinagore almost got a lifeline when Ian Seery fisted James Durkan"s cross goalwards, but Stephen Gallagher saved instinctively, at the expense of an unconverted "45".

A fine solo point by Eoin Miller, in the 16th minute, was to be Ballinagore"s last score of the evening as the winners added six unanswered points in the time remaining. A point by Willie McGovern, within seconds of his introduction, started the scoring spree and Enda Matthews showed he can score from frees as well as open play with a beautifully-judged effort from 45 metres, taken from the ground. Ciaran Kilmurray"s flick from substitute Johnny Plunkett"s lob came back off the upright and the ball was cleared, before Kieran Lynam (who had replaced his brother Conor at half-time) took over in the scoring stakes with three points, the first two being fine scores from play.

Late in the game, two brief skirmishes led to a couple of bookings, with Michael Ennis somewhat lucky that his card was yellow, not red. Deep in injury-time, Enda Matthews rounded off match scoring with another pointed free.

This was a very satisfactory performance by St. Loman"s, whose mixture of youth and experience is beginning to take shape. Ollie Plunkett, James Davitt and Paddy Dowdall defended well, while John Aherne grafted hard at midfield. Ciaran Kilmurray proved to be a very able target man in an attack where Enda Matthews and Conrad Reilly took their scores with great aplomb, while the introduction of Kieran Lynam undoubtedly bolstered the forward division.

Ballinagore were well served by centre half back, Dan Gavin, midfielder James Durkan and Eoin Miller, when moved to centrefield, while Michael Ennis and substitute Ian Seery fared best in a disappointing forward division.

St. Loman"s, Mullingar: Stephen Gallagher; Ollie Plunkett, James Davitt, Adam Carroll; David Rushe, Kenny McKinley, Paddy Dowdall; John Aherne, Adrian Charles; Paul Martin (0-2, 0-1 from a free), Tommy Lambden (0-1), Conrad Reilly (0-3); Conor Lynam, Ciaran Kilmurray, Enda Matthews (0-6, 0-2 from frees). Subs: Kieran Lynam (0-3, 0-1 from a free) (for Lynam, half-time), Johnny Plunkett (for Lambden, 33 mins), Willie McGovern (0-1) (for Martin, 48 mins), Niall Finnegan (for Carroll, 60 mins), Senan Russell (for Davitt, 60 mins).

Ballinagore: Paddy Maloney; Louis Ennis, Peter Heraty, Pat Heduan; Rory Lynam, Dan Gavin, Peter Deegan; Stuart Gavin, James Durkan (0-1); J.J. Hegarty, David Deegan, Michael Ennis (0-2); Kieran Carey, Eoin Miller (0-2), Thomas McDaniel (0-1). Subs: Ian Seery (0-1) (for Carey, inj, 23 mins), Ciaran Deegan (for Heduan, 29 mins), Jason Winfield (for Hegarty, 44 mins).

Referee: Niall Ward (Garrycastle)


St. Malachy’s retain senior status after thrilling derby

Westmeath Examiner Report, Tuesday, 9th September, 2008

St. Malachy’s 1-11, Ballinagore 0-13

St. Malachy"s and Ballinagore served up a thrilling contest in the last round-robin game in the Westmeath senior football championship on Sunday evening last, at the end of which a one-point win saw the men in red and black guaranteed their place in next year"s premier competition.

While the losers must now win a difficult play-off match against Bunbrosna if they are to avoid an immediate return to the intermediate ranks.

Ironically, given the fact that the match was switched from Moate due to adverse weather in the days leading up to the game, last Sunday evening"s encounter was played in ideal conditions for football and the fare on offer was of a decent standard all through. Indeed, if the two sides on duty had performed with the same intensity in some of their earlier games, it is unlikely that there would have been as much at stage last weekend. In the end, a game which could have gone either way was eventually settled by a last-gasp free from Alan Mangan in the seventh minute of added-time, the seventh score from the Westmeath regular, which included an excellently-converted penalty in the fifth minute of the first half, after which the winners were never headed.

The action came thick and fast right from the throw-in and James Durkan was wide after a mere 20 seconds, but the very promising Ballinagore forward made amends a minute later with a great point, following a flowing move. However, the three minutes which followed saw St. Malachy"s forge ahead with an unanswered 1-2. A fine Barry Whelan point was followed by a converted 35-metre free from Alan Mangan (the ball having been moved forward for dissent), before Shane Carey picked out Blaine Lehart with a quickly-taken free and when the midfielder was hauled to the ground, the referee had no hesitation in awarding a penalty to St. Malachy"s. Alan Mangan dispatched the resultant kick with aplomb to the top of Paddy Maloney’s net.

In the seventh minute, Michael Ennis tapped over a routine free for the maroon and whites but his county colleague, Alan Mangan soon responded with a similar effort, also taken from his hands. With almost 12 minutes gone, a free from an acute angle by James Durkan came off the St. Malachy"s upright and Dan Gavin blazed the rebound wide. Alan Mangan increased St. Malachy"s lead from another free - again, dissent by the losers meant that the ball had been brought forward into a scoreable position - before Dan Gavin started and finished a move which led to Ballinagore"s third point of the evening. A crucial miss ensued for the losers when a tremendous run by Michael Ennis set up David Deegan for a gilt-edged goal chance, but the corner forward shot narrowly wide.

Two points in as many minutes from Alan Mangan, the first from a straightforward free and the second a fabulous solo effort from play, put St. Malachy"s six points ahead with five minutes of normal time remaining, but Ballinagore finished the half strongly and slotted over three points without reply from Thomas McDaniel, Rory Tynan (with McDaniel the provider) and a glorious late effort from James Durkan. At the break, St. Malachy"s led by 1-6 to 0-6.

In the opening exchanges of the second moiety, the sides exchanged points - Robbie Jackson"s neat effort being cancelled out by another terrific score from James Durkan for Ballinagore. Joe Clarke increased St. Malachy"s lead in the ninth minute (with the referee missing a push by Paddy Corcoran in the build-up) but a pointed 25-metre free from James Durkan again reduced the margin to a goal in the 11th minute. Nine scoreless minutes ensued, but almost half of this saw a stoppage in play for an injury to Kieran Carey. His team-mate, Michael Ennis then appeared to be impeded as he got set to gain possession near the St. Malachy"s goal.

A tap-over free from James Durkan kept Ballinagore within touching distance but, with exactly 20 minutes on the clock, fine play by Ronan Corcoran set up Ronan Whelan for a well-taken point. The winners" one-goal lead was wiped out between the 23rd and 30th minutes, a neat point from Dan Gavin being followed by a brace from Michael Ennis, the first from a free and the second a superb effort with his weaker left foot from the versatile Westmeath star.

The game now entered extra-time and the eight and a half minutes played (which certainly seemed a little excessive) brought drama galore, and the match was played out in a welter of excitement. Paddy Corcoran looked sure to put St. Malachy"s ahead in the 32nd minute but he was penalised for "steps" as he got set to pull the trigger. Some two minutes later, Ronan Whelan did well to find the target under pressure but Dan Gavin levelled the contest again in the 35th minute with a tidy finish. Only a victory would suffice for Ballinagore but it was their opponents who secured the win when Alan Mangan pointed a late late free, awarded after Paddy Maloney was dismissed on a second yellow card having dashed from his line and upended the inrushing Mangan.

While St. Malachy"s are likely to be disappointed with many aspects of their 2008 campaign, they can still plan for an improved showing next year in the senior grade. Ronan Corcoran and Joe Clarke formed a strong defensive spine, while the seemingly-ageless Paddy Corcoran worked to great effect at midfield. While Alan Mangan"s form in the maroon and white county colours has been less than spectacular of late, he remains a top-class performer at club level and he got most support in attack from Ronan Whelan and Shane Carey.

Ballinagore now face a very difficult one-off match against Bunbrosna to preserve their top-flight status. They will be hoping for another big effort from their better players last Sunday, such as Louis Ennis and Marty Linnane in defence, Eoin Miller at centrefield and forwards, Dan Gavin, Michael Ennis and James Durkan.

St. Malachy's: Gary Jackson; Johnny Tuite, Ronan Corcoran, Alan Bouabbse; Barry Whelan (0-1), Joe Clarke (0-1), Pat Clarke; Blaine Lehart, Paddy Corcoran; Robbie Jackson (0-1), Alan Mangan (1-6, 1-0 from a penalty, 0-5 from frees), Ronan Whelan (0-2); John Gallagher, Shane Carey, Sean Whelan. Subs: Eamonn Óg Clarke (for Bouabbse, 39 mins), Conor Daly (for B.Whelan, 48 mins).

Ballinagore: Paddy Maloney; Louis Ennis, Enda McCann, Kieran Carey; Marty Linnane, Peter Heraty, Peter Deegan; Eoin Miller, Stuart Gavin; Rory Tynan (0-1), Dan Gavin (0-3), James Durkan (0-5, 0-3 from frees); David Deegan, Michael Ennis (0-3, 0-2 from frees), Thomas McDaniel (0-1). Subs: Shane Heraty (for D.Deegan, 25 mins, inj), Paul Robinson (for Carey, 44 mins, inj), Kieran Deegan (for P.Heraty, 53 mins).

Referee: Michael Mannion (Garrycastle)


Replay beckons in Football Championship relegation battle

Westmeath Examiner Report, Tuesday, 7th October, 2008

Bunbrosna 0-17, Ballinagore 2-11

Ballinagore and Bunbrosna will have to wait until next weekend to find out which of them will play intermediate football next season, after the sides drew an exciting SFC relegation play-off at Shandonagh on Sunday morning last.

A last-gasp goal from young Ballinagore star, James Durkan rescued the 2007 IFC champions from certain defeat, forcing Bunbrosna to battle hard to secure a draw deep into extra time.

An early James Durkan free opened Ballinagore"s scoring in the third minute, awarded after a foul on Donal Gavin. But the men in maroon failed to score for another twelve minutes, thanks to some poor shooting and determined marking by Bunbrosna"s big game players.

Peter Tormey equalised with a spectacular point after eight minutes, and two points in as many minutes from Fintan Newman and Aidan Finnan suddenly gave the men in maroon reason to be nervous.

But Ballinagore were delighted when Michael Ennis fired a magnificent effort over the bar from around fifty metres just before the midway point of the first half. But Bun", assisted by a strong breeze, were in the ascendant and enjoyed a two point lead with four minutes remaining in the half.

Two points from frees by the reliable Peter Tormey, and a point from Aidan Finnan cancelled out scores from David Deegan and Donal Gavin, meaning that Ballinagore needed to pull a rabbit out of the hat to get themselves in pole position for the interval.

As half time approached, a line ball from Stuart Gavin found James Durkan just inside the Bunbrosna half. Durkan ran at goal, exchanged a one-two pass with a colleague, before firing low to the net to hand Ballinagore a narrow 1-4 to 0-6 lead at the break.

Ballinagore"s minimal advantage disappeared within three minutes of the restart after Peter Tormey"s third free. A minute later, Bunbrosna had the ball in the Ballinagore net, but the goal was adjudged to have been a "square" ball and was disallowed by referee Michael Mannion.

Ballinagore were let off the hook, but salvation seemed impossible just over fifteen minutes later, when the maroons trained by five points. Although a pointed free from Thomas McDaniels just about kept Ballinagore in touch, time was running out, and they still trailed by five points with only eight minutes of normal time remaining.

Points from Rory Tynan and a long-range free from Michael Ennis left just three points between the sides, as the game entered the final minute of normal time. Ballinagore frantically sought an equaliser, and James Durkan won vital possession in the small square before being fouled, earning the men in maroon and white a penalty.

Michael Ennis had a chance to level matters, but his kick was brilliantly saved by goalkeeper Enda Murphy, before the rebound was blocked on the line by a defender and cleared to safety.

The penalty miss looked as if it had cast Ballinagore to the drop, but with three minutes of stoppage time signalled by referee Michael Mannion, the south Westmeath side remained hopeful.

As full time approached, a centred ball from Eoin Miller found its way in the small square, and as the ball trickled across the goalmouth, the ever alert James Durkan stuck the ball in the net to make it 2-8 to 0-14 at full time.

Ballinagore charged forward in the first half of extra time, with three points from Thomas McDaniels (including a free) cancelling out a point from Bunbrosna sub Brian Maguire. Ballinagore held their two-point lead until shorly before the end of the extra time, when a kick from Peter Tormey reduced the arrears to a single point.

Bunbrosna went into panic stations in search of an equaliser, and they got their chance when substitute Ger Brennan was fouled about fifty metres from the posts.

Bunbrosna"s survival in senior football rested on the shoulders of Peter Tormey, and he failed to disappoint, kicking a fine free over the bar, much to the delight of his team-mates.

Scorers: Bunbrosna - P. Tormey 0-10 (5 frees), F. Newman 0-3, A. Finnan 0-2, K. Mitchell and B. Maguire 0-1 each. Ballinagore - J. Durkan 2-1, T. McDaniels 0-4 (frees), Michael Ennis 0-2 (1 free), D. Deegan 0-2, D. Gavin and R. Tynan 0-1 each.

Bunbrosna: Enda Murphy; Andrew Whitney, Noel Kiernan, Liam Mitchell; Conor Newman, Cormac McCormack, Simon Moorehead; Padraig Walsh, Niall Harte; Kevin Mitchell, Aidan Finnan, Kevin Tormey; Finian Newman, Peter Tormey, Fintan Finnan. Subs used: Ken Conroy for Walsh, Brian Maguire for Harte, Ger Brennan for Mitchell, Ray Carolan for K. Tormey.

Ballinagore - Paddy Maloney; Louis Ennis, Enda McCann, Pat Heduan; Peter Heraty, Michael Ennis, Peter Deegan; Eoin Miller, Paul Robinson; James Durkan, Donal Gavin, Rory Tynan; Thomas McDaniels, Stuart Gavin, David Deegan. Subs: Ciaran Deegan for Heraty, JJ Hegarty for Robinson, Martin Linnane for S. Gavin.

Referee: Michael Mannion (Garrycastle).