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2003 Ballinagore show improvement

Ballinagore show improvement

30 April 2003

 

A much-improved team last year, Ballinagore are determined to maintain their progress in the coming season, as half forward Cathal Ennis explains.

After struggling in 2001, Ballinagore improved substantially last year and were a mite unlucky not to qualify for the knock-out stages of the intermediate championship.
They would almost certainly have reached the quarter-finals had Tang not been awarded walkovers in three of their seven games. Despite this, half forward Cathal Ennis feels it was a satisfactory year overall for the Brosnasiders.

“The main thing is that we stopped the slide,” he says.
“It was a much better year than the previous one when we were threatened by relegation until we found a bit of form towards the end of it. There was a definite improvement in our performances last year and with a bit of luck, we might have made it through to the quarter-finals.”

Ennis, who is part of a famous Ballinagore GAA family, cites the club’s single-point defeat to eventual champions Tubberclair as the result which cost them their place in the knock-out stages.
“That’s where the damage was done,” he explains.
“Had we taken something from that game, I’m convinced we would have gone further. We also had draws against Ballymore and Tang which didn’t help our cause.”

Ballinagore had expected to collect full points from their championship opener against Castletown-Finea/Coole/Whitehall, but the team managed by former Ballinagore player Jim Mahon had other ideas and emerged as 1-6 to 0-5 winners.

With county star Michael Ennis unable to start due to injury, Ballinagore were slow to settle and trailed by 0-2 to 1-3 at the interval. Castletown-Finea/Coole/Whitehall continued to hold the upperhand in the second half and were full value for their four points win.
Against Maryland in their second outing, Ballinagore showed a big improvement in recording a comfortable 3-10 to 0-9 victory. First half goals from Michael and Cathal Ennis gave them a 2-6 to 0-2 lead at the break.

Maryland came more into the game on the restart, but their hopes of a recovery were ended when Breffni McHugh and Michael Ennis combined to set up Ger Linnane for the clinching third goal.
The Brosnasiders were brought back down to earth on June 11 when, in a tremendous contest, goals from David Ganly and John Reid were enough to give Tubberclair a 2-7 to 1-9 victory.

Despite losing Cristoir Ennis through injury after just two minutes, Ballinagore led by 1-3 to 0-3 at half-time thanks to Michael Ennis’ lobbed goal in the 20th minute. On the restart, Ballinagore increased their advantage, but an unanswered 2-3 left Tubberclair five points clear with 10 minutes remaining.

To their credit, the team in maroon and white stuck to their task, eventually reducing the deficit to the minimum. But Tubberclair held on to take the spoils.
Ballinagore bounced back to inflict a crushing 5-12 to 2-3 defeat on St. Loman’s in round four. Favoured by the wind in the opening half, Ballinagore immediately set about their task and had built up a 2-8 to 1-2 lead at the break. It continued to be one-way traffic in the second half with Jimmy Marshall’s side adding a further 3-4 to their tally.

In their fifth game at Tang, Ballinagore fought out a 1-9 to 2-6 draw with Ballymore. Ballinagore raced into an early 0-4 to 0-1 lead, and despite conceding a goal in the 20th minute, still had their noses in front at half-time.
On the resumption, Ballymore notched 1-2 without reply to take a grip on proceedings. Ballinagore looked to be fading out of contention until a long delivery from Eoin Miller was fielded and finished to the net by Ger Linnane.

In a dramatic finale, Vivian Doonan saved a penalty before Michael Ennis landed the equalizing point in injury-time.
Having received a walkover from Athlone, Ballinagore knew going into their final group game against Tang on July 21 that nothing less than a win would suffice if they were to reach the quarter-finals. Despite their best efforts, however, they had to be content with a 0-12 to 1-9 draw which ultimately meant championship elimination.

For the second year running, Ballinagore were involved in a battle to retain their All-County League Division 2 status. They opened their campaign with a victory over Tang, but then suffered a series of defeats which left them needing to beat neighbours Kilbeggan Shamrocks in their final game to have any hope of surviving.

That they achieved, meaning that a three-way play-off involving Ballinagore, Kilbeggan and Maryland was required to determine which two sides stayed up. Ballinagore were drawn to face the losers of Maryland and Kilbeggan which proved to be the latter. Kilbeggan were determined to exact revenge for their defeat a few weeks’ earlier, but Ballinagore once again came out on top, thus condemning their neighbours to the drop.

“We were delighted to preserve our Division 2 status,” Ennis says.
“I think it would have been a big setback if we had been relegated, especially as we had been a Division 1 team only a couple of years ago. It is important for a club like Ballinagore to be playing at a decent level in the league because it would be all the more difficult to win an intermediate championship let’s say from Division 3,” he adds.

At underage level, the club made a handsome contribution to the St. Malachy’s/Ballinagore Feile Shield success. Roughly half of the under 14 team that defeated Mullingar Shamrocks by 3-8 to 1-13 in the final hailed from Ballinagore which was a bigger representation that usual.

“From our point of view, it was great to see so many players from the Ballinagore end featuring on that team. In previous years, St. Malachy’s would have had the bulk of the players, but that wasn’t the case with last year’s under 14 team.
“I don’t think Ballinagore’s underage structure would be as strong as it is if it wasn’t for the outstanding work Gerry Claffey has put in with the youngsters.”

Despite being drawn in a tough championship section which includes teams of the calibre of Ballymore, Ballynacargy and Kilbeggan Shamrocks, Ennis believes that much sought-after intermediate success is well within Ballinagore’s capabilities.
While acknowledging that Ballinagore will not be among the fancied sides for outright honours, he feels the return of key players Peter Robinson and Peter Heraty can only strengthen their hand.

“With Peter Robinson recovered from a long-term injury and Peter Heraty back from Australia, there is no reason why we can’t be a major force in this year’s championship.
“We’ve also got a lot of young players coming through and have a new manager in Liam McDaniel. While Jimmy Marshall did a very good job, I think Liam will bring enthusiasm as well as discipline to the team.

“The incentive is there for us to go up senior for the first time and if we can get off to a good start by beating Ballymore in our first game, who’s to say we won’t go all the way,” he concludes.


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