Building for the future
28 May 2004
Ballinagore’s failure to reach the knock-out stages of last year’s intermediate football championship can be put down to a combination of injuries and team rebuilding according to teak tough defender Enda McCann.
Ballinagore’s achievements of the mid-to-late 1990s seem but a distant memory at this stage.
Without actually winning an intermediate championship, they were the most consistent club in the grade, appearing in the finals of 1996 and ’97. During the same period, they achieved promotion to Division 1 of the All-County League and were also the inaugural winners of the Intermediate Cup.
But since the break-up of that team, Ballinagore have been in heavy transition and it remains to be if they can become serious contenders for the intermediate championship once again.
“We’re striving to get back to that level again, but it will take a lot of time and patience,” says defender Enda McCann who has experienced the good and bad times over the past decade.
“We’re not as strong as we were which is hardly surprising when you consider we lost players like Rory O’Brien, Sean Claffey, Norman Maxwell, Jimmy Marshall and the Connells, Ger and Dermot, all around the same time. Losing those players was a big blow to us and, in the circumstances, I think we have done well to consolidate our intermediate status.
“We’ve been building a new team over the past couple of years and I’d like to think that it won’t be too long before we’re challenging for an intermediate title again. Youngsters such as Ger Linnane, Ciaran Carey, Marty Linnane, Pierce Corcoran and the Maloneys, Michael and Christy, have been showing great promise and they are the club’s future,” he adds.
2003 will not be remembered as one of Ballinagore’s better years with a disappointing championship campaign being followed by relegation to Division 3 of the All-County League. The previous year, Ballinagore only avoided league relegation by virtue of a play-off victory over neighbours Kilbeggan Shamrocks, but when faced with a similar predicament last year, they succumbed to Tang.
“Losing our Division 2 status was probably the low-point of the year,” McCann recalls.
“The previous year should have been a warning to us, but we fell into the same trap again and it was a big disappointment to lose our final game to Tang. It’s frustrating to think that only a few years ago we were up with the big boys in Division 1, but now we’re facing the prospect of playing in Division 3.”
The Brosnasiders opened their championship campaign by drawing with eventual champions Ballymore at Castletown-Geoghegan. Having played against a strong wind in the first half, Ballinagore trailed by 0-6 to 2-3 at the interval. It looked as though Ballymore would hold out for the win in the second half, especially after Ballinagore had a goal controversially disallowed. However, their persistence paid off when Ger Linnane scrambled home a late goal to secure a 1-7 to 2-4 draw.
The battling qualities that were evident against Ballymore were sadly lacking when Ballinagore faced Rosemount in their second game. Rosemount wasted no time in stamping their authority on the game and led by 2-7 to 0-1 at the break. Following the resumption, Ballinagore scored three points without reply, but their revival crumbled after they missed a penalty and Rosemount went on to run out facile 4-10 to 0-5 winners.
Liam McDaniel’s charges bounced back to record their first victory of the campaign against Mullingar Shamrocks. Most of the hard work was done in the first half when, despite playing against a strong breeze, Ballinagore had opened up a 0-6 to 0-3 lead at half-time. They continued to dominate after the restart and were 0-11 to 0-3 in front with 10 minutes remaining. But Shamrocks finished the stronger with four unanswered points leaving the final score 0-11 to 0-7.
Three days later, Ballinagore secured their second brace of points when they overcame Caulry by 3-10 to 3-6. Despite conceding an early goal, the winners recovered to take a 2-6 to 2-3 lead into the break thanks to goals from Cathal Ennis and Ger Linnane. When Michael Ennis grabbed a third goal midway through the second half, Ballinagore were 3-9 to 2-4 in front, but just as they had done against Shamrocks, they lost concentration in the closing stages and allowed Caulry to reduce the deficit to four points.
The Brosnasiders’ winning run was brought to an end when they suffered a 0-7 to 1-11 defeat at the hands of Maryland on July 6.
Ballinagore were well in contention at half-time when they trailed by 0-5 to 1-3. But Maryland fired over six unanswered points following the resumption to effectively end the game as a contest.
Ballinagore’s hopes of progressing beyond the group stages were all but dashed when they were held to a 1-8 to 0-11 draw by Ballynacargy in their penultimate game. The maroon and whites had looked set for victory until Mark Wallace scored an equalizing point for Ballynacargy in the eighth minute of injury-time.
With only pride to play for, Ballinagore faced Kilbeggan Shamrocks in their final game. A well-taken goal by Michael Ennis helped Ballinagore to a 1-4 to 0-6 lead at the break and when Cathal Ennis added a second goal with 10 minutes remaining, they looked home and dry. However, Kilbeggan finished strongly to register a 1-11 to 2-6 victory.
“We were disappointed with the way the championship panned out because our target had been to get through to the knock-out stages,” McCann reflects.
“Even allowing for the fact that we are rebuilding at the moment, I think we would have got through if everyone had put the effort in on the training pitch. It seems to be the same eight or 10 players who are putting in the effort every year.
“But it must also be said that we were not helped by the fact that both Michael Ennis and Eoin Miller missed most of the championship through injury. We were also without the McHughs, Breffni and Conor, who were away and they were also big losses to us.”
It was another good year for St. Malachy’s/Ballinagore at underage level with the under 14 and under 16 Division 2 league titles being annexed. According to Enda, Gerry Claffey and Martin Hand have played a massive role in the amalgamation’s recent successes.
Looking ahead, McCann is optimistic about Ballinagore’s chances of figuring at the business-end of this year’s intermediate championship: “We’ve been drawn in the same group as Milltownpass, St. Mary’s, Milltown, Bunbrosna, St. Loman’s, Rosemount and Mullingar Shamrocks and I don’t think we have any reason to fear any of those teams.
“Apart from reaching the knock-out stages of the championship, our other big aim is to get promoted back to Division 2. If we’re to progress, we’ll have to be playing against the strong opposition,” he concludes.