Ballinagore building nicely
28 February 2007
Given their historic Leinster success two years ago, 2006 was always going to be a difficult one for Ballinagore. Back in the intermediate ranks again, they were looking to build on the fantastic achievement of becoming the first Westmeath club to win a Leinster club title, albeit at junior level. Loyal club man, Martin McCann, who has retired from Secretary after 10 years, reviews the year with Maroon and White.
While some very ambitious Ballinagore people may have eyed a place in the knock-out stages of the intermediate championship, consolidation must surely have been the main aim in their first year back at intermediate level. That they duly achieved, but it would have been even better had they managed to defeat Shandonagh in their final group game.
"We had a good run considering we were only back in intermediate level. We came close to making the quarter finals of the championship and were in mid-table in the intermediate league. Also, we competed in the junior sevens in St. Jude’s, Dublin, and the team that beat us in the qualifying stages went on to win it out, while we also lost to the eventual winners of the shield competition," said Martin McCann.
The Ballynacargy native admits he enjoyed his time as Secretary. "It was great to be able to assist the club. The demands on secretaries are fairly high, though, and I just felt I needed a break. But it was very enjoyable and I may well take up the challenge again in future years," he said.
Ballinagore faced St. Joseph’s in their first championship game at intermediate level for two years in late April, and, after a rigorous test, emerged with a narrow one-point victory (0-9 to 1-5). Minus the services of both James Durkan and David Deegan, this was a test of Ballinagore’s resolve and it was all to play for as the teams retired level at the interval, 1-2 to 0-5.
Despite a good start by Ballinagore, the concession of a goal left them looking vulnerable, but they pushed two points ahead at a vital stage in the second half as Cathal and Michael Ennis (free) notched crucial scores.
Ballinagore were forced to hang on for victory as a St. Joseph’s ’45 came off the upright, but they had succeeded in making a winning start.
The second round saw Ballinagore face championship favourites, and indeed eventual winners, Bunbrosna. The Brosnasiders gave as good as they got in the first half and were just a point adrift at the interval, 0-6 to 0-7, which must surely have pleased their loyal band of supporters.
However, Eoin Miller was denied a goal at a critical stage in the second half, and Bunbrosna opened up a decisive five-point lead. Although battling to the end, Ballinagore were still those five points adrift at the final whistle, 0-14 to 0-9, and, for the first time in a log run of championship games, had tasted defeat.
Ballinagore took on the beaten 2005 finalists, Ballynacargy, in round three and would surely have expected a much tougher game than what transpired. With Michael Ennis in superb form, Ballinagore coasted to a 12-point win, 5-6 to 0-9, and while Ballynacargy were depleted on the evening, the victors’ scoreline was impressive.
Three first half goals from James Durkan, Eoin Miller and Ennis (penalty) meant Ballinagore led by six points at half time, 3-3 to 0-6. They added two further goals in the second half through the elusive Ennis and cruised to a facile victory.
In the fourth round of the championship, Ballinagore faced Moate All Whites.
This was a game Sean Robinson’s charges would have been confident of winning, but they suffered an agonising one-point defeat, leaving qualification hopes hanging by a thread.
Ballinagore had the benefit of a first half goal when Michael Ennis converted a penalty, awarded after a foul in the square as they were preparing to take a ’45. However, the sides were still level at half time, 0-6 to 1-3, with Moate All Whites recovering well.
Moate kicked three points clear in the second half before James Durkan had a goal chance tipped over by the Moate goalkeeper. A scrambled goal by Eoin Miller threw Ballinagore a late life line, but Moate held on defiantly as a late, injury time point gave them victory.
In the fifth and final group game, Ballinagore faced Shandonagh in Cusack Park. The sides were level (0-4 apiece) at half time and it was all to play for, but Shandonagh ran out four-point winners in the end, 0-10 to 0-6. It was tough on Ballinagore, who had a great first half goal chance only for Eoin Miller to be denied by a fine save.
James Durkan also had a goal chance in the opening half hour, but, like Miller, his shot was blocked by a defender. Miller was also denied a goal in the second half, with the Shandonagh ’keeper saving, as Ballinagore’s luck continued to desert them. The game was nicely poised heading into the final quarter as Ballinagore trailed by just a point, but they failed to score again in the remainder of the match.
"Ballinagore has a lot of young, talented players coming through, like James Durkan, David Deegan and Thomas McDaniel, so the future looks bright. Sean Robinson has taken a well earned break after two years, so the challenge to is get a good trainer and build on what we have achieved in the last couple of years," remarked Martin McCann.
"We are hoping to do well. Ballinagore are always competitive and there’s great endeavour among the players. I can’t see whey we can’t now become one of the leading teams in intermediate football, although it’s a very competitive grade at the moment in Westmeath," he added.
While many felt that relegation to junior football two years’ ago was a disaster, Martin, who has been replaced by Peter Heraty as club Secretary, feels it helped re-focus minds. "It gave us a chance to recharge the batteries and now that we have a settled team, we can look to make a strong push in the year ahead," he concludes.
The Ballinagore team which was defeated by Shandonagh in their final intermediate championship game of ’06 was: Danny Maloney; Enda McCann, Louis Ennis, Peter Deegan; Pat Heduan, Marty Linnane, Ciaran Deegan; Stuart Gavin, Eoin Miller; Eddie Quinlan, James Durkan, Paul Robinson; Cathal Ennis, Michael Ennis, Ciaran Carey. Sub used: David Deegan.
There was heartbreak for the minor footballers of St. Malachy’s/Ballinagore as they suffered a two-point defeat at the hands of Garrycastle in December ’06. Despite travelling to their opponents’ venue for the final, St.
Malachy’s/Ballinagore looked in a winning position at half time as they led by 1-7 to 1-1 - the goal coming from Danny Maloney, who fisted the ball to the net.
However, Garrycastle’s second half resurgence was impressive and two goals ensured them of a narrow victory. St. Malachy’s/Ballinagore will wonder how they managed just two points in the second half, but they can be pleased with their year, overall.
Elsewhere, St. Malachy’s/Ballinagore also reached the U16 football final (Division 3), where they suffered a seven points defeat to a stronger Kilbeggan/St. Joseph’s side (1-16 to 0-12).
The St. Malachy’s/Ballinagore team which was narrowly defeated in the minor final was: James Hennessy; Paul Robinson, Gerry Clarke, Ciaran Deegan; Robbie Jackson, Shane Gunning, Alan Bouabbse; David Deegan, David Lynam; Danny Maloney, Thomas McDaniel, Graham Jackson; Kenneth Rigney, James Durkan, Michael O’Neill. Subs used: Derek Glennon, Fionn O’Donoghue.
Meanwhile, St. Malachy’s/Ballinagore had a fine win over Maryland/Tang in the U14 Division 1 league final, played in Drumraney. They trailed by just three points at half time (1-4 to 1-7) after an excellent Neal Kirby goal, and Kirby and Jonathan Cuskelly both found the net in the second half as the visitors took control. They deservedly held on for a two-point win.
The successful St. Malachy’s/Ballinagore U14 team was: Dean McDermott; Enda Claffey, Mike Dever, Niall Gunning; Niall O’Brien, Jordan Cassidy, Cathal Tynan; Darren Ruane, Diarmuid Garvin; Luke Cassidy, David Healion, Niall Kelly; Neal Kirby, Aonghus Clarke, Jonathan Cuskelly. Sub used: Cathal Tynan.