Third time lucky for ’gore
29 February 2008
A decade on from their defeats to Ballynacargy and Garrycastle in their only previous intermediate football championship final appearances, Ballinagore finally got their hands on the coveted Peter Geraghty Cup last October following their victory over Shandonagh last October. Here, we take a look back at a magnificent year for the Pairc Bhodhrain outfit.
Despite being one of the county’s smallest clubs, Ballinagore will proudly take their place among the big guns of Westmeath club football for the first time in 2008 following their sensational victory in last year’s intermediate football championship.
Building on their 2005 heroics, when they captured both the county and Leinster club junior titles, Ballinagore belied their underdogs’ tag to defeat a hotly fancied Shandonagh by 0-9 to 0-6 in a rain-soaked intermediate final on October 28 last and spark the biggest celebrations the tiny Brosnaside village has ever seen.
The victory was undoubtedly the finest in the club’s history, eclipsing the junior championship successes of 1986, 1994 and 2005, and the various wins the club has enjoyed at underage level alongside neighbours St. Malachy’s over the past decade or so. It was also a case of third time lucky after the heartbreaking intermediate final losses to Ballynacargy and Garrycastle (after a replay) in 1996 and ’97 respectively.
"This means everything to us," said a euphoric Ballinagore chairman Gerry Claffey after the Peter Geraghty Cup had finally been secured.
"Ten years ago, when we were last in an intermediate final, Garrycastle beat us after a replay and we always knew if we got back into the final we wouldn’t let it slip. We won a junior championship two years ago and won a Leinster junior as well.
"That was a good build-up for us. We managed to blood a lot of new players and they benefited from the experience of it."
Ballinagore hadn’t been spoken of as leading contenders for intermediate honours at the beginning of 2007, but their indomitable spirit, which was so evident in the decider against Shandonagh, saw them defy the odds and earn senior status for the first time.
"It was a workmanlike, spirited display that won it for us," Ballinagore’s victorious captain Stuart Gavin pointed out.
"It wasn’t an ideal day for football and it was never going to be free-flowing. It was always going to come down to the wire and the pressure our defenders had Shandonagh under told."
He added: "At the start of the year, we set out to win the intermediate championship. That was our goal. We were the only unbeaten side in the championship up to the final and that’s the way we were determined to keep it. We knew at the outset that we had the players to win it and that’s where the confidence started.
"The belief was there last February when we started training and everyone started to row in behind us. Things were always going nicely."
The enormity of Ballinagore’s achievement wasn’t lost on Gavin, who was also full of praise for team manager Gerry Feery. A former star player with Tyrrellspass, Feery agreed to take on the role when managerial candidates weren’t exactly knocking down Ballinagore’s door at the start of 2007.
"It’s great; an historic day for Ballinagore; their first intermediate title. It’s a hell of an achievement for the club to be competing at senior level. It’s great for the younger players especially and there’s serious talent in the side. James Durkan, Thomas McDaniel and David Deegan - all those guys have worn the county jersey and are very proud to be representing Ballingore.
"Gerry Feery is a hell of a manager. Thanks be to God we got him because he’s going to be snapped up shortly by some serious senior team. I can’t put in words what he has done for us. He has given us the belief needed and instilled great spirit in the team. That’s what won it for us."
Ballinagore’s only blip in the campaign came in their opening game when they were held to a 0-11 to 1-8 draw by Ballymore. Gerry Feery’s charges were firmly on course for victory when leading by 0-11 to 0-4 with less than 10 minutes remaining. But Ballymore then suddenly burst into life, firing over four quick points before, in the second minute of injury-time, their midfielder Paddy Martin was brought down for a penalty and Derek Molloy made no mistake from the spot to salvage a share of the spoils.
History almost repeated itself in Ballinagore’s second Division 2 outing against Milltownpass at The Downs. With just four minutes remaining, Milltown’s Andy Devine sent a high ball into the danger area and a goal looked on when it connected with Shane Donoghue’s fist. But Ballinagore goalkeeper Mark Doyle produced a brilliant save to deny him and from their next attack, James Durkan kicked the insurance point in a 0-10 to 1-4 victory for the Brosnasiders. Durkan and fellow county minor Thomas McDaniel were the Ballinagore scoring heroes, notching up 0-7 between them.
Ballinagore underlined their credentials with a 1-6 to 0-6 win over championship favourites Maryland in their next game at Cusack Park. James Durkan’s early second half goal proved to be the decisive score as the Pairc Bhodhrain outfit put themselves in pole position in the division.
The maroon and whites opened brightly and led by 0-3 to 0-1 after 13 minutes, but failed to score for the remainder of the half as Maryland fought back to lead by 0-4 to 0-3 at half-time. Maryland extended their advantage six minutes into the second half, but were rocked back on their heels within a minute when McDaniel set up Durkan for the only goal. The result remained in doubt until McDaniel pointed in the fifth minute of injury-time to finally end the Maryland challenge.
Ballinagore continued their winning ways when accounting for Ballynacargy by 0-12 to 0-10 at Moate on July 29. This was another hard-earned victory for the Brosnasiders who only sealed victory in the closing stages with points from Shane Heraty, Michael Ennis and James Durkan.
A fourth straight win over Castletown-Finea/Coole/Whitehall saw Ballinagore finish top of Division 2 and qualify directly for the semi-finals. Finea were the better team for long stages, having led by 1-5 to 0-4 at half-time, but they didn’t have a finisher of the calibre of Michael Ennis who inspired Ballinagore’s second half comeback. Ennis grabbed 1-2 as Ballinagore came from behind to snatch a 1-8 to 1-7 victory.
Ballinagore made the short journey to Castletown-Geoghegan for their last four clash with Tang. Gerry Feery’s men made a great start with Michael Ennis and Dan Gavin notching early points. David Deegan made it 0-3 to 0-0 before Tang eventually opened their account in the 12th minute. Further scores from Gavin and Ennis increased Ballinagore’s lead and despite efforts in reply from Alan Higgins and Niall Bannon, the winners were four points to the good at the interval.
The second half was a poor quality affair with both sides guilty of scrappy play. It was the 53rd minute before Michael Ennis lifted the game from its malaise with a sublime run and point that was totally at odds with what had gone before. Tang replied with points from Tommy McCormack and Niall Bannon, but they couldn’t get any closer than three points as a resolute Ballinagore held on for a 0-10 to 0-7 victory.
Despite their unbeaten record, Ballinagore entered the Cusack Park decider as outsiders but from an early stage it became apparent that they were the more focused and committed team and were not going to be denied. The occasion seemed to get to Shandonagh who dominated possession and created the vast majority of scoring chances, but an inexcusable total of 23 wides proved detrimental.
In a game dictated by the wet and windy conditions, Ballinagore displayed a far greater level of economy and work-rate. They made the better start and enjoyed a 0-5 to 0-3 lead at the interval thanks to points from Thomas McDaniel, Eoin Miller and Michael Ennis.
Points from Enda Kincaid and Alan Hickey tied up the scoring at 0-5 apiece within moments of the resumption, but crucially Ballinagore were never headed and they responded with a great point from centre forward and former Tyrrellspass player Dan Gavin.
Danny Foster restored parity for Shandonagh but after Michael Boyle and Andy Fox had both missed chances to put them ahead, Michael Ennis made it 0-7 to 0-6 in favour of the Ballinagore men. As Shandonagh became increasingly frustrated by their poor finishing, Ballinagore sensed that it was going to be their day and two points from David Deegan in the final nine minutes ensured them of an historic success.
The Ballinagore team that brought the first intermediate championship to the club was: Paddy Maloney; Louis Ennis, Enda McCann, Pat Heduan; Kieran Deegan, Peter Deegan, Ciaran Carey; Stuart Gavin (captain), Eoin Miller; JJ Hegarty, Dan Gavin, Michael Ennis; Thomas McDaniel, David Deegan, Shane Heraty. Subs used: Martin Linnane, Paul Heraty, James Durkan and James Sheerin.