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2010 Ballinagore's twin objective

Ballinagore's twin objective

01 April 2010


After failing in their bid to bounce straight back up to the senior ranks last year, Ballinagore are determined to achieve promotion on two fronts this season according to county player James Durkan.

It is a measure of the high standards that Ballinagore have set for themselves that their qualification for the knockout stages of last year's intermediate championship came nowhere close to satisfying their needs.
Despite having one of the smallest picks of any club in Westmeath, the Pairc Bhodhrain outfit have been high achievers in recent years with their historic intermediate championship triumph of 2007 being the obvious highlight. They survived just one season in the senior ranks, but were convinced they could bounce straight back last year.
Alas, it wasn't to be as Tang put paid to their hopes with a 2-12 to 3-5 quarter-final victory at Cusack Park.
"Our goal was to win the championship at the start of the year, but we found it hard to motivate ourselves after coming down the previous year," Ballinagore's young county star James Durkan explains.
"Tang were hungrier than us so we can't really have any excuses. We didn't have the same hunger as we had in 2007, and that's probably the main reason why we didn't go further in the championship. We were also without Peter Deegan, Ciaran Carey and Ger Linnane who were serious losses. A small club like Ballinagore can't afford to be without anyone."
Regarded as one of the top young forwards in the county, Durkan rues Ballinagore's lack of consistency in last year's championship.
"We blew hot and cold," he says with a tinge of regret in his voice.
"We were sluggish early on and lost heavily to Castletown-Finea in our first game. We got a win and a draw after that and then had two great wins over Tubberclair and Shandonagh to reach the quarter-finals. But unfortunately we came up short against Tang and it's back to the drawing board now."
The return of Matt Geraghty as manager after more than a 20-year lapse created quite a stir on Brosnaside last year. The Durrow man famously led Ballinagore to their first junior championship success in 1986 and achieved similar feats with Kilbeggan Shamrocks and St. Joseph's in 1992 and 2004 respectively as well as with his native Durrow in Offaly.
"Matt had great success with us when he was last in charge, so there was a lot of excitement and expectation when it was announced that he was returning to the club. But because of the long gap since he was last over us, he knew none of the players and it took him a while to familiarise himself with us. However, he knows us all and what we're capable of at this stage and hopefully that will be a help to him in the year ahead," James says.
Geragthy's 'second coming' as Ballinagore manager started with a disappointing 1-7 to 3-8 defeat to Castletown-Finea/Coole/Whitehall in the opening round of last year's championship at Rochfortbridge. The losers got off to a flying start and looked set for an easy win when they led by 1-6 to 0-1 after 26 minutes. Thomas McDaniel accounted for all of their early points, while David Deegan grabbed their three-pointer. But remarkably, they managed just one further point from McDaniel in the remaining 35 minutes or so as their north county opponents stormed back to take the spoils.
The turning point was undoubtedly substitute Kevin Brazil's goal which left Castletown-Finea just four points adrift, 1-2 to 1-6, at half-time. And with a strong wind to their backs in the second half, they continued where they left off with further goals from Shane Fagan and Derek McNicholas sealing Ballinagore's fate.
County players McDaniel and Durkan scored 1-5 and 1-3 respectively as Ballinagore were held to a 2-8 to 1-11 draw by Ballymore in their second outing at Lakepoint Park. Durkan's successful penalty on 60 minutes looked to have given Ballinagore the win, but they couldn't hold on as Ballymore fought back to salvage a draw thanks to injury-time frees from Paddy Martin and David McCormack.
It was a case of third time lucky for Matt Geraghty's men when they had just a point to spare, 1-9 to 0-11, over Rosemount at Pairc Chiarain in Athlone. Rosemount led by 0-6 to 0-4 at half-time, but a third quarter blitz, which yielded an unanswered 1-4 - the goal coming from another Durkan penalty - turned the tide in Ballinagore's favour.
Rosemount refused to throw in the towel, however, and had reduced the deficit to the minimum before Durkan replied for Ballinagore with three minutes remaining. Danny Fielding pointed a close-in free for Rosemount in injury-time, but Ballinagore held on for their first win.
Ballinagore's best result of the campaign was their 1-9 to 0-11 defeat of champions-elect Tubberclair in Tang over the August Bank Holiday weekend. The Brosnasiders led by 0-6 to 0-5 at the interval, but Tubberclair seemed destined for victory when their full back and captain James Martin surged forward to put them two points up with four minutes remaining.
Within a minute, however, James Durkan netted at the other end and Michael Ennis immediately added a point. Ian Coffey replied for Tubberclair, but it prove too little too late as Ballinagore scored a surprise, but thoroughly deserved, win.
Ballinagore staged another strong finish to beat Shandonagh by 0-14 to 0-12 and copper-fasten their place in the quarter-finals at Castletown-Geoghegan. Fighting for their intermediate survival, Shandonagh were the better team for long stages and led by 0-10 to 0-6 10 minutes into the second half. But with Durkan to the fore, Ballinagore battled back to draw level on 0-11 each with six minutes left before pulling clear in the final stages.
With three straight wins under their belt, Ballinagore appeared to be coming into form at just the right time and there was no shortage of confidence in their camp ahead of the Cusack Park showdown with Tang. But despite finishing the stronger, they succumbed to a four-point defeat to the men from Goldsmith Country.
A 45-second goal from Thomas McDaniel gave the 2007 intermediate champions a dream start, but they failed to build on it as Tang recovered to take a 1-5 to 1-3 advantage into the break. With their corner forward Aidan Burke helping himself to 1-8, Tang flourished in the third quarter and were 10 points to the good with 13 minutes to go.
But two late goals from Michael Ennis brought Ballinagore back from the dead and the Westmeath captain almost grabbed a third when Tang goalkeeper Michael Galvin somehow kept out his flicked effort in the final minute of normal time.
It was an exceptional year for the St. Malachy's/Ballinagore underage combination who won both the under 16 Division 1 and minor Division 2 football titles. The under 16s beat Coralstown/Kinnegad by 2-9 to 2-5 in their final, while the minors enjoyed a 3-7 to 1-7 victory over Garrycastle.
Ballinagore was represented on the minor team by Brian Sheerin, Colin O'Brien, Noel Claffey and Niall Kelly, who was named man of the match, while Niall O'Brien, Cathal Tynan and Enda Claffey flew their flag for the Pairc Bhodhrain outfit on the under 16 team.
Ballinagore have suffered a double blow ahead of the new season with the retirement of long-serving defender Louis Ennis and Dan Gavin's decision to transfer back to his native Tyrrellspass. Both players were key members of the 2007 intermediate championship winning side and will be sorely missed.
In spite of this, and Ballinagore's shock defeat to St. Fintan's/Multyfarnham in their opening game of the Division 3 league campaign, Durkan is approaching 2010 in a positive frame of mind and outlines the club's twin objective:
"Our two goals for the year are to win the intermediate championship and promotion from Division 3. Louis and Dan are huge losses, but I'd like to think we can still be a match for anyone in the intermediate championship. It's sad to see Louis go because he was an inspiration to every young player in the club, myself included.
"Assuming everyone gives total commitment, it's not beyond us to win the championship. And it's vital that we get promoted from Division 3 so that we can test ourselves against better quality opposition next year."
Still an under 21, Durkan is "delighted" to be back in the Westmeath senior fold - four years after he started the famous All-Ireland qualifier win over Galway in Salthill.
"I was only 17 at the time and it was a bit of a baptism of fire for me. But now that I'm that bit older, I'm eager to give it a good crack. I've been very impressed with Brendan Hackett so far and hopefully it will turn out to be a good year for Westmeath football," he concludes.

The Ballinagore team which faced Tang in the IFC quarter-final was: Paddy Maloney; Enda McCann, Martin Linnane, Louis Ennis; Dan Gavin, Pat Heduan, James Sheerin; Eoin Miller, Michael Ennis; Stuart Gavin, James Durkan, Cathal Ennis; Rory Tynan, Thomas McDaniel, Paul Robinson. Subs used: Kieran Deegan, David Deegan, James Winfield, Paul Maloney and Shane Heraty.