Billies show class
Darcy Sands IFC Group 1: Ballymanus 1-15 Annacurra 0-9
Two football teams in very different places in terms of tactics, drive and physicality collided in this Darcy Sands Intermediate Football Championship Group 1 meeting of Ballymanus and Annacurra and it was abundantly clear from early doors that the Billies were the side riding the crest of a wave while their opponents were left floundering badly in their wake.
A sublime 1-1 from Roan Lynch at the end of the third quarter put the tie to bed but anything other than a win for Billy Byrne's men would have been a seismic shock to the vocal crowd in Aughrim as they rode roughshod over a shockingly inept and weary performance from Martin Ging's side.
Ballymanus came into this game fully prepared in all aspects. They had their match ups spot on and they brought a physicality that this Annacurra side had no answer for.
The positioning of Mark Kenny on his county colleague Gearoid Murphy was a masterstroke and reduced Murphy to playing something of a bystander role in this game.
The shudderingly physical approach from the Ballymanus full-back line spoiled the potential of Frank Clune and Ian McDonald with Darragh Byrne and Aidan Byrne proving ruthless in minding their house.
The switching of Padraig Byrne away from goal and the installing of Seanie O'Neill at full-forward worked a treat for the Billies and the freedom granted to Mark Kenny by the Annacurra men will haunt the frustrated supporters for months to come as they watch their side fade into insignificance in this IFC campaign.
Ciaran Byrne and Liam Moules tried manfully to stem the Billies tide and Clive Horan was the only attacker who stepped up to the plate to any great extent and while refereeing decisions certainly did them no favours in the first half, the same could be said for their opponents in the second.
The Billies started with Padraig Byrne and Paddy Byrne (Moyne) in the middle of the field and they got off to a flier with Seanie O'Neill and Padraig Byrne firing over two lovely scores as Billy Byrne's men hit the ground running on a stunning evening in Aughrim.
With both teams badly needing a win and given the neghbourly factor and historical significance it was a given that there would be an edge to this encounter but in the end the ferocity came from the men in green and white when it mattered most.
A thumping foul on Frank Clune by Darragh Byrne that left the Annacurra man requiring attention provided Gearoid Murphy with his first opportunity of a score and he took it sweetly. Ian McDonald followed with a point, but the corner-forward was in for a torrid evening at the hands of Aidan Byrne.
The Billies accelerated for the next 10 minutes and Annacurra could hardly hang on to their coat tails as Roan Lynch (free), Darragh O'Keeffe, Padraig Byrne and Kieran Whelan (free) all raised white flags to open up a 0-6 to 0-2 lead for a very fair reflection of the gulf between both teams.
Annacurra responded well. Two Clive Horan points (one free) reduced the gap but the Billies resumed their siege of the Annacurra half and recorded four wides (one goal chance) and three points, Mark Kenny, Roan Lynch and Kevin Byrne, while Annacurra could only bag a single point from the boot of the hard-working Horan (free) to leave the half-time score at 0-9 to 0-5.
Martin Ging made a number of positional switches during the break. He sent Gearoid Murphy to midfield and Frank Clune to centre half forward and pulled Paul McDonald out of the middle of the park and while they reduced the deficit early with two points, one from Clive Horan (free), the other from Gearoid Murphy, they also lost Clune and McDonald to injury with Max Molloy and Shane O'Keeffe taking their places.
A Kieran Whelan free and a sweet Darragh O'Keeffe point pushed Ballymanus four in front and then Roan Lynch took control with a game-ending 1-1, the goal coming from the Billies robbing an Annacurra lone-wolf attack before sauntering down the field and working the ball sublimely to the hands of Lynch who finished easily past Fitzgerald with 44 on the clock.
Shane McAllister was introduced for Jon Hynes but the stomach for a fight just wasn't there for Annacurra and the goal they so badly needed never looked like coming after Gearoid Murphy's strike early in the first half was saved by Brendan Doyle in the Ballymanus goal.
Another Darragh O'Keeffe score after 16 was replied to by Gearoid Murphy from a free before Ballymanus added generously to their wide tally with three misses on the trot; a tendency that the management will want ceased with immediate effect no doubt.
Clive Horan fired over Annacurra's last score after 26 minutes while points from Seanie O'Neill and Brendan Whelan brought the curtains down on a massive win for the Billies - their first against Annacurra in championship since 1994 - and suggests to all in attendance that Billy Byrne's men are going nowhere in the context of the winning of this championship.
Ballymanus have their limitations but they also have youth, fire, passion and punishing physicality, and they will pose a huge threat to every single team they will meet.
It's a horrible year for Annacurra, and that coming on the back of another difficult season in 2018.
They lacked cohesion and aggression and any real sign of ambition.
They need a massive lift as soon as possible or the drop to Junior could be a very real danger.
They say winning is a habit, but a losing streak can have devastating consequences.
Scorers - Ballymanus: Roan Lynch 1-3 (f), Darragh O'Keeffe 0-3, Kieran Whelan 0-2 (2f), Padraig Byrne 0-2, Seanie O'Neill 0-2, Mark Kenny 0-1, Kevin Byrne 0-1, Brendan Whelan 0-1. Annacurra: Clive Horan 0-5 (3f), Gearoid Murphy 0-3 (2f), Ian McDonald 0-1.
Ballymanus: Brendan Doyle; Aidan Byrne, Darragh Byrne, Glen Farrar; Colm Coogan, Mark Kenny, Glen Farrar; Padraig Byrne, Paddy Byrne (Moyne); Kieran Whelan, Roan Lynch, Darragh O'Keeffe; Brendan Whelan, Sean O'Neill, Kevin Byrne. Subs:
Annacurra: Bob Fitzgerald; Elliot Robinson, Ciaran Byrne, Liam Moules; Michael Healy, Alan Byrne, Martin O'Brien; Jon Hynes, Paul McDonald; Glenn Austin, Gearóid Murphy, Jim Keenan; Clive Horan, Frank Clune, Ian McDonald. Subs:
Referee: Eddie Leonard (St Patrick's)