Bray dish out devastating defeat to Baltinglass
Boom and Platform Hire SFC Group 2: Bray Emmets 3-11 Baltinglass 2-7
Bray Emmets' tendency to pull off battling wins by way of brave and dogged performances shows no signs of fading after they dispatched Baltinglass with gusto following a tough, hard-hitting encounter in a dreary and damp Aughrim in the last of four games last Sunday in the Boom and Platform Hire Senior Football Championship Group 2.
Brian O'Keeffe's men were full value for this seven-point victory against a Baltinglass side whose form has taken a significant dip since they lifted the league title only a matter of weeks ago after victory over Rathnew.
Since that time, Sean O'Brien's men have lost that unity they possessed in the league and they have stumbled from one defeat to another, starting with Avondale, then Blessington and now Bray Emmets in what was a loss that will sting sharply over on Slaneyside as they look to salvage what they can from a disastrous championship campaign.
However, had Baltinglass taken one or two of their goal chances in the second half or converted some of their seven second-half wides then the story of this game might well be vastly different. The loss of John Murray to a red (yellow and black) and Darragh Doyle (black) didn't help things for Sean O'Brien's men but overall it was the Bray men who showed more hunger and togetherness when the big questions were asked.
The win has completely transformed Bray's hopes and dreams in this championship. Ahead of them they now face clashes with Éire Óg and Avondale and with the Dales just one spot above them in third position a quarter-final spot is well and truly within their grasp at this moment in time.
To a man, Bray Emmets wanted this more than Baltinglass, and most certainly in the trenches of the second half when the game was finely balanced in the falling rain and dour light in front of a ridiculously small crowd in Aughrim.
Bray's Des Kelly, Diarmuid Masterson, Cathal McGee, Marc Lennon and Niall McGraynor worked tirelessly and selflessly in pursuit of this victory while Ben Kearney's marking job on John McGrath was hugely impressive over the course of this game.
A Bray Emmets win looked highly unlikely when John McGrath finished home from close range after 30 minutes to open up a 2-4 to 0-5 lead.
Their opening goal arrived after two minutes from the boot of Chris Heaslip in reply to a Cathal McGee point for Bray.
Brian O'Keeffe's men reacted to the goal superbly with two points from frees by Niall McGraynor to level at 0-3 to 1-0 after five interesting and entertaining minutes.
Baltiglass were showing a raft of positional switches compared to their team list. John McGrath was wearing 14 but lined out at centre forward. Tom Burke wore three but was deployed at midfield with Peadar Burke who was named at centre forward while Ian Sheerin was minding the house at full-back and the full-forward line showed Johnny Keogh, Adam McHugh and Chris Heaslip seeking scores against a Bray full-back line of Ciaran McKay, Adam Benson and Philip Haughton.
Dan Kelly (free) and Marc Lennon exchanged points and then following a dogged but fruitless spell Johnny Keogh (free) and Cathal McGee (free) did likewise to leave the score at 1-2 to 0-5 after 25 cantankerous minutes.
Baltinglass owned the next five minutes and harvested a stunning 1-2, the poinst from Peadar Burke and Adam McHugh and the goal from McGrath who got on the end of a sweet team move that started with a Darragh Doyle mark.
And then a significant moment arrived. A long Bray ball to Eoin McCormack saw the dual star pulled down by John Murray and referee Brendan Furlong spread the arms wide to signal a penalty and dispatched Murray with a black card on top of an earlier yellow. Bray Emmets captain Des Kelly stepped up and stuck away a peach of a goal from the spot giving Mark Jackson no hope whatsoever. 2-4 to 1-5 Baltinglass led by at the break.
A goal chance early in the second half for Chris Heaslip was kept out by the Bray defence but Mark Jackson pointed a free shortly afterwards to put three between the sides.
Eoin McCormack replied before Marc Lennon almost goaled but for the heroics of Mark Jackson in the Baltinglass goal and Niall McGraynor tapped over the rebound to close the gap to a single point.
A Dan Kelly pointed free kept Baltinglass on the front foot, but they lost Darragh Doyle to a black card for a foul on Ben McCormack after 13 minutes with Billy Cullen entering the fray in his stead.
Two goal chances followed for Baltinglass with Chris Heaslip being unfortunate enough to not convert at least one of them and then Bray surged ahead through a Des Kelly point from about 38 yards and a ripper of a goal from Marc Lennon to make it 2-8 to 2-6.
Mark Jackson reduced the deficit to a single poiint from a free just before Brian O'Keeffe sent in John Henderson to the fray with 10 to go.
The beginning of the end for Baltinglass arrived when full-forward Cathal McGee lashed home past Mark Jackson and Ben McCormack followed up with a point after 52.
It was all Bray Emmets now. They had the bit firmly between their teeth and they powered on with pints from Darragh Rochford and Eoin McCormack to leave the score reading 3-11 to 2-7 and scarce time for a miraculous Baltinglass revival.
They came hunting, though. High ball after high ball and eventually they won a penalty which Stephen Heaslip drove wide by a matter of millimeters. And that was that. A massive win for Bray Emmets and a crushing defeat for Baltinglass.
Scorers - Bray Emmets: Cathal McGee 1-2 (1f), Marc Lennon 1-1, Des Kelly 1-1, Niall McGraynor 0-3 (2f), Eoin McCormack 0-2, Ben McCormack 0-1, Darragh Rochford 0-1. Baltinglass: Chris Heaslip 1-0, John McGrath 1-0, Dan Kelly 0-2 (2f), Mark Jackson 0-2 (2f), Johnny Keogh 0-1, Peadar Burke 0-1, Adam McHugh 0-1.
Baltinglass: Mark Jackson; Darragh Doyle, Tom Burke, Paddy Kirwan; Pat Burke, Kevin Murphy, Ian Sheerin; John Murray, Cian Lee; Johnny Keogh, Peadar Burke, Daniel Kelly; Adam McHugh, John McGrath, Chris Heaslip. Subs: Stephen Heaslip for P Burke (14, inj), Billy Cullen for D Doyle (BC), Jordan Deans for A McHugh.
Bray Emmets: Tadhg Dornan; Ciaran McKay, Adam Benson, Philip Haughton; Ronan Twohig, Ben Kearney, Conor O'Doherty; Diarmuid Masterson, Des Kelly; Eoin McCormack, Ben McCormack, Marc Lennon; Niall McGraynor, Cathal McGee, Dara Lohan. Subs: Shane Lohan for R Twohig (4, inj), Darragh Rochford for D Lohan (40), John Henderson for N McGraynor (50), Mark Linehan for P Haughton (58, BC), Dylan Terry for D Kelly (59).
Referee: Brendan Furlong (Tinahely)