Baltinglass revive their hopes with win over Blessington
GAA, Renault SFC: Baltinglass 0-16 Blessington 1-6
Baltinglass revived their championship hopes with a thoroughly dominant display against a below par Blessington at Aughrim on Sunday evening.
Knowing anything other than victory would eliminate them they came out all guns blazing.
Playing with the aid of a strong breeze they played with a purpose and intensity that had been lacking all summer.
From their first attack, centre forward Dan Kelly pointed a great free from out near the sideline.
On eight minutes, goalkeeper Mark Jackson clipped a 50-yard free over and moments later Dan Kelly got the first score from play.
Blessington were struggling to get out of their own half and when they did they could only find Baltinglass' Stephen Heaslip who was giving a demonstration on how to play in a sweeper role - sitting in front of Blessington dangerman Anthony McLoughlin and cutting off the supply lines.
Eventually on 15 minutes, Blessington got the ball to McLoughlin after methodical build up play from David Boothman and Mickey O'Connor and the full-forward opened his account.
However, it was to be the only time in the half that Blessington troubled the umpires with Baltinglass taking over.
Jackson struck another 50 before Dan Kelly, reminiscent of Rathnew's Tommy Gill in his heyday, pointed a sideline ball into the town goal.
The work rate and hassling of Baltinglass all over the pitch was a marked improvement on anything they have displayed this summer and from this high energy game they forced Blessington errors and turnovers.
From such a turnover they won a free that Jackson once more pointed with unerring accuracy. More intricate disciplined passing freed up Dan Kelly from 40 yards out and his left booted effort arrowed over the black spot.
Jason Kenny and Pat Burke closed out the first half scoring to leave the 2016 county champions eight points clear.
Blessington needed a fast start to the second period and came out with an intensity lacking in the first half.
From their first attack McLoughlin clipped a lovely score from the stand side of the pitch.
Minutes later their pressure game high up the pitch led to Baltinglass losing possession and a cute pass from McLoughlin to Curtis Geraghty who drilled past Jackson.
However, Baltinglass showed their mettle with a fantastic response as Kenny pointed after a galloping run.
From the restart, Baltinglass corner-back John Murray collected the breaking ball and sprinted into an acre of space and as the defence closed in he off loaded to Sean O'Brien whose drilled shot was excellently flicked over by Peter Manning in the Blessington goal.
With the strong wind at their backs this was to be Blessington's best period of the contest.
Points from Boothman, Eoin Keogh and Patrick O'Connor reduced the deficit to three with 15 minutes to go.
However, when the game was in the melting pot it was Baltinglass that showed the greater desire and hunger as Blessington's challenge wilted.
They hit the next five points.
Firstly, Chris Heaslip pointed after Billy Cullen was allowed break 40 yards up field.
Cullen was picking up a lot of breaking ball around the middle and from such ball he fed Kelly and the centre forward split the posts.
Further scores from Kenny, Heaslip and a smashing effort from sub Cian Lee put the lead out to eight.
Blessington closed the scoring in injury time with McLoughlin drilling an effort over while searching for an elusive goal.
The Baltinglass management deserve great credit for getting their match ups right and sending their team with such fire in their bellies.
Cutting the line into McLoughlin was most important. Dan Kelly, Stephen Heaslip and John Murray impressed most in a complete team effort.
For Blessington, McLoughlin lived on scraps, with Kevin Hanlon trying his heart out in vain.
They are in Balto's situation now playing St. Pat's the next day out, win or their season is over.
Baltinglass are counting on their old rivals from the county town doing them a favour. Unless Blessington find the form of the quarter-final between the two teams last summer their championship could be over early this season.
Scorers - Baltinglass: Dan Kelly 0-5, Mark Jackson 0-3, Jason Kenny 0-2, Chris Heaslip 0-2, Pat Burke 0-1, Kevin Murphy 0-1, Sean O'Brien 0-1, Cian Lee 0-1. Blessington: Curtis Geraghty 1-0, Anthony McLoughlin 0-3, David Boothman 0-1, Eoin Keogh 0-1, Michael O'Connor 0-1.
Baltinglass: Mark Jackson; John Murray, Ian Sheeran, David Gethings; Stephen Heaslip, Pat Burke, Billy Cullen; Peader Burke, Jason Kenny; Kevin Murphy, Dan Kelly, John McGrath; Chris Heaslip, Sean O'Brien, Brian Lord. Subs: Adam McHugh, Cian Lee, Darragh Doyle, Jordan Deans.
Blessington: Peter Manning; Barry Murphy, Stephen Bohan, Wayne Callaghan; Caolan McGorman, Kevin Hanlon, Kevin John Rogers; Gavin Murray, David Boothman; Eoin Keogh, Curtis Geraghty, Michael McLoughlin; Patrick O'Connor, Anthony McLoughlin, Michael O'Connor.Subs: Declan Fennessy, Michael Nugent, Jack Cotter, Bryan Carroll.
Referee: Kieron Kenny (Tinahely).