Monday 15 October 2018

Heartache for Ballyboughal as they fall at final hurdle

Kilanerin 0-13 Ballyboughal 0-11

Alan Aherne

Ballyboughal were on the wrong end of a special piece of sporting history on Saturday as Kilanerin became the first Wexford club ever to clinch a provincial football title.

They had two points to spare over the Dublin representatives in what proved to be a gripping AIB Intermediate Championship decider at a bitterly cold Innovate Wexford Park.

The finish to this game was about as dramatic as it gets.

A brace of pointed frees from veteran attacker Matty Forde had pushed Kilanerin three clear, but they still had some defending to do when Ballyboughal playmaker Gerry Seaver got on the ball and was fouled in a central position deep into time added on.

Before the free was taken, the Dubs summoned their giant number 14 Martins Provizors from the bench to enter the fray for a second time, and it was clear what their intentions were as he planted himself on the edge of the square.

Seaver lobbed the ball in and it was eventually grabbed by John Rodgers whose driving second-half runs from midfield had kept his side in the game.

It was hard to see exactly what happened, given the mass of bodies surrounding the Ballyboughal man, but referee Dwyer signalled for a penalty and showed a yellow card to Kilanerin's Emmet O'Toole.

It was heart-stopping stuff for followers of both sides as Ciarán Wynne stepped up to the spot kick, knowing that if he beat Tom Hughes the game would be going to an additional 20 minutes.

Time seemed to stand still as he took his short run-up before striking the ball slightly too high, and it grazed the crossbar before flying over to the dismay of every man, woman and child from Ballyboughal in the ground.

This was a game of swaying fortunes, with both sides producing their best spells of football at different stages, but ultimately Kilanerin displayed enough composure and finishing ability to get over the line.

It was clear from Saturday's start that they were in the right frame of mind for the task of overcoming Ballyboughal, who had seen off Emo from Laois in a replay before recording a home semi-final win over Curraha from Meath by 3-7 to 0-15.

Kilanerin won the throw-in and played the ball around patiently for nearly two minutes, with no Ballyboughal man touching the ball before Emmet O'Toole was fouled. And even though Matty Forde missed the subsequent free, the Gorey District men seemed to have settled quickly.

Forde, as ever, required constant minding, and all three of the opposition's full-back line had a go with the man-marking duties, starting with Gavin Dungan.

However, there was nothing the defender could do in the fifth minute when Niall Hughes played the perfect ball into space on the left, and Forde dashed out to kick the opening point.

The lead was quickly doubled, as Forde's nephew Dean O'Toole claimed a mark from the kickout, played a one-two with Mark Boland and lobbed the ball over at the Clonard end.

Ballyboughal centre-back Cormac Flynn ventured forward to open their account via the left post in the seventh minute, but the Dubs had a major let-off less than 60 seconds later.

Mark Boland played a lovely crossfield ball to the right for Forde who sold a dummy to Dungan before crashing his attempt on goal to the left for the second of his team's five wides (Ballyboughal had 10).

A mark by Gavin O'Toole from the restart ended with Emmet O'Toole making it 3-1 from a Forde handpass, but Ballyboughal responded as the lively Seaver opened his personal account in the 11th minute.

The visitors had moved Ciarán McGinley on to Forde by that stage, and their cause hadn't been helped by the loss of big midfielder Cathal Flynn after just four minutes, having hobbled off early in the second quarter against Curraha seven days earlier.

The quality of Kilanerin's passing to their inside forwards remained at a high standard as Colm Kavanagh picked out Emmet O'Toole to drill the ball over with his left peg.

And after Niall McElligott was booked for a foul on O'Toole, Matty Forde stepped up to stretch the lead to 0-5 to 0-2 in the 16th minute.

That was the last time for Kilanerin to register before the interval, though, with Ballyboughal growing into the game and drawing level by the change of ends thanks to three points without reply.

They did so despite losing another player to injury, corner-back Ciarán McGinley, shortly after Ciarán Wynne had knocked over a free to make it 5-3.

Niall McElligott became the third man to place himself alongside Matty Forde, before a Seaver point attempt rebounded off the left post at the town end and Ben Callanan fed a handpass outside to Wynne who reduced arrears to the minimum.

Callanan and Gavin O'Toole entered the notebook in separate incidents, and a bout of dissent after the latter stoppage saw the ball moved forward and Seaver promptly equalised in the first added minute (0-5 each).

Indeed, the Dubs squandered a couple of late chances to take the lead, and Kilanerin were glad of the opportunity to regroup.

It was important that they started to trouble the scoreboard again, and hard-working midfielder Niall Hughes obliged just over two minutes into the new half after playing a quick free to Devitt and racing onto the return pass.

Seaver sent in a dangerous cross from the left, but fortunately Provizors couldn't catch the ball cleanly and Kilanerin quickly mopped up.

A Niall Hughes mark led to another point for Dean O'Toole with a high kick in the 36th minute, but Ballyboughal substitute Jack Ryan quickly hit back after Kilanerin lost possession near their own goal.

That was the start of another productive spell for Ballyboughal, and John Rodgers was repeatedly driving them on from midfield after his enforced move to that sector owing to Cathal Flynn's early injury.

They were intent on getting Seaver on the ball as often as possible, and he fisted the leveller in the 40th minute, although referee Chris Dwyer somehow missed a high tackle by Ben Callanan in the lead-up.

When Rodgers broke through a challenge and raced forward to kick an inspiring point in the 45th minute, Kilanerin trailed for the first time and clearly had to show their true mettle.

Forde and Emmet O'Toole combined to set up Niall Breen who had the minimum of space to kick an important leveller off his left, only for Callanan to legitimately win the ball in a tackle which led to Seaver restoring the visitors' advantage (0-9 to 0-8).

When Callanan doubled the margin with 10 minutes left, the task grew even more difficult for Kilanerin.

Not too many clubs at this level have an attacker of the calibre of Matty Forde to call on in times of trouble, though, and he was responsible for four of their last five points.

Denis Jones was fouled after running on to a Forde handpass on the left, and the 2004 All-Star duly made it a one-point game. He also kicked the leveller in the 54th minute, a perfect strike from the 45-metre line after a crossfield Emmet O'Toole pass.

Forde had a trickier free from the right that Ballyboughal netminder David Downey caught, but sloppy defensive work was punished severely by Emmet O'Toole whose third point saw the scales swing back in Kilanerin's favour.

The Dubs shipped a double blow in the 59th minute when substitute Bobby Hughes was fouled.

The protestations of captain Richie Downey earned him a second yellow card, and the ball was brought forward to roughly 35 metres from goal before Matty Forde split the posts (0-12 to 0-10).

The same scenario was repeated from the kickout as Bobby Hughes won the ball and was impeded, with referee Dwyer bringing the ball closer to goal again before Forde's sixth point made it 13-10.

It seemed to be enough, but there was one final twist, the most dramatic of all, as Ballyboughal were awarded that penalty but couldn't make it count.

Kilanerin: Tom Hughes; Aidan Jones, Brendan Hobbs, Denis Jones; Gavin O'Toole, Colm Kavanagh, Richard Hughes; Niall Breen 0-1, Niall Hughes 0-1; Mark Boland, Dean O'Toole 0-2, Mark Gethings; Emmet O'Toole 0-3, Matty Forde 0-6 (4f), Peter Hughes. Subs: Conor Devitt for P Hughes (HT), Bobby Hughes for Gethings (38min), Tommy Boland for Breen (54).

Ballyboughal: David Downey; Ciarán McGinley, Gavin Dungan, Niall McElligott; Tony Rooney, Cormac Flynn 0-1, Jonathan Rooney; Richie Downey, Cathal Flynn; Keith Lynch, John Rodgers 0-1, Ciarán Wynne 0-3 (0-1f, 0-1p); Ben Callanan 0-1, Greg Rooney, Gerry Seaver 0-4 (1f). Subs: Martins Provizors for Cathal Flynn (4min), Willie Cooney for McGinley (22), Jack Ryan 0-1 for Provizors (35), Billy Cooney for W Cooney (54), Jamie Flynn for Lynch (60), Provizors for G Rooney (60+2).

Referee: Chris Dwyer (Offaly).

Fingal Independent