Tuesday 22 January 2019

Ballinastragh best

Ballinastragh Gaels 1-6 Fethard 1-5

Shane Kelly receiving the Jonathan Moriarty Memorial Cup from Anthony Masterson and Paud Moriarty
Shane Kelly receiving the Jonathan Moriarty Memorial Cup from Anthony Masterson and Paud Moriarty
The Ballinastragh Gaels boys celebrating after Sunday's hard-earned success
The beaten finalists from Fethard who had won the corresponding hurling title one week earlier

Top-class competitive action is so often determined by fine margins. The odd miscue here, the breaking ball there.

Ballinastragh Gaels will certainly prescribe to that testament after being crowned the Féile Peil na nÓg Loch Garman Division 1 champions when narrowly defeating double-chasing Fethard in Sunday's slow-burning final that eventually clicked into overdrive at the Ferns Centre of Excellence.

The north county side's better discipline in the tackle and chance-conversion rate up front had helped them into a 0-5 to 0-3 lead with a quarter of the game left to play, although there was a rising sense that the hurling champions were starting to grow in stature.

In fact, the long-time leaders were staring a certain goal in the face on 31 minutes when Eoin Whelan made the hard yards and supplied Darren Roche with the goal at his mercy, but Eoin Blanchfield made an outstanding cat-like save to keep his clean sheet intact.

And the importance of that defiance was laid bare less than a minute later when Ballinastragh broke up field and Luke Leavy swept home a stylish goal for a crucial 1-5 to 0-3 lead.

From potentially one point in front to all of a sudden five points in arrears, Fethard continued to knit together a few clever moves, particularly five minutes from time when not even Blanchfield could deny Whelan hammering to the roof of the net.

The tension was palpable by now, although Ballinastragh responded to that brief adversity when Brendan Bolger held up the ball to feed Leavy for the verdict-sealing point on a 1-6 to 1-4 scoreline.

Earlier, some rather low-key early exchanges saw both sides kick two wides apiece before Ballinastragh built a lead they wouldn't subsequently surrender through a brace from Seán Hughes (one free).

Cillian Byrne displayed some nice trickery on the way to pointing a riposte for Fethard, although Leavy opened his personal account with a point from an acute angle to help his side into a 0-4 to 0-2 interval lead.

The Kilanerin/Tara Rocks combination now advance to the John West Féile Peil na nÓg which is due to take place on the weekend of June 29-July 1.

They will compete in Division 3, Group A, along with host clubs Ballyholland (Down) and Killeavy (Armagh) plus Tipperary's Durlas Óg.

Ballinastragh Gaels: Eoin Blanchfield; Tim Ivers, Ben Ryan, Daniel Bolger; Lee Polglaze, Cathal Murphy, Shane Kelly (capt.); Andrew Smith (0-1), Seán Hughes (0-2, 1 free); Brendan Bolger, Cian Hughes (0-1), Michael McGonigle; Josh Whyte, Noah Maher, Luke Leavy (1-2). Subs. - Pádraig Jones, Dylan Nash, Oisín Byrne, Craig Grannell, Evan Duffy, Ultan O'Donovan, J.J. Hartnett, Paddy Higgins, Ben Rothwell, Billy Trafford, Karim Boukima.

Fethard: Aaron Doyle; Cian Swan, Conor McLoughlin, Bill Nunan; Seán Nunan, Adam O'Grady, Ciarán Dunne; Jake Molloy (capt.), Eoin Whelan (1-1); Kyle Baker, Morgan Ellis, Robbie Molloy (0-1); Cillian Byrne (0-1), Kean Molloy (0-1), Conor Folan. Subs. - Darren Roche for Folan (29), also Shane Butler, Finn Pilkington, Pádraig Gleeson, Kian Sutton, David Conway.

Referee: Martin Armstrong (Starlights).

Gorey Guardian