Finlay stars as Ballybay show true grit to finally end 25-year wait
Ballybay 1-12 Clontibret 2-5
A sharper, hungrier Ballybay ended the club's 25-year senior championship famine with a scintillating display against Clontibret in front of a crowd of 3,600 in Clones.
Clontibret opened the scoring with a Dessie Mone point in the third minute, but that was to be the only time they were in front as Ballybay took control through the influence of Paul Finlay and a tight-marking defence, well marshalled by Drew Wylie at full-back.
Ballybay also held a distinct edge thanks to the Malone brothers, Colin and Hugh, who, along with Christopher McGuinness, formed a fairly potent full-forward line.
Ballybay equalised through McGuinness in the seventh minute and then took the lead with points by the full-forward and Finlay after nine minutes.
Twice in the following 10 minutes Clontibret got the margin down to the minimum, before Ballybay struck for a goal in the 19th minute when Colin Malone stole in behind the Clontibret cover to give 'keeper Arthur Morgan no chance.
Ballybay led at half-time by 1-5 to 0-3 and a blistering start to the second half saw them hit five unanswered points in the opening six minutes to put them 10 in front.
By the 20-minute mark though, Clontibret were right back in it, with points by Dessie Mone and Connor McManus from a '45', and Vincent Corey then striking for the first of his two goals when he got a fist to a high centre to deflect the ball past Sean Gorman and throw the game wide open.
Finlay then converted a free for Ballybay, who had to defend in numbers as Clontibret threw everything at them.
Another high centre saw Vincent Corey fist a second goal just on the stroke of time, but Ballybay held out as corner-back Ryan Wylie hit the insurance point two minutes into stoppage-time to send the huge Ballybay contingent in Clones into rapturous celebrations.
Scorers -- Ballybay: C Malone 1-1, P Finlay 0-4 (4f), C McGuinness 0-3, H Malone 0-2, R Wylie and S McQuillan 0-1 each. Clontibret: V Corey 2-0, C McManus 0-3 (1f, '45'), D Mone 0-2.
Ballybay -- S Gorman; F Smyth, D Wylie, R Wylie; M McArdle, B McCabe, B Wylie; S McQuillan, T O'Neill; T Kerr, P Finlay, F McArdle; H Malone, C McGuinness, C Malone. Subs: S McGuinness for C Malone, C McAviney for S McQuillan.
Clontibret -- A Morgan; C Duffy, C Greenan, D Carragher; D Mooney, C Boyle; M Corey; P McGuigan JP Mone; D Mone, V Corey P Boyle; R McGuigan, F Mone, C McManus. Subs: David Savage for C Greenan, E Greenan for F Mone, R Gorman for R McGuigan, N Morgan for P Boyle, Declan Savage for A Morgan.
Ref -- G McCarron (Emyvale).