When two of the keenest rivals in Meath football qualified for the JFC final it was obvious that it would be a tight, tough encounter and this is exactly how it turned out as Ballinlough scored a dramatic victory over Carnaross before an enthusiastic crowd of approximately 2,500 at Navan’s Pairc Tailteann on Sunday.
The reds produced some really terrific football-better than one associates with junior football. Seven of their players scored in a dazzling display of accuracy. Both teams deserve praise for the sporting manner in which the local derby final was contested. However when Vincent Mooney blasted past Ballinlough goalkeeper Tommy Smith two minutes into injury time, this much awaited decider looked destined for a replay. But referee Joe Harlin played approximately five minutes overtime and nearing the end of it Jody Devine gained possession about 20 metres out and slotted over to give Ballinlough dramatic victory. Harlin’s decision to play so much injury time must be questioned, but to be fair, Ballinlough deserved their moment of glory.
Carnaross struggled for long spells and it was’nt until they switched county star PJ Gillic from centre forward to midfield midway through the second period that they started to play with real purpose. The winners certainly looked the more complete side in the opening period. The highly talented Declan Lynch was going through a mountain of good work in the middle of the field and big Martin McDonnell was using his height and power to good effect at full forward. The three points he scored in the first twenty minutes must have made his famous father proud. Gary McDonnell, Martin Lynch and the speedy Jody Devine were also causing problems for the losers and Ballinlough took some good scores in the first half.
Hugh and Martin McDonnell put Ballinlough two points ahead in the early stages with points from play, but Seamus Reilly briefly halted the winners run when he scored a fine long range point in the 10th minute to leave just one point between the sides. But Liam Hyland restored Ballinlough’s two point advantage and the very much in form Martin McDonnell stretched it to four by shooting over twice in quick succession. A free from PJ Gillic and Declan Lynch traded points before Carnaross lifted themselves out of their rut and notched the goal which brought them right back into the match three minutes before half-time. It came from right half forward Seamus Reilly who gained possession from a long ball played by Christy Gibney, lost it again momentarily, but kept his composure and his balance before shooting home to leave his side just one point adrift. However Jody Devine then got the last score of the half shooting a tremendous point from out on the wing to leave the score at half-time; Carnaross 1-2 Ballinlough 0-7.
The winners probably deserved to be further ahead at this stage as they had played the better football, but their advantage was cut to the minimum just a minute into the second half when Johnny Caulfield pointed. Ballinlough stretched their lead to four points by the 48th minute after Francis Tunney (two), Devine and Kieran O'Brien had been on target and PJ Gillic had kicked a free. Gillic was operating at midfield at this stage and Carnaross were beginning to move. Ballinlough had a lucky let off when a Caulfield shot across the goals went narrowly wide after Seamus Reilly just failed to connect with it. Gillic was also wide from an easy free. He then made amends by converting a 45, but then kicked another wide. However he was still making a telling impact and was well supported by Seamus Reilly, Domonic and Eugene Yore. Then came Vincy Monney’s dramatic late equalizer in the 62nd minute, but almost three minutes later Devine became the hero of Ballinlough with his late dramatic winner.
Ballinlough: T Smith; J Tunney, G Mc Namee, M Tuite, G Mc Donnell, M Lynch, R Lydon, C O’ Brien (0-1), D Lynch (0-1), F Higgins, L Hyland (0-1), J Devine (0-3), F Tunney (0-2), M Mc Donnell (0-3), H Mc Donnell (0-1). Subs: D Mullally for M Lynch, P Lynch for Hyland.