Division 1 A-league Final 1997 - Historic victory for Ballinlough
(Taken from The Meath Chronicle 12-11-97) Ballinlough.....................0-12 Simonstown...................0-9
A thoroughly whole-hearted performance earned Ballinlough probably the club’s most significant success in the club’s history at Pairc Tailteann last Sunday.
The reds followed up on their Division 2 win of last year by ending the season in style with, this three point victory over favorites Simonstown Gaels in the A FL Div 1 final. It represents some change in league fortunes since they were relegated from this section two years ago. Simonstown often looked like a team that didn’t quite have the heart for battle, whereas Ballinlough possessed serious desires for success and possessed more forwards with an eye for the posts. They were also more consistent at midfield where Declan Lynch and that great worker Garry Mc Donnell went through Trojan efforts, while their defense, with Vinny Ryan in typically composed form, limited Simonstown’s options and tackled with great tenacity.
Ballinlough’s greater urgency and hunger was evident from the word go as they scored three points without reply in the first six minutes through Seamus Fagan and two Francis Tunney frees. Simonstown were missing the influence of Paul O’ Brien, while their forwards lacked creativity and method. However, despite their shortcomings, they still managed to trail by only two points (0-4 to 0-6) at the interval.
Lynch scored two further points for Ballinlough in that half and Jody Devine notched the other when he might well have netted. It took Simonstown 15 minutes to score when Hank Traynor pointed and Colm Keys (two, one free) and Mark Mc Guinness completed their tally. The vast majority of the second period was close, as Simonstown upped their performance somewhat and they were level within eight minutes of the restart, thanks to points from Mc Guinness, Keys (free) and Kenneth Cantwell with Devine notching the Ballinlough reply with a mighty score from play. Lynch and Ned Kearney, when he had the chance to net, then traded points, before Ballinlough dug deep in an effort to grasp the initiative and carve out a winning position.
Lynch and Tunney edged them two clear with points from frees and that lead was double with another mighty Devine point and a Ray Lydon score as the game approached added time. But Ballinlough had enjoyed a near miracle escape early in the final quarter when a Traynor shot hit the underside of the crossbar and was cleared off the line by Tunney. That Lydon score appeared to have the Tommy Monney Cup and even when Mc Guinness pointed for Simonstown a minute into injury time to bring the deficit back to three points, the Navan side’s cause looked hopeless. But they had one last chance to force a replay as Traynor raced through. Fortunately for Ballinlough, Tommy Fox saved and the celebrations could begin.
To their credit, Ballinlough continued to train under Ray Cullivan even when their championship hopes had gone and they got their reward on Sunday.
Ballinlough: T Fox, J Byrne, V Ryan, J Mc Cartan, F O’ Higgins, P O’ Brien, B Smith, D Lynch (0-4), G Mc Donnell, D Mc Cartan, S Fagan (0-1), F Tunney (0-3), R Lydon (0-1), J Devine (0-3), K O’ Reilly. Sub: M Mc Donnell for O’ Reilly.