The Nobber fairytale continued as they withheld a strong challenge from Ballinlough to capture the Division 3 A-league title in Kells on Sunday. The winners had to withstand some nervy moments as they finally seen off a gallant Ballinlough outfit during extra-time.
There was little or nothing to separate to the teams in terms of football ability throughout this match, but the resilience and self-belief Nobber have attained from winning this year’s Intermediate Championship was a telling factor as they eventually got the better of Ballinlough in extra-time.
Ballinlough will probably wonder how they let this match slip away, for long periods they outplayed their opponents, full-back Padraig Muldoon did an excellent man marking job on danger man Brian Farrell and half-backs Joey Byrne and Ronan Mc Guinness were outstanding as they kept tabs on a usually prolific Nobber attack. The concession of a miserly 1-7 during normal time would usually lead to victory, but despite having the intermediate champions on the ropes Ballinlough failed to land the scores that would have paved the way to victory.
Ballinlough made an encouraging start when Tommy Mc Cullen pointed from 30 meters, but when a Brian Farrell free fell short Padraig Fox reacted quickest to blast the ball to the net and put Nobber ahead, 1-0 to 0-1, after ten minutes. Ken Rothwell was a source of many problems for the Nobber defence, he kicked over his first score in the 14th minute and only a minute later a clever flick from Mark Mc Cullen found the full-forward in space and he finished brilliantly to the net to put Ballinlough ahead; 1-2 to 1-0, after 15 minutes. However the concession of the goal seemed to act as a wakeup call for Nobber and they responded with three unanswered points to lead 1-3 to 1-2 at the break.
The early exchanges of the second-half were without much incident but then a minor altercation between Philip Mc Entee and Derek Muldoon seen both teams reduced to 14 players after referee Donal Smyth flashed the red card. The game began to open up and points from Mark Mc Cullen and Ronan Mc Guinness had Ballinlough in the lead, 1-4 to 1-3, after 37 minutes. With Brian Farrell subdued Nobber needed to dig deep and they found plenty of inspiration from the performances of Gordon Weldon and Padraig Fox both of whom were on target as they regained the lead, 1-7 to 1-6 with time almost up. Ballinlough looked to be finished but Rothwell produced a piece of brilliance to level it in injury time, then moments later he was presented with a chance to win it but despite claims from some of his colleagues the ball was adjudged to have went just outside the upright. The absence of a scoreboard had much of the crowd guessing the final score but when the full-time whistle sounded the teams were level, 1-7 to 1-7, and extra-time was required.
A couple of scores from Fiachra Mc Entee had Nobber in the lead as their opponents squandered some good scoring chances and when a short free fell kindly to Alan Farrell he finished to the roof of the net to give Nobber a 2-9 to 1-7 lead at half-time in extra-time. Ballinlough showed plenty of spirit but they only managed to trade a point with Nobber who weren’t going to be denied as they held on for a memorable victory.
Ballinlough: K. Mallen, B. Smith, P. Muldoon, R. Farrell, J. Byrne, L. Maguire (0-1f), R. Mc Guinness (0-1), S. Fagan, Cian Mallen, Tommy Mc Cullen (0-2), Colm Mallen, K. Devine, D. Muldoon, K. Rothwell (1-2), M. Mc Cullen (0-2). Subs: S. Byrne for Fagan, S. Geraghty for K. Devine E.T: Jonathon O’ Reilly replaced D Muldoon, Junior O’ Reilly for T Mc Cullen and K. Devine for Colm Mallen