Ballinlough made a successful return to the intermediate grade with a six-point victory over Syddan in Carlanstown on Sunday. Both sides had a player dismissed in a bruising encounter which was dominated by the winners throughout.
The latter years of Ballinlough’s 17 year stint in the senior grade have been associated with annual escapes from relegation but Sunday’s victory will provide ’The Reds’ with renewed enthusiasm for the year ahead. Despite the loss of several personnel through retirement and emigration, former player Vincent Ryan has assembled a youthful outfit that combines a good work ethic with plenty of individual talent.
The winners made a perfect start with a 4th minute goal from Colm Mallon, who side footed to the net after his initial shot was saved by the Syddan goalkeeper. Cian Mallon and Seamus Fagan added points before Syddan opened their account in the 10th minute. Ballinlough dictated the midfield exchanges throughout with county player Peadar Byrne impressing and their half-back line picking up a lot of breaking ball. Two pointed frees from the outstanding Fagan and a superb Lorcan Maguire effort gave Ballinlough a 1-4 to 0-3 lead at the break. Syddan were reduced to 14 men during the 8 minutes of injury time, which were played in the first half.
Despite loosing the influential Cian Mallon and Derek Muldoon to injury at half-time, Ballinlough stuck to their task. Colm Mallon split the posts from a tight angle before Kenneth Rothwell pointed after an excellent run from half-time substitute Conor Briody. The winners were then dealt a major blow when substitute Robbie Farrell received his marching orders for a second yellow offence in the 43rd minute. However Syddan found a resolute Ballinlough defence, in which Benji Smyth and Eugene Reilly excelled, difficult to penetrate and failed to register a score until the 20th minute of the second-half, at which stage they trailed by 1-7 to 0-4. Both sides traded late points but the result was never in doubt as Ballinlough recorded a thoroughly deserved opening round victory.
Ballinlough: J. O’ Higgins; B Smyth, D Muldoon, P Ryan, E O’ Reilly, L Maguire (0-1), G Smyth, P Byrne, S Fagan (0-3), Colm Mallon (1-1), J O’ Reilly, P Muldoon, Cian Mallon (0-1), K Rothwell (0-1), R Mc Guinness (0-1). Subs: R Farrell for Cian Mallon, C Briody for D Muldoon.