Trailing by 0-5 to 0-3 at half-time and heading towards championship elimination ‘The Reds’ showed plenty of character and no shortage of quality as they outscored the Leinster Junior Champions, by 0-7 to 0-0, in the second-half. Good use of possession and prolific score taking hadn’t been a major feature of Ballinlough’s I.F.C. campaign so far, but when it was needed most they produced a highly efficient second half performance. They successfully controlled the game and restricted Ballinabrackey who failed to breach a solid defence that has only conceded 0-11 in their last three championship matches.
Ballinlough made a bright start and went 0-3 to 0-2 ahead during the first quarter with points from Lorcan Maguire, Kevin Devine (free) and Colm Mallen. But with the wind at their backs Ballinabrackey started to dominate and they were the better team for the remainder of the half, Damien Carroll notched a couple of frees as his team went ahead 0-5 to 0-3 just before half-time.
Having only registered three points in the first-half and struggling to play with any real confidence the large crowd must have wondered if Ballinlough were heading for a tame championship exit. However the half-time words of joint managers Vincent Ryan and Raymond Lydon seemed to dispel any anxiety in the Ballinlough camp and they played with a new found self belief for most of the second-half.
Benji Smith was typically assured in the Ballinlough defence and he was well supported by Joey Byrne as their team started to win most of the individual battles. They drew level, 0-5 to 0-5, midway through the half with a point from Lorcan Maguire and with the finish line in sight they conjured up a decisive late surge. Kevin Devine (two frees), Colm Mallen (2) and Maguire, who was outstanding throughout, were all on target as Ballinlough hit five points to the trot to register an important victory against their previously unbeaten opponents.
The win puts Ballinlough on six points with all their matches played and with Peadar Byrne returning from suspension in the next week they are in a strong position as the business end of the championship approaches. Ballinabrackey on the other hand will need to win their final match against in-form Na Fianna if they are to have any chance of progressing to the knock-out stages.
Ballinlough: K. Mc Guinness, B. Smith, P. Muldoon, R. Farrell, Junior O’ Reilly, J. Byrne, K. Devine (0-3f), S. Fagan, Cian Mallen, Colm Mallen (0-3, 1f), Lorcan Maguire (0-4), T. Mc Cullen, K. Rothwell, D. Muldoon, S. Geraghty. Subs: K. Mallen for Mc Cullen, S. Byrne for O’ Reilly (BS) and S. Deevey for Rothwell.