A third quarter scoring spree helped Ballinlough see off a limited Clann Na NGael outfit in the quarter final of the Intermediate Football Championship in Kells on Sunday.
Ballinlough………………………….3-7 Clann Na NGael…..……….……..1-3
It was a case of “job done” for Ballinlough as they booked their place in the Intermediate Semi-Final. While a ten point victory suggests it was an impressive display it must be noted that Clann Na NGael were severely hampered by the absence of some key players, there is little doubt that a much tougher examination awaits next time out against Gaeil Colmcille.
The first half was high on effort but low on quality as both teams struggled to demonstrate the kind of form required to win the Mattie Mc Donnell Cup. The Ballinlough attack included Peadar Byrne, Mark Mc Cullen and Kevin Mallen all of whom were making their first championship start of the year and for much of the first half they struggled to break-down a well organised Clann Na NGael defense; where Shane Mc Anarney was ably supported by Darren Kelly and Odhran Fitzpatrick.
The Athboy/Rath Cairn outfit got the first score of the game in the 2nd minute from a Gary Hanley free but soon afterwards Peadar Byrne created an opening for Cian Mallen to pop over an equailiser, both teams looked nervy and some good scoring chances went by the wayside before Ballinlough made a significant breakthrough. Colm Mallen won a breaking ball at midfield and found his younger brother Kevin who released Ken Rothwell with a perfectly weighted hand pass and the number 15 made no mistake from close range as his team went ahead 1-1 to 0-1 in the 12th minute. Jamie Shaw responded with a long range point but the Clann Na NGael attack lacked the kind of creativity required to really trouble the Ballinlough defense. The only score of the second quarter turned out to be defining; and once again it was Ken Rothwell who did the damage, Lorcan Maguire provided the assist and the former Denn player shot low past the advancing goal-keeper, Ballinlough led 2-1 to 0-2 at half-time.
The major problem for Clann Na NGael was a lack of punch up-front and they decided to gamble by pushing their best player Shane Mc Anarney into attack for the second-half, but it was a move that back-fired as Ballinlough upped the tempo significantly in the third quarter. Kevin Mallen was heavily involved kicking the first point and then in the 33rd minute he was on hand to finish off the best move of the game; Kevin Devine fielded excellently in defense and off-loaded to Benji Smith who surged forward before passing to Cian Mallen who combined with his brother Kevin and he finished excellently to all but seal victory for his team as they went ahead; 3-2 to 0-2.
The Clann Na NGael challenge started to diminish as ‘The Reds’ found their rhythm; Peadar Byrne (2), Kevin Devine (free), Ken Rothwell and Lorcan Maguire all split the posts as they moved well clear. Shane Mc Anarney got a late consolation goal from a penalty but it made little difference as Ballinlough booked their place in the semi-final.
Ballinlough: K. Mc Guinness, B. Smith, P. Muldoon, R. Farrell, K. Devine (0-1f), Junior O’ Reilly, Colm Mallen, S. Fagan, Cian Mallen (0-1), Peadar Byrne (0-2), Lorcan Maguire (0-1), T. Mc Cullen, M. Mc Cullen, K. Mallen (1-1), K. Rothwell (2-1). Subs:R. Mc Guinness for T. Mc Cullen, D. Muldoon for Cian Mallen (BS), C. Briody for M. Mc Cullen, D. Muldoon for K. Mallen, S. Byrne for Fagan and J. O’ Higgins for Rothwell.