Uninformed onlookers may have mistaken this match as a far higher grade as Drumbaragh and Ballinlough served up a memorable Division 6 B-League final. Extra time was required and two goals in the first period were the decisive scores as the junior side eventually prevailed.
Superb accuracy and score taking isn’t always a feature of Division 6 B-League football but both attacks gave an exhibition of quality finishing in a match that produced 32 scores and some great spells of flowing football.
The game started at championship pace and the teams were level 0-5 to 0-5 after 15 minutes with all ten scores coming from play; Ballinlough midfielder Seamus Byrne hit two points while Drumbaragh centre half forward Darragh Mc Namara was also prominent figure during the first quarter. Simon Deevy was the fulcrum of the Ballinlough attack in the early exchanges but a knee injury late in the half robbed ‘The Reds’ of their danger man and it was to prove a major blow as the Drumbaragh full-back line recovered from a nervous start and grew in confidence as the game wore on. Byrne and Deevy were influential as their team gained an upper hand during the second quarter; Paddy Briody, Mark Mc Cullen and Niall Farrelly all kicked points for Ballinlough with Drumbaragh’s sole response coming from Damian Carry which left his team trailing, 0-6 to 0-8, at half-time.
With Deevy off injured and Mark Mc Cullen moving back into defence to keep a close eye on Drumbaragh danger man Mc Namara; the Ballinlough attack failed to operate with the same fluency and their opponents seized the initiative early in the second-half. Substitute DJ Carry was a threat at corner forward and Thomas Carry and John D. Smith were also lively in the half-forward line as a Mc Namara point brought the sides level 0-10 to 0-10 after 52 minutes. Things weren’t looking good for Ballinlough when substitute Ronan Mc Guinness was shown a second yellow and then a red card with five minutes remaining before Drumbaragh substitute John Madden looked to have sealed it with a point on the stroke of full-time. But there was still time for Ballinlough to go in search of an equalizer and the outstanding Mark Mc Cullen took responsibility and kicked his third point from play to bring the sides level 0-11 to 0-11 on the stroke of full-time.
One couldn’t have imagined that extra time would generate as much excitement as the opening 60 minutes but remarkably there was no let up from either team as they went in search of the win. Drumbaragh made a major breakthrough in the first period of extra time when they scored two close range goals in quick succession from Darragh Mc Namara and Thomas Carry. Bryan Smith kicked a couple of points for Ballinlough as they stayed in touch; 0-13 to 2-12, when the whistle sounded for the change of ends.
Ballinlough were far from finished and led by substitute Shane Smith who was their best player during extra time they conjured-up a late surge; a goal from Sean Geraghty with two minutes remaining left the minimum between the teams; 1-14 to 2-12. But Drumbaragh showed plenty of bottle and points Thomas Carry and David Mc Manus gave them a little bit of breathing space, but just when it seemed that they had done enough Ballinlough’s Bryan Smith made an inch of space in a crowed goal mouth and hit a pile driver which just cleared the Drumbaragh crossbar, it was their last scoring opportunity as the junior side held on for memorable victory over their intermediate counterparts.
Ballinlough: M. Brady, Jonathon O’ Reilly, E. O’ Reilly, J. Baugh, P. Briody (0-1), Junior O’ Reilly, J. O’ Higgins, K. Mallen, S. Byrne (0-2), B. Smith (0-4, 2f), M. Mc Cullen (0-4), C. Briody, N. Farrelly (0-3), S. Deevy (0-1), S. Geraghty (1-0). Subs: R. Mc Guinness for Deevy, D. Mc Cartan for O’ Higgins, S. Smith (replaced R. Mc Guinness as 15th man for extra time), M. Geraghty for Fagan (BS), S. Geraghty for Farrelly.