It was the first meeting of the teams in the senior grade since 2004, having both returned from the intermediate ranks in recent seasons and on the evidence of this match Gaeil Colmcille look well equipped to mount a serious challenge for the Keegan Cup. A solid defensive platform; lead by the Tormeys and Barry Smith, along with a mobile midfield pairing of Cormac Keegan and Seanie Curran and upfront they have more than a sprinkling of class with Seamus Mattimoe, Oisin Reilly and Brian Hanlon.
Ballinlough on the other hand will have to regroup; the absence of a few key experienced personnel didn’t help their chances but they will know that they will have to rectify a number of basic errors; all too often possession was spilled easily and they struggled for large spells to win breaking balls from kick-outs. However they will be pleased that they managed to keep their shape and discipline reasonably well even when the game appeared to be out of their reach. Debutant goalkeeper Lorcan Gibney had a fine outing between the posts and a number of their younger player’s battled away game fully and will benefit from playing against one of the stronger senior outfits.
Gaeil Colmcille played with aid of the gale force wind and raced out of the blocks; imposing themselves physically and winning the majority of the breaks around the field; Stephen Reddy kicked the first score of the game and despite kicking a few early wides the town team set about extending their lead with some great scores including a brilliant long range free from Cormac Keegan and three points in a row from Mattimoe midway through the half. Gaeil Colmcille were 0-6 to 0-0 ahead midway through the half as Ballinlough were forced to carry the ball from deep to try and negotiate the wind, but all too often they were dispossessed before they got the ball into the scoring area.
Kevin Devine (free) got Ballinlough’s first score in the 24th minute but by that stage it was evident they were going to have an awful lot to do in the second half. Gaeil Colmcille finished the half strongly and Barry Smith shot the ball over from 45 meters as they went to the dressing rooms with a clear ten point advantage; 0-11 to 0-1.
The strength of the wind was evident early in the second half as Gaeil Colmcille took a while to adjust; Ballinlough began to win more possession and they received some reward with three pointed frees from Kevin Devine. The ‘Red’s were then dealt a blow when Jonnie Reilly was the recipient of a harsh black card midway during the half and James Baugh also looked to be very hard done by when the yellow card was flashed for what seemed like a shoulder to shoulder challenge on Mattimoe.
The winners adjusted and began to carry the ball forward rather than deploying direct football which has worked so well in the first half. Brian Hanlon became more involved and kicked a couple of points from play; Oisin Reilly and Mattimoe were also on the score sheet during the second half.
Ballinlough did have good points from play in the final quarter from James O’ Higgins and then from Mark Mc Cullen who won possession and slotted over for a fine individual score, but that was the highlight as they struggled to create any goal chances which they so badly needed to drag them back into contention.
In the end Gaeil Colmcille were full value for their ten point win but they will be aware that bigger tests like ahead as they try to bring the Keegan Cup back to the town for the first time in 25 years.
Ballinlough: L. Gibney, B. Smith, P. Muldoon, R. Farrell, J. Baugh, L. Maguire, J. Reilly, T. Mc Cullen, M. Geraghty, E. Smith, R. Mc Guinness, S. Geraghty, C. Mallen, M. Mc Cullen (0-1), K. Devine (0-4f). Subs: J. O’ Higgins (0-1) for Reilly (B.C.) and K. Beirne for Farrell (B.S.).