Despite being reduced to 14 men just before half-time Gaeil Colmcille produced a highly committed second-half performance to oust Ballinlough and earn their third win of the Intermediate Football Championship in Millbrook on Friday evening.
With only seconds remaining Ballinlough were awarded a 30 metre free but Lorcan Maguire's effort struck the outside of the post and went wide as the Kells men held on for a memorable victory. Although that late chance could have earned Ballinlough a reprieve it would have been harsh on the town side who worked tirelessly after the sending off and limited their opponents to just two pointed frees in the second-half.
Such an outcome seemed unlikely in the opening ten minutes as Ballinlough made an explosive start kicking four points; Lorcan Maguire (2 frees), Peadar Byrne and Seamus Fagan were all on target as the Gaeil Colmcille defence appeared to be struggling. However, Gary Arkins settled the Gaeil Colmcille nerves with a free in the 11th minute and shortly afterwards Martin Barrett kicked over another point as they were started to get more involved around midfield. Cormac Keegan found his range with a 45 yard free and Stevie Mc Manus completed their recovery with a point to level it, 0-4 to 0-4, after 20 minutes.
Despite their earlier problems the Gaeil Colmcille defence got to grips with the Ballinlough attack and it was obvious that scores would be in short supply as Benji Smith and Padraig Muldoon were prominent in a tight marking Ballinlough defence. Colm Mallen pointed a free to edge Ballinlough back into the lead before Gaeil Colmcille were dealt a major blow when Philip Ward received his marching orders for a second yellow card after a high tackle on Peadar Byrne. Ballinlough finished the half well when the hardworking Colm Mallen found his brother Cian in space and the county junior curled over to give his team a 0-6 to 0-4 lead at the break
Trailing by two points and reduced to 14 men; one could have been excused for writing off the Kells outfit, but they upped their work rate and played with a greater urgency as Ballinlough struggled to utilise their extra man. A goal was always going to prove crucial in a low scoring contest and Gary Arkins provided a timely boost for Gaeil Colmcille when his speculative effort from out on the right sneaked under the crossbar three minutes into the second half, leaving the score 1-4 to 0-6. That goal may be remembered as the defining score but a clearance off the Gaeil Colmcille line in the 50th minute was just as important. There didn't appear to be much danger in site as Derek Muldoon lofted a high ball towards the Gaeil Colmcille goal, but when Ronan Mc Guinness bravely contested the dropping ball with the goalkeeper the ball spilled loose and Mc Guinness poked it towards the net only for a defender to somehow divert the ball to safety.
Maguire leveled it shortly afterwards with his second pointed free of the half, leaving it 0-8 to 1-5 with nine minutes remaining, but despite launching numerous attacks Ballinlough struggled to find their full forward line with good possession as Michael Foley and Robbie Flanagan exemplified the effort of the Gaeil Colmcille defence with some courageous interceptions. Keith Reilly kicked over what turned out to be the winning score with five minutes remaining before Ballinlough missed their chance to snatch a draw as Gaeil Colmcille held on for an important championship win.
Ballinlough: K Mc Guinness, R. Farrell, B. Smith, J. Byrne, E. Reilly, L. Maguire (0-4f), P. Muldoon, C. Briody, S. Fagan (0-1), Cian. Mallen (0-1), Colm Mallen (0-1f), S. Byrne, C. Briody, P. Byrne (0-1), K. Rothwell, R. Mc Guinness. Subs: K. Devine for Briody, D. Muldoon for S. Byrne and T. Mc Cullen for Fagan.