Nobber and Ballinlough went head to head in a repeat of last year’s Division 3 A-League final in Nobber on Sunday and it was the reigning Intermediate Champions that came out on top once again as they registered their first win in Division 2.
Ballinlough will look back on this defeat with a degree of frustration as the concession of three soft goals in the first half combined with a lack of composure in front of the posts in the closing stages cost them at least a share of the spoils.
Nobber midfielder Gavin Farrelly made an impressive start kicking two early points and then Gerard Campbell benefitted from some hesitancy in the Ballinlough defence to finish from close range and give his team a 1-2 to 0-0 lead in the 11th minute. Despite having plenty of early possession Ballinlough’s first score didn’t arrive until the 13th minute when Kevin Devine pointed from a free and a minute later they could have added a goal when a surging run from Junior O’ Reilly was finished off with a point from the industrious Conor Briody.
The first quarter may have been entertaining but what followed was quite remarkable as four goals were scored in a blistering 15 minute spell before half-time. A high ball into the Ballinlough square caused uncertainty and Brian Meade was hauled down close to goal, Brian Farrell rattled the net with the resultant penalty to put hit team ahead; 2-2 to 0-2. The teams traded points before impressive Ballinlough substitute Seamus Byrne found Conor Briody with a defence splitting pass and he finished superbly from 14 meters out. But the concession of two early goals was the catalyst for a wave of panic in the Ballinlough defence and when Niall Farrell sent a difficult free across the face of their goal the ball bounced around the goal mouth before it eventually crept over the line; Nobber were ahead 3-3 to 1-3 with 23 minutes played. However just when it seemed the home side might run riot Ballinlough responded; Kevin Devine stole the ball off a defender close to goal and set up Ken Rothwell who finished low past the advancing goal-keeper and then to round off a remarkable conclusion to the half Seamus Fagan landed a point from outside 45 meters from a free. Nobber held a slender 3-3 to 2-5 lead at half-time.
The second-half was a tighter affair would both defences improving considerably, early scores from Thomas Mc Cullen and Devine, who was impressive throughout, had Ballinlough ahead for the first time; 2-7 to 3-3 after 35 minutes. However Nobber replied through Brian Farrell who broke away from the attention of Padraig Muldoon for the first time to kick his opening from play and he added another score from a free shortly afterwards as his team forged ahead once again. Simon Deevy leveled it up for ‘The Reds’, 2-8 to 3-5, with 19 minutes remaining but despite having plenty of possession they failed to score for the remainder of the contest. Farrell was now operating at midfield in an effort to win more possession and he pointed a free to put his team a point ahead with 12 minutes remaining. Ballinlough attacked relentlessly and despite an abundance of effort there was a lack of composure and on at least three occasions in the closing minutes they failed to convert guilt edge opportunities which would have paved the way to victory. Instead in was left to Farrell to prove his class by intercepting a pass inside his own half and carrying the ball 60 meters before getting the decisive score.
Ballinlough: K. Mallen, B. Smith, P. Muldoon, R. Farrell, Junior O’ Reilly, J. Byrne, Colm Mallen (0-1), S. Fagan (0-1f), Lorcan Maguire, Tommy Mc Cullen (0-1), K. Devine (0-3, 2f), Eugene O’ Reilly, S. Deevey (0-1), K. Rothwell (1-0), Conor Briody (1-1). Subs: S. Byrne for J. Byrne, Jonathon O’ Reilly for E. Reilly, N. Farrelly for Briody and J. Byrne for Fagan