The visitors were out of the blocks quickest, with Peadar Byrne opening the scoring with a pointed free, after full forward Tommy McCullen had been fouled in front of goal. Industrious wing forward Cian Mallen soon doubled the ‘Loughs lead with a fine finish after been played in by Junior O’Reilly.
Moments later, Colm Mallen converted a free from a tight angle, before Byrne scored his second of the match to open up a four point lead with twenty minutes on the clock.
Ratoath opened their scoring in the twenty second minute, and a late flurry of points before the break saw the sides go into half time level, at four points a piece.
Veteran forward Ken Rothwell opened the scoring in the second half almost directly from the throw in, his classy point edging the ‘Lough back into the lead. The game then saw it’s first major score when Tommy McCullen finished low into the back of the net after a powerful run by Byrne in midfield.
Good work by Colm Mallen then set up Byrne for another score, before the centre back picked up his second point of the afternoon with a well struck free kick. McCullen topped off this purple patch for the Reds with another expertly taken goal. The move was started by Sean Geraghty around the middle of the field, who fed the ball to Rothwell, who perfectly timed a pass to leave McCullen through on goal, and the full forward made no mistake from there.
Ratoath came to life midway through the half and managed to tag on some fine scores of their own, but never truly looked like overcoming the deficit. Tom Shine’s charges were ruthless in defence, with the half forward line dropping back throughout as added cover for the backs. The ‘Loughs higher fitness levels allowed them to play this high tempo game and still get forward in large numbers. Great credit must also be given to Keith McGuinness in the Ballinlough goal, and the full back line of Benji Smith, Podge Muldoon and Robbie Farrell who were rock solid throughout the contest in difficult slippy conditions.
McCullen, Geraghty and Kevin Devine all added late scores for the visitors, to cap an excellent display. Ballinlough will be delighted at the quality performance of the team, especially when many players have been ruled out with injuries recently. Johnny Reilly, Kevin Devine, Tommy McCullen, Colm Mallen and Cian Mallen were particularly impressive for the Reds.
The result means Ballinlough return to Division 1 football next year for the first time since 2003, and will play Blackhall Gaels in the League final later on this year.
Ballinlough: K. McGuinness, B. Smith, P. Muldoon, R. Farrell, Jonathan O’Reilly, Colm Mallen (0-2), Johnny Reilly, P. Byrne (0-3), K. Devine (0-1), S. Geraghty (0-1), Junior O’Reilly, Cian Mallen (0-1), K. Rothwell (0-1), T. McCullen (2-1), S. Deevy. Subs: D. Muldoon for Junior O’Reilly, E. Smith for Jonathan O’Reilly, K. Mallen for K. Rothwell.