The soft underfoot conditions at Clarecastle ensured this clash was never going to develop into an open, free-flowing game and with tempers boiling over on numerous occasions, it was left to respective free-takers Colin Ryan and Tony Kelly to dictate the scoreboard — the former, ever so slightly, shading the dual.
Bob Enright’s charges were comfortable in the end, but it was only in the closing 10 minutes that they moved out of sight. Centre-forward Shane O’Brien Snr tallied three points, while Ronan Goode’s minor in injury-time was the final nail in Ballyea’s coffin.
Newmarket enjoyed the upper hand throughout, but could never tighten the noose hanging from their opponents’ neck. As Ballyea went in search of a goal in the dying embers, not alone did Newmarket successfully repel their efforts; they exploited the gaping holes left at the other end of the field to raise five white flags from the 50th minute onwards.
There was little by the way of celebrating following Ambrose Heagney’s full-time whistle, Newmarket fully aware the real test lies in wait next weekend.
Tony Kelly produced the opening score of the game but it proved only one of three shots at goal registered by Ballyea in the opening quarter — Kelly’s early free the sole effort to dissect the posts.
Newmarket weren’t long replying and four Colin Ryan frees, added to a peach of an effort from Eoin O’Brien, left them four clear. They should have been further ahead though, with Ryan squandering two placed balls and Shane O’Brien Jnr failing to find the net when simply the deftest of touches was required.
They were forced to rue that wastefulness. Gary Brennan made perfect connection with Paul Flangan’s probing delivery for a tonic goal. Kelly and Ryan traded frees. Ryan (free) and Michael O’Hanlon again pushed Newmarket ahead, but Kelly continued to keep Ballyea afloat.
The blue tide was gathering momentum though, with Ryan, sub James Liddy and Shane O’Brien Snr increasing their influence in the final third. Further points from Ryan (free) and Ronan Goode nudged Newmarket three clear.
When James McInerney prevented Tony Kelly making a clean connection with the goal at his mercy the game turned once and for all.
Entering the final quarter, Kelly and Ryan again swapped points before Shane O’Brien Snr announced himself with the aforementioned late barrage of scores.
Scorers for Newmarket-on-Fergus: C Ryan 0-8 (8f), S O’Brien 0-3, R Goode 0-2, M O’Hanlon, E O’Brien 0-1 each.
Scorers for Ballyea: T Kelly 0-6f (6f), G Brennan 1-0, J Murphy 0-1.
NEWMARKET-ON-FERGUS: D Duggan; E O’Brien, J McInerney, S O’Connor; N O’Connor, E Barrett, A Barrett; E Hayes, M O’Hanlon; D Barrett, Shane O’Brien Snr, R Goode; Shane O’Brien Jnr, S Kelly, C Ryan.
Subs: J Liddy for S O’Brien Jnr (29), M McInerney for Kelly (49).
BALLYEA: S O’Neill; B Carrig, J Browne, D Keane; N Keane, C Doohan, P Flanagan; G O’Connell T Kelly; N Deasy, S Lineen, A Keane; M O’Leary, G Brennan, F O’Reilly.
Subs: T Griffin for Lineen (25), P O’Connell for G O’Connell (39), G O’Connell for F O’Reilly (47), J Murphy for Keane (49).
Referee: Ambrose Heagney.