The greater power and depth of Summerhill College came to the fore in a dramatic Connacht Schools “A” semi-final at Bekan on Thursday night, as the Sligo side used the wind at their backs to gradually chip away at the nine-point lead that Ballinrobe Community School built up in the first half. The St Mary’s club duo of Eli Rooney and Ronan Niland ran riot for Mark Breheny’s side, scoring all bar one of their side’s points as they secured their slot in the provincial decider, alongside Coláiste Bhaile Chláir.
A young Ballinrobe team, with four starters that are eligible for minor football in 2023, scored some incredible points in the first half, with Tom Lydon, Jack Keane and Tiernan Egan all chipping in with wonderful scores from distance.
Lydon also showed great composure to finish off a close-range goal chance, created by Diarmuid Duffy with a good turnover at midfield, and when Eoghan O’Halloran pounced on a short kick out and slipped a low shot inside the near post of Donnchadh O’Brien, that made it 2-6 to 0-3 to the South Mayo side.
Wonderful interplay between Paul O’Brien and Ronan Niland led to the centre forward crashing the ball to the Ballinrobe net just before half-time however, and that score proved crucial as a momentum shifter.
Summerhill duly set about chipping away at the lead in the second half. James Donlon, Dillon Walsh and O’Brien all made a series of strong runs through the middle to open up the opposition defence, and it fell to Rooney and Niland to chip away the scores that eventually drew Summerhill level.
Dillon Walsh hit the lead score with a majestic strike on the run, a free from Niland doubled the lead, and while Ballinrobe threw everything they had at Summerhill, with Oisín Joyce firing over their first score in over half an hour to heighten the tension, a stunning point from the left-hand sideline from Rooney confirmed his side’s progression.
R Niland 1-5 (0-4f), E Rooney 0-6 (0-2f), D Walsh 0-1.
T Lydon 1-2, E O’Halloran 1-1, J Keane 0-2, T Egan 0-1, O Joyce 0-1.
D O’Brien; R O’Callaghan, E Keane, R O’Hehir; J Campbell, J Donlon, R O’Kelly Lynch; D Walsh, P O’Brien; R McDaniel, R Niland, M Carroll; S O’Neill, E Rooney, G Lynch.
Subs: J Walsh for Carroll (40), C Flynn for O’Kelly Lynch (temp, 45-49), C Flynn for O’Neill (59), P Kerins for McDaniel (60+6).
S O’Connor; S Flannery, S Biggins, C Geraghty; O Corcoran, C Jennings, J Marrey; O Joyce, T Egan; R Corcoran, J Keane, J Luskin; D Duffy, T Lydon, E O’Halloran.
Subs: R Hughes for Luskin (22), E Kinneavy for R Corcoran (42), D Cameron for Duffy (53), Luskin for Keane (58), Duffy for O’Halloran (60+1).
: M McGirl (Leitrim)