Ballyea’s blend of steel and skill proves decisive

Ballyea 1-21 Glen Rovers 2-10: Little over three weeks ago, Ballyea travelled to Ennis in search of a first county title. This morning, they rise as Munster champions.

It’s an incredible tale of achievement by the small village, buffered, as it is, by players from the football strongholds of Ballynacally, Kilmihil and Cooraclare.

Tradition wasn’t on their side arriving into Thurles yesterday, but Munster’s new order showed scant regard for the lines of symmetry which ran between the Glen’s storied past and current crop.

The Blackpool outfit, celebrating their centenary year, were chasing a fourth provincial title and a first in 40 years.

Indeed, back when the Glen were ruling Munster in 1976, Ballyea were a struggling junior B side. That’s the extent to which they’ve risen. And it would be remiss to suggest they’ll be content with the two pieces of silverware annexed since October 30.

Tommy Moore, no doubt, is already being eyed up.

The latest addition to an expanding trophy cabinet – a first Munster title for a Clare club since Sixmilebridge in 2000 – was chiefly earned during bursts at the end of either half; six successive points were reeled off approaching the interval, while they outscored their opponents 0-7 to 0-2 from the 51st minute onwards.

The eight-point winning margin didn’t flatter them in the slightest and while it was the scoring exploits of Niall Deasy, Tony Kelly and Pearse Lillis that kept them at least three clear from the 15th minute onwards, it was their defensive work-rate which, ultimately, propelled them across the line.

Countless Glen Rovers attacks broke down across the Ballyea 40, a line superbly commanded by Paul Flanagan and Gearoid O’Connell, the latter also popping up with three points.

Behind them, Joe Neylon and Jack Browne were in imperious form.

Patrick Horgan was bottled up by at least two black and amber shirts on each occasion he broke onto possession. O’Connell and company frustrated the opposition sharpshooter from first whistle to last. He finished scoreless from play, as did Dean Brosnan and David Busteed.

Only Conor Dorris and sub Mark Dooley managed more than one score from play.

Compliments are due also to the Ballyea defence’s distribution of the ball. It was smart, purposeful and, more often than not, put directly in front of Deasy, Pat Joe Connolly or Damien Burke.

Indeed, it was a peach of a delivery from O’Connell that sent Pearse Lillis through for the opening goal of a contest watched by 4,583 souls.

Gavin Moylan was caught on the wrong side of his man and Lillis took full advantage to blast the sliotar past Glen ‘keeper Cathal Hickey 12 minutes in.

The green flag moved the Clare champions into a 1-3 to 0-3 lead and while David Cunningham and Deasy swapped points in the ensuing passages, Robbie Hogan’s charges hit six points between the 19th minute and the call for half-time to lead by 1-10 to 0-4 at the turnaround - Tony Kelly, Connolly (0-2), Burke, Deasy (free) and O’Connell all nailed the target during this first spell of supremacy.

Their direct running and movement off the ball had the Cork champions scratching their heads and, invariably, being dictated to rather than dictating themselves.

Exchanges in the Glen dressing-room at half-time were, by all accounts, blunt. A Conor Dorris goal within two minutes of the restart, after ‘keeper Kevin Sheehan batted a Patrick Horgan ’65 right into the honeypot, handed them a lifeline.

Donal Cronin teed up the same player for a point in the subsequent action and the Glen were finally motoring.

Damien Burke attempted to quell their growing momentum, but it was game back on when Dorris, set up by decent work out the field from Cronin and Brian Moylan, rattled the net for a second time on 38 minutes – 1-11 to 2-5 read the scoreline.

Tony Kelly, with a trademark score on the run, settled his teammates, and although sub Mark Dooley replied – this was to prove the Glen’s last score from play for 22 minutes,

Deasy and Brennan split the posts to re-establish breathing space. The latter score was the perfect microcosm of Ballyea’s collective work ethic and enterprise; Pat Joe Connolly smothered Calvin Healy’s clearance underneath the corner of the Ryan Stand, Niall Deasy swept up the breaking ball, flung it across the 20-metre line where Gary Brennan shrugged off his man and pointed.

Horgan slotted two placed ball efforts to bring the deficit back to three for a third time.

Thereafter, a second Ballyea burst.

The points rained in from all distances and angles. O’Connell landed a monstrous effort from behind the halfway line, Tony Kelly blocked Stephen McDonnell before sending over his fifth, with Pearse Lillis, one of the lads who’s been coming over the road from Cooraclare since he was a boy, having the final say… for this particular chapter, anyway.

Scorers for Ballyea: N Deasy (0-7, 0-3 frees); T Kelly (0-5); P Lillis (1-1); G O’Connell (0-3); D Burke, PJ Connolly (0-2 each); G Brennan (0-1).

Scorers for Glen Rovers: C Dorris (2-1); P Horgan (0-5, 0-4 frees, 0-1 ’65); M Dooley (0-2); D Cunningham, C O’Brien (0-1 each).

BALLYEA: K Sheehan; B Carrigg, J Browne, J Neylon; P Flanagan, G O’Connell, J Murphy; T Kelly, S Lineen; N Deasy, PJ Connolly, C Doohan; P Lillis, G Brennan, D Burke.

Subs: P O’Connell for Lillis for (61).

GLEN ROVERS: C Hickey; C Healy, S McDonnell, G Moylan; D Dooling, B Moylan, G Callanan; D Brosnan, P Horgan, D Cunningham; C Dorris, C O’Brien, D Busteed.

Subs: M Dooley for Busteed (37 mins); B Murphy for Moylan (37); G Kennefick for O’Brien (44).

Referee: J Murphy (Limerick).



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