The Limerick side were reduced to 13 men just before half-time when Declan Lavery and Corey Hircock were sin-binned within 30 seconds of one another. Two penalties from Luke Marshall edged Ballymena 6-5 ahead at the break, after Garryowen’s Neil Cronin scored a superb charge-down try.
But despite their numerical disadvantage, Garryowen started the second-half is superb fashion and were boosted when Ballymena flanker Ross Hackney picked up a yellow card. Alan Gaughan crashed over in the corner to restore the Munster men’s advantage as their defence held firm against theBallymena onslaught.
Gaughan scored a second try after a superb Fergal Lawlor pass and Ronan O’Mahony rounded out the win with a later score in the corner.
Neville, playing in his final match, said: “It was an unbelievable turnaround in the second-half. We did so well in the first 40 minutes but lost two players on the final play. Werectified it at half-time and really turned it around.”
Scorers for Garryowen: Gaughan two tries, O’Mahony try, Cronin try; Cusack two conversions.
Scorers for Ballymena: Marshall two pens.
GARRYOWEN: L Burke; A Gaughan (J Gavin ‘67), C Hircock, D Cusack (J McKierney ‘75), R O’Mahony; F Lawlor, N Cronin; JP Cooney, J Rael (A McMahon ‘72), D Lavery, F McKenna (C Hartigan ‘67), D Sherry, P Neville (c) (S Buckley ‘46), K O’Gorman (A Kavanagh ‘50), L Viapulu.
BALLYMENA: R McBurney (J Smith ‘70); A Frazer (I Vance ‘70), R Andrew, L Marshall, C Fitzpatrick; M Irwin, B McIlroy; C Black, John Andrew (A Warrick ‘11), S Shawe (C Carey ‘70), D O’Kane, Joel Andrew, S Mulholland (A Hamilton ‘19), P Pritchard (c), R Hackney.
Referee: Eanna Falvey.