Ballina 14  32  Donaghadee

(In Heffernan Park, Ballina)

            After a bright start it was ultimately a disappointing day for Ballina as they were knocked out of the All Ireland Junior Cup by Ulster side Donaghadee last Saturday. The hosts kicked off and were immediately awarded a penalty when the visitors were penalised for diving in at a ruck. Ballina Captain Michael Murphy attempted the kick which was two metres outside the Donaghdee 22, to the left of the posts, but his effort drifted wide. Ballina kept piling the pressure upon the Ulstermen, with some excellent kicking out of hand by Andrew Moynihan, Michael Murphy and Conor Dever keeping Donaghdee pinned inside their 22. A clearing kick downfield from the visitors was gathered by Ballina Winger Tyrone De Silva on the halfway line. He took it forward and linked up with Fullback Conor Dever who made good ground before off loading to Ballina’s other Wing Francis Conroy. Conroy cut back in and set up a ruck on the left of the field inside the 22. The ball was quickly passed out to Andrew Moynihan as Ballina attacked bringing play back left to right where Ballina had men over. Moynihan skipped two players to pick out Second Row Stephen Dolan who drew a tackler and passed on to Ciaran Melvin.

The Prop Forward had a lot to do but showed good pace and strength and couldn’t be prevented from powering over and score a try in the corner. A great kick from Michael Murphy added the points for the conversion so Ballina led 7-0. There followed a period of dominance from the Mayo men. Donaghdee struggled to win clean lineout ball with consistency and with the possession coming their way Michael Murphy, Andrew Moynihan, Centre Jerome Harrimate and Full Back Conor Dever were finding gaps and asking questions of the Ulster men. But Ballina failed to capitalise on this period of dominance. Handling errors and most notably a failure to commit appropriate numbers to rucks which left players isolated was the undoing of Ballina’s endeavour. On several occasions Ballina were penalised when promising attacking play was developing and gradually Donaghdee gained a foothold in the game. From a lineout in Ballina’s half the ball was set up well in midfield before a fluid attacking movement involving Centre Paul McKenzie who released Winger Chris McGivern. Ballina’s cover defence missed the tackle and McGivern drew the remaining defence a yard from the line.

Andrew Moynihan did well to get back and knock down the ball preventing the pass being completed but unfortunately as the ball bobbled over the try line it was Donaghdee’s Wing Forward David Murray who pounced on the ball scoring a well taken opportunistic try. Centre Nigel Barker added the conversion to tie up the scores 7-7. The game ebbed and flowed between the sides but it was Donaghadee who scored again after securing ball in a lineout inside Ballina’s 22. Forwards like Kalave Avali’itia, Richard black and Chris Hamilton dove at the Ballina defence which defended stoutly but eventually Out Half Paul Blewitt moved the ball wider and Number 8 Richard Miller couldn’t be prevented from scoring. Barker missed the conversion so Ballina now trailed 12-7. Ballina worked hard to get back into the match and earned two more penalty kick opportunities, but Michael Murphy’s attempts drifted wide so at half time the score remained unchanged. Ballina needed to score early in the second half but 3 minutes after the restart it was the northern side who scored again when Paul McKenzie cut through the Ballina defence which will be disappointed in the latitude afforded to the Donaghdee player/coach.

Nigel Barker made no mistake with the conversion stretching the lead to 19-7. Ballina continued to battle but the northern side was growing in confidence with the cushion of a 12 point lead. The Mayo men did well when securing a lineout and setting up a tremendous driving maul which took them into the visitors 22 forcing Donaghdee to concede a penalty to prevent its progress. Michael Murphy was unable to convert the penalty kick and reduce the deficit and worse was to come when Donaghdee exposed slack defending by the home side once again this time Centre Nigel Barker scored his side’s fourth try after a good build up with McKenzie, Full Back Billy Allen and Richard Miller prominent. Barker converted his own try and with the score 26-7 Ballina had a mountain to climb. They refused to capitulate and were rewarded when a good break by Winger Francis Conroy paid dividends when he linked up with Jerome Harrimate and the hard working Ballina 13 raced in to score under the posts. Francis Conroy added the conversion and at 26-14 Ballina had a glimmer of hope.

But Donaghadee were not going to relinquish the game now they were in such a commanding position. Barker was able to add two more penalties before the final whistle so the game finished up 32-14 giving the Ulster men an emphatic victory. Ballina will be disappointed in losing their way so badly in a game they were capable of being much more competitive in. They will be hoping to refocus and regain form next week when the focus reverts to the league and Ballina take on the difficult task of travelling away to Tuam.                  

BALLINA; Conor Dever, Francis Conroy, Jerome Harrimate, Michael Allen, Tyrone De Silva, Andrew Moynihan, Michael Murphy (C), Ciaran Melvin, Richard Kelly, Paul Newell, Stephen Dolan, Kieran Bourke, Conor Mason, Orrie Collins, Aidan McNulty, John Keaveney, Brendan Barrett, Barry McCarthy, Robert Melody, Francesco Lo Bartolo.

DONAGHADEE; Billy Allen, Chris McGivern, Nigel Barker, Paul McKenzie, Rory Garnham, Paul Blewitt, Ali Lockhart, Neill McCullough, Gareth Gordon, Ali Barnes, Richard Black, Kalave Avali’itia, David Murray, Chris Hamiliton, Richard Miller, Alan Torrens, Phil McCaughey, David Thompson, Ryan Irvine, Andrew Cash.

REFEREE; D. Noonan

TOUCHJUDGES; K.White, K. Quinn.

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