Cawley Cup Semi-Final
O.L.B.C.    8
(In Heffernan Park, Ballina)
Ballina beat Galway City side O.L.B.C. and secured a place in the Cawley Cup final last Sunday in a hard fought game in Heffernan Park. It is testament to the strength in depth of their squad that despite missing several regulars from their usual line up the North Mayo side came back from being behind 7-8 at half time to score three trys in the second half and eventually finished up convincing winners. Playing against a strong wind in the first half Ballina were trying to keep the ball in hand while O.L.B.C. out half Luke O’Donnell and fullback Derek Flaherty were kicking the ball well and taking advantage of the conditions to keep Ballina pinned in their own half. Up front both sides secured their own lineout ball very well in the gusting wind but in the scrum O.L.B.C. exerted a lot of pressure on the reorganised Ballina eight. Under pressure on their put in from the start Ballina eventually conceded a penalty in the scrum which Derek Flaherty felt was within his range. The Boy’s Club fullback’s effort drifted wide but within minutes the game’s first score was registered not by the Galway men but by Ballina. The home side worked their way into the O.L.B.C. half and after securing possession from a scrum handled the ball well until eventually fullback Stephen McCarron changed the angle and ran onto the ball with pace, cutting right through the O.L.B.C. defence and running in to touch the ball down under the posts. Cory Brown added the conversion so Ballina lead 7-0. There followed a period of sustained pressure from the Mayo men. The visitors were forced into conceding penalties as Ballina kept the ball in hand and looked to move the ball wide as often as possible. When O.L.B.C. sought to relieve the pressure by kicking the ball long Ballina’s winger Kieran Rouse was having an excellent game fielding securely and linking up with his colleagues Niall O’Malley and Stephen McCarron to run the ball back. During this period Ballina had many attacking scrums inside the visitors 22, and a lineout from which they mauled their way over the try line but referee Gary Glennon spotted a knock on and the score wasn’t given. Ballina’s next opportunity to score was a penalty kick from a difficult angle which Cory Brown attempted after Boy’s Club dived in off their feet in a ruck. His effort drifted narrowly wide and five minutes later Derek Flaherty got his sides first points when Ballina were penalised for handling the ball in the ruck just outside their 22 and the Galway City man put over a very good kick bringing the score to 7-3. Ballina did well from the restart and good work from Connor Forde and Ciaran Melvin got the forwards driving at the heart of the visitors defence but all this was undone when Ballina conceded a series of penalties which gave O.L.B.C. a foothold in Ballina’s half. O.L.B.C. elected to kick into the corner and after securing their lineout ball mauled their way over the Ballina line where prop forward Doran McHugh touched down for a well taken try. Flaherty missed the touchline conversion but his side now lead 8-7 with the half time whistle soon following his effort. Things did not immediately improve for Ballina in the second half. Now playing with the wind at their backs their kick off was taken straight into touch by a strong gust which granted Boy’s Club a scrum on the half way line. The visitors continued to pile on the pressure with Doran McHugh making several rampaging runs which Ballina struggled to cope with. Eventually Ballina were caught offside at a ruck and Derek Flaherty had another penalty kick attempt which he put wide. O.L.B.C. continued to apply pressure but Ballina’s defence stood firm with an excellent work rate from their back row of Judd Ruane, Phillip Timoney and Aiden McNulty. Judd Ruane in particular notched up a huge tackle count and soon Ballina’s aggressive defence paid off when Boy’s Club were penalised for holding onto the ball after the tackle. Cory Brown’s kick secured a lineout for his side in the visitors 22 and from the ensuing possession were able to build several phases of play stretching the Galway men’s defence until a break from scrum-half and Captain Michael Murphy gave him the opportunity to pass back in to second row Connor Forde who cut back in at an angle and crossed the line for a great try. Cory Brown added the conversion so Ballina regained the lead 14-8. It was a turning point in the game and Ballina were determined not to relinquish the lead again. They soon had another lineout in Boy’s Club’s half and Ciaran Melvin’s throw to Liam Lynch at the front caught the visitors by surprise. Lynch drove forward and from the ensuing ruck Michael Murphy broke again. He got to within metres of the line but his pass inside couldn’t find a supporting Ballina player so O.L.B.C. survived without conceding a try as they intercepted and cleared to touch. Ballina didn’t relinquish the pressure and soon Cory Brown had another penalty kick attempt when Boy’s club were penalised for holding onto the ball on the ground. Unluckily he lost his footing in the muddy ground as he was kicking it so his effort went wide. Ballina worked hard in all areas throughout the game, particularly in defence for instance, but also it was notable how hard their pack had to secure their scum ball. Following one excellent effort Cory Brown attacked down the blindside bringing his side deep into their opponents half, patiently building the phases. They moved the ball out wide through the hands with Chris O’Neill bringing play to within metres of the line. Backs assumed the role of forwards and vice versa as Cory Brown picked the ball at the base of the ruck and drove. When the ball came back Ballina had numbers out wide with forwards Ciaran Melvin and Phillip Timoney calling for a cross field kick to exploit the advantage. When the ball was passed out bizarrely it was second row Connor Forde who saw what needed to be done and who put in the deftest kick which dropped into the hands of Phillip Timoney who raced over untouched for a spectacular try with the cheers of Ballina’s delighted supporters echoing in his ears. The try was unconverted so the score was now 19-8. The final score of the game came when Michael Murphy again made a great break and popped the ball up to the supporting Kieran Bourke who had come on in the second row. The big Ballina lock powered forward before been grounded but when the ball came back Judd Ruane ran an excellent line to storm in under the posts for a good try and just reward for all his industry during the game. David Newman added the conversion so Ballina finished up winning 26-8 when the referee blew the final whistle shortly afterwards. Ballina will be delighted to have earned a place in the Cawley Cup final. They showed great composure during the game even when things weren’t going their way and have demonstrated their squad has the depth to compete even when missing some of their more established players. Sligo will be their opponents in the final and if the recent match between the sides in the league indicates anything it promises to be a hard fought and entertaining encounter between the north Connacht rivals. But before that Ballina must travel away to Corinthian Park to take on the Galway side in their last league match. They will want to finish their league campaign with a win and use the game to prepare for their Cup matches (the following weekend will be the second round of the Junior Cup). Corinthians will be very difficult opponents and are a formidable side this year certain to present a tough challenge to Ballina.  

BALLINA; Ciaran Melvin, Rodney O’Donnell, Paul Newell, Connor Forde, Stephen Dolan, Judd Ruane, Phillip Timoney, Aiden McNulty, Michael Murphy (C), Cory Brown, Niall O’Malley, Chris O’Neill, David Newman, Kieran Rouse, Stephen McCarron, Liam Lynch, Mark Healy, Kieran Bourke, Michael Clarke, Kevin McCarron.
O.L.B.C. ; Mike Bourke, Liam Curran, Doran McHugh, David Hansbury, Steve Casserly, Dave Reilly, Paul Walshe, John Mullen, Greg Faherty, Luke O’Donnell, Johnathon Curran, Shane Connors, Connor Mulligan, Eamonn Dowling, Derek Flaherty, James Moran, Rob Lennon, Noel Farragher, David Gaul, Kevin Griffin.
REFFEREE : Gary Glennon


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