Connacht Junior League Div 1A
BALLINA 52
CORRIB      7
(In Heffernan Park, Ballina)
Ballina overwhelmed Corrib in a one sided game in which the result was never in doubt last Sunday. Playing in front of their home supporters for the first time this year (the first time since last November in fact) they gave their faithful followers plenty to cheer about in a game totally dominated by the Mayo side. Ballina scored a total of eight trys during the game, including a hat trick for Chris O’Neill, a brace for his Centre partner David Newman, a try each for Ciaran Melvin and Paul Newell who were both playing at Loose Head Prop when they scored and substitute Winger Cian Mullarkey (who also packed down as a Flanker in two scrums in what was an eventful game for him) had the final say with an excellent finish to score under the posts.
Ballina kicked off and had Corrib under pressure immediately. The home side’s pack attacked the Headford men’s set piece from the start, and the visitor’s set piece consequently struggled throughout the game. Their scrum was retreating allowing the tenacious Ballina Scrum Half and Captain Michael Murphy latitude to make life very difficult for his opposite number Charlie O’Sullivan. In the lineout William O’Connor and Phillip Timoney lead the attack forcing numerous turnovers for Ballina, who were flawless on their own throw in for the entire game. With the tide of possession flowing their way it was not long before Ballina opened the scoring. They had a scrum inside the Corrib twenty two from which No 8 Aidan McNulty picked the ball and drove at the heart of the Headford side’s defence. The ball was recycled quickly and when Out Half Cory Brown passed the ball out Centre David Newman wrong footed the scrambling cover defence, stepped inside and accelerated through the gap to race over the line for a well taken try. Cory Brown added the conversion giving his side a 7-0 lead.
Within five minutes Ballina scored again, and once again it was David Newman who crossed the line. A turnover of possession from a ruck inside their own half gave them the opportunity to run back at Corrib. Cory Brown put in a perfectly judged kick behind Corrib’s backline. Corrib’s Full Back Jimmy Gavin was unable to deal with the kick and the pressure of Ballina’s centres, the ball bounced fortuitously for the on-rushing Newman who raced over and touched down under the posts. Cory Brown added the conversion, so Ballina lead 14-0.
Ballina never eased up and there were good performances from every player on the field. Full Back Kevin McCarron showed good pace, Winger Francis Conroy was eager for work and a skilful instigator of much of his side’s counter attacking play. Second Row Connor Forde was playing like an extra Wing Forward and often the link man between the forwards and backs keeping the ball alive. The back row of Phillip Timoney, Phillip Rowe and Aidan McNulty were in marauding form, uncompromising in their defence, and effective carrying the ball in attack. Up front Tom Tolan worked very hard and very effectively in the tight, but his ball carrying was exceptional as time after time he powered forward with several Corrib players haplessly trying to ground the Ballina Tight Head. When quickly recycled ruck ball followed there was a lot of space for Ballina’s backline to exploit. Ballina’s next try came from a scrum in the Corrib half. The ball was moved wide quickly through the backline, set up and carried forward again by Tolan. Quickly the ball was put back through the hands again, passed behind a dummy runner creating an overlap which allowed David Newman pass out to Loose Head Prop Ciaran Melvin who raced over for a well taken score. The difficult conversion wasn’t added so the score was now 19-0 in Ballina’s favour. BallinaVCorrib300 Five minutes later Ballina added the try which secured them the bonus point. Corrib tried to kick deep into the Ballina half but the ball was gathered by Winger Niall O’Malley who ran it back skilfully evading the Galway men who tried to close him down. O’Malley linked up with Connor Forde who did well to control the ball and put in an unorthodox diving pass out to his Captain Michael Murphy. Murphy drew the cover and put away Centre Chris O’Neill who made a powerful run down the touchline before racing in under the posts to score his first try. Cory Brown added the conversion giving Ballina a 26-0 lead at half time. It could perhaps have been more. Phillip Timoney made a terrific run from his own twenty two before linking up with Niall O’Malley, who in turn unluckily failed to offload to the hard running Phillip Rowe. Had the pass gone to hand Rowe would have been hard to stop.
In the second half the spirited Corrib side refused to give up and fifteen minutes had passed before Ballina were able to break through for another score. Kieran Rouse came on at Full Back and was very sure fielding and linking up with his teammates. He proved to be an equally elusive runner and added to Corrib’s difficulties when Ballina’s back three ran back at them. The score came again from good counter attacking play from a kick deep into Ballina’s half by Corrib. Francis Conroy gathered and combined sublimely with David Newman to get away from Corrib’s chasing players. The young Ballina Winger showed excellent foot work and no little skill to evade tackles and put away Centre Chris O’Neill who raced away for his second try. The conversion was missed but within four minutes Ballina had scored again. Immediately they were back in Corrib’s twenty two and began to build the phases producing quick ball, passing well and running hard. The visitors were defending manfully but visibly wilting under the pressure. From quick ruck ball the ball was passed to substitute Paul Newell who was now playing at Loose Head Prop forward. He ran a great line at the fading defenders and cut right through to cross the line almost untouched for a good try. Cory Brown’s conversion brought the score to 38-0.
It is to Corrib’s credit that they refused to capitulate. They were not without skilful players themselves and more than once Tom Lee and Charlie O’Sullivan displayed great footwork to side step and accelerate past Ballina’s attempted tackles. Ballina had all their subs on and perhaps this temporarily upset the balance of the side as they conceded a series of penalties which allowed the Galway men into their half, but it would be churlish to take away from the spirit and endeavour of Corrib who brought play right up to Ballina’s line before Scrum Half Charlie O’Sullivan stepped inside his tackler and scored a very good try. O’Sullivan added the conversion himself putting 7 points on the board for his side.
When influential Flanker Phillip Rowe picked up a knock Ballina chose to rest him for the rest of the match and finish with 14 players on the field as they had used all their substitutions.  They went on to score two more tries, the first was followed a series of scrums close to Corrib’s line from which No 8 Aidan McNulty was unlucky not to score and during which substitute Winger Cian Mullarkey had the dubious pleasure of packing down as a Flanker in place of the absent Rowe. He was no doubt grateful that replacement Second Rows Mark Healy and Kieran Bourke who were now in the engine room of Ballina’s scrum added powerfully to an already dominant scrum during this period. When the ball was eventually passed wide through the hands Chris O’Neill cut right through the tiring defence to score his third try on the day. Cory Brown added the conversion but Ballina weren’t finished yet. Again Corrib were undone by an attempt to clear the ball which was run back at them. Cory Brown combined with Cian Mullarkey and the versatile Winger cheekily wrong footed Corrib’s last covering tackler to step inside and score under the posts. Cory Browns’s conversion was followed by the final whistle giving Ballina a comprehensive 52-7 victory.
The most satisfying aspect of the win was the uniformity of the standard of performance by Ballina all over the park. Ballina host unbeaten league leaders and long time great rivals Sligo next Sunday in what will be their sternest test yet. It promises to be an excellent game and both sides will have ample and vocal support on the day. Sligo have all but secured the league after beating Monivea in Strandhill and will be favourites to beat the Mayo men. Ballina will have to raise their game, but have only endured one defeat in the league themselves. They are a good side with excellent players and capable of an upset. It promises to be an epic encounter next Sunday at 2.30 pm in Heffernan Park, Ballina.     

BALLINA: Ciaran Melvin, Liam Lynch, Tom Tolan, Connor Forde, William O’Connor, Phillip Timoney, Phillip Rowe, Aidan McNulty, Michael Murphy (C), Cory Brown, Niall O’Malley, Chris O’Neill, David Newman, Francis Conroy, Kevin McCarron, Paul Newell, Mark Healy, Kieran Bourke, Kieran Rouse, Cian Mullarkey.
CORRIB; John Gannon, Brian O’Connor, Connor Moylin, Brian Lee, Cathal Cawley, Nick Molloy, Dave O’Connor, Martin Lee, Charles O’Sullivan, Tom Lee, Ronan Casey, Dara Connor, Killian Bane, Hubert Gleaven, Jimmy Gavin.
REFFEREE: Daithi Flood 

Picture (C) Corraine Beattie Photography

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