Cawley Cup
GORT         0
(In Heffernan Park, Ballina)
Ballina continued on their Cawley Cup campaign last Sunday when they hosted Gort in Heffernan Park. The south Galway division 1B side had already claimed one Division 1A scalp when they defeated Corrib in this competition, so the Mayo men were taking nothing for granted. In the end the challenge from the visitors wasn’t sufficient to seriously trouble Ballina and once the home side got to grips with imposing their own game plan on Gort they quickly put the scores on the board.
Early on however Ballina conceded too many penalties which allowed Gort a foothold in the game they might otherwise not have had. So much so that the opportunity to draw first blood fell to Gort fullback Gary O’Donnell who attempted a penalty kick within his range ten minutes into the half. Unfortunately for the visitors his kick drifted wide and in this game they were always going to have to make the most of whatever chances came their way. Ballina took charge of the game and particularly dominated the scrum. It was good to see first team debutant, hooker John Keaveny perform so solidly at the heart of the set piece alongside Tom Tolan, Ciaran Melvin and later Rodney O’Donnell. If Ballina’s dominance was obvious in the scrum the threat their backline posed was equally apparent. Scrum half Michael Murphy got the ball away from the breakdown quickly and Ballina built a momentum through their continuity play which eventually yielded the game’s first score, a try for Chris O’Neill. The threat had been obvious from the kick off, which Ballina received and immediately player/coach Cory Brown playing at out half, lay down a statement of intent by running the ball from deep with centre David Newman carving through the Gort defence, before linking up with winger Michael Clarke who was only just bundled into touch on that occasion. There were several other near misses, such as when Chris O’Neill was put away in acres of space only to be called back for a forward pass, but eventually he got his reward. The score came when Ballina’s solid continuity work brought play right up to the Gort line, second row Conor Forde went close but when the ball came back from the ensuing ruck and was spread wide through the hands of Ballina’s backline centre O’Neill couldn’t be stopped from getting in at the corner. Cory Brown couldn’t put over the difficult conversion on that occasion, but soon Ballina scored again as they kept Gort pinned in their twenty two. Gort succumbed to the pressure Conor Forde and William O’Connor were exerting on their lineout when their hooker Cathal O’Grady over threw and Balina’s number eight Aidan McNulty gathered the ball at the tail of the lineout and proved unstoppable as he crossed for the games second try. Cory Brown added the conversion giving his side a 12-0 lead.
The next score came from Ballina’s elusive winger Michael Clarke who finished off brilliantly from a counter attack by Ballina. His try demonstrated the kind of difficulty Gort were in as their attempts to clear their lines were fielded by the back three of Kevin McCarron, Nial O’Malley, and Michael Clarke who initiated counter attacks by linking up with Brown, O’Neill and Newman all who were eager and creative and were finding ways to unlock Gort’s defence. Ballina’s back row of Willie O’Connor, Phillip Lewis and Aidan McNulty had a role to play here also in maintaining the continuity. It was no surprise then when Clarke finished off excellently by running in under the posts. Equally unsurprisingly Brown added the conversion.
The next scoring opportunity fell to Gort as Ballina conceded a penalty after gathering the ball from the restart. The referee judged the player carrying the ball into contact lead with the elbow and Gary O’Donnell stepped up to attempt to register his side’s first score. Unfortunately for the visitors this attempt also drifted wide.
The next score came from another great break from David Newman who found Willie O’Connor on his shoulder, like a good wing forward should be, to receive the final pass and touch down. Cory Brown was unerring with his kick for the conversion to stretch Ballina’s lead even further.
The final score of the half came from Nial O’Malley. The winger had gone close bringing play right up to Gorts’s line only for it to break down with a knock on. From the following scrum Gort were under so much pressure they failed to clear their line when out half Eoin Glynn had his attempted clearance blocked down behind his own line and O’Malley reacted first to dive on the ball and claim the try. Cory Brown’s conversion brought the half time score to 33-0.
There was to be no reprieve for Gort after the break. Chris O’Neill opened the scoring in the second half as he did in the first. Ballina’s confident handling and commitment to attack at every opportunity inevitably resulted in the fleet footed centre being put away into space and Gort’s cover defence had no answer. Again Cory brown added the conversion. Gort did try and find a way back into the game and never gave up, but even when in possession they found the uncompromising defence of, amongst others, the hard hitting Philip Lewis they had difficulty establishing field position or good “go forward” ball.
The next try was deservedly scored by David Newman when Cory Brown put in a grubber style kick behind the Gort centres. The on rushing Newman got boot to ball himself and had the pace and skill to gather the ball which hopped up kindly for him allowing him to score under the posts. Cory Brown added the conversion, but Ballina hadn’t finished yet.
Captain Michael Murphy finished off a good days work when he made a break from deep in his own half and had the pace to run all the way himself, also scoring under the posts. Cory Brown’s conversion brought the final score to 54-0.
Gort are a division below Ballina and showed great spirit throughout the game. They can take comfort from the fact that few teams could live with the Mayo side in this kind of form.
Ballina will be happy with the win, but know that they will be playing a game at a much greater level of intensity when they play the high flying OLBC in the Sportsgrounds, Galway on the 5th December. It will pose an entirely new challenge, but one which they can surely rise to.       

BALLINA: Ciaran Melvin, John Keaveny, Tom Tolan, Conor Forde, Mark Healy, William O’Connor, Phillip Lewis, Aidan McNulty, Michael Murphy (C), Cory Brown, Michael Clarke, Chris O’Neill, David Newman, Nial O’Malley, Kevin McCarron, Rodney O’Donnell, James O’Connor, Kieran Bourke, David Brunker, Cian Mullarkey.
GORT: Pat Hayes, Cathal O’Grady, Declan Nohilly, Peter O’Grady, Enda Stanford, Peter Johnston, David Conroy, Peter Howley, Eoin Glynn, Tony Finnegan, Johnny Morris, Brian Bourke, P.J. McCallum, John O’Donnell, Gary O’Donnell, Alan Nolan, Nial Deviney, Alan Fahy, Tom Finneran, Mark Johnston.
REFEREE: Tom McNicholos.


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