(In Dundalk)
After last week’s hefty defeat against Monivea in the Connacht Junior league, Ballina travelled to Dundalk to participate in the All Ireland Junior Cup and put in a much improved performance although they ultimately were defeated by the County Louth side. Missing several regulars due to injury and unavailability (including five of the pack David Rowe, Ciaran Melvin, Paul Newell, Mark Healy, Phillip Timoney and young centre Michael Allen) all who might expect to feature in squad of twenty, it was a very reorganised and untested team that made the long journey east. Despite this Ballina started brightly. The home team tried to take the game to the visitors with out half Emy Fa’tu and centre Trevor Marama running at Ballina’s backline but they were met with a solid and committed defence from the Mayo men and struggled to make any inroads into Ballina territory. Judd Ruane, Michael Murphy, Cory Brown and Jerome Harrimate were all prominent among many others with the ferocity of their tackling. The pressure forced handling errors and turnovers from Dundalk, who tried to take advantage of the strong wind which was at their backs for the first half, by kicking for field position but when they did so Ballina’s back three of full back Robert Melody and wingers Frankie Kelly and Trevor Moore coped well and linked up effectively to run the ball back. Up front Dundalk were conceding penalties in the scrum where Alistair Brown was doing very well at tighthead prop for the north Mayo side, while both teams found it difficult to secure lineout ball on occasions due to the prevailing wind and rain, but here also Connor Forde and Stephen Dolan worked hard to make life difficult for their opponents and managed to secure some good ball themselves in very difficult circumstances. When Ballina were penalised in their own half for handling the ball in a ruck the opportunity fell to Dundalk’s Trevor Marama to give his side the first points of the game but his kick drifted wide. Shortly after that he had another attempt when Ballina went in off their feet at a ruck but he was again unable to open his side’s account. These forays into Ballina’s half were few enough in the first half as Ballina’s kept their opponents well contained. The visitors suffered a huge blow when Cory Brown sustained an injury to his shoulder in the course of making a powerful tackle which forced a turnover. When the influential player/coach went off Ballina were forced into further reorganisation moving Frankie Kelly to centre bringing on Francis Conroy onto the wing. It didn’t stop Ballina from taking the game to their opponents however. Richard Kelly and Aidan McNulty were always available to carry the ball and keep Ballina going forward, Orrie Collins and Judd Ruane worked tirelessly to ensure continuity and half backs Michael Murphy Andrew Moynihan varied the play well to test Dundalk. When  Jerome Harrimate made a good break for Ballina and put a kick through into space behind the Dundalk backline it ended in a race to the Leinster side’s try line with Trevor Moore chasing well for Ballina. Dundalk’s winger Stephen Murphy seemed to carry the ball over his tryline under pressure from Moore and touch it down before passing it back to his outhalf to clear but the officials deemed he hadn’t touched the ball down so Ballina weren’t granted a five metre scrum. They continued to pressure the home side however until eventually the Louth men were penalised for holding onto the ball after a tackle and Ballina’s outhalf Andrew Moynihan put over an excellent kick to open the scoring 3-0 to Ballina. Dundalk got a foothold in Ballina’s half after the restart and soon Ballina were guilty of infringing at the breakdown themselves, granting Trevor Marama the opportunity of levelling the scores which he duly did with a well struck kick. Although Ballina were generally dominant in the scrum it was from penalty against them in a scrum that Dundalk scrum half Jonathon Williams put over another kick to give his side the lead shortly before half time 6-3. In the second half Ballina endeavoured to remain as competitive but their backline suffered further disruption when Jerome Harrimate went over on his ankle and was replaced by Niall O’Malley who went to the wing with Trevor Moore moving to the centre. They were also now finding it harder to secure lineout ball which gave more possession to their opponents. Midway through the half Ballina suffered a further blow when Richard Kelly was sin-binned, perhaps harshly, as he competed at the breakdown. Ballina still held out valiantly but eventually the numerical advantage told when Maramate broke through and crashed over for a try which he converted himself. Ballina still remained competitive and took the game to their opponents but the tiring Mayo side paid the price again when a turnover and good handling by Dundalk’s backs and forwards lead to the home teams substitute hooker Kieran McCabe crossing for a second try. Williams added the conversion and that was to be the last score of the game which finished 23-3 ensuring Dundalk progressed to the next round. Ballina have a break from the league next weekend before hosting Tuam the week after and will welcome the opportunity it will afford some of their injured players to recover. They will also take much heart from the competitive performance they produced in difficult circumstances, the beginning of a return to standards that they will want to maintain.           
DUNDALK; Robert Williams, Gerard Scully, Chris Scully, Trevor Marama, Stephen Murphy, Emy Fa’tu, Jonathon Williams, Kenny Dorria, Johnny Gray, Kieran Branigan, David Feron, Greg Whateley, Brendan Hattan, Mark Roundtree, Paul Megan (C), Paul Keely, Rory McCardle, Connor McRory, Kieran Sloane, Kieran McCabe.
BALLINA; Robert Melody, Trevor Moore, Jerome Harimate, Cory Brown, Francis Kelly, Andrew Moynihan, Michael Murphy (C), Alex Lee, Richard Kelly, Alistair Brown, Connor Forde, Stephen Dolan, Judd Ruane, Orrie Collins, Aidan McNulty, Rodney O’Donnell, Liam Lynch, Conor Mason, Niall O’Malley, Francis Conroy.


Connacht Emerging Talent squad named for game against Leinster North Midlands