Connacht Junior Cup
Ballinasloe 21
Ballina       40
(In Graigueawoneen, Ballinasloe)
Ballina advanced to the next round of the Connacht Junior Cup after travelling to Ballinasloe and scoring six tries before emerging victorious over their hosts by 40-21. It was a far from flawless display by Ballina however and the north Mayo side will be aware that a much more accomplished and clinical performance will be required if they want to be in contention for this prestigious trophy. There was much to admire in the competitive nature of this Ballinasloe side which kept them in contention during this match until two late tries by Chris O’Neill put the result beyond doubt. Ballina’s set pieces of scrum and lineout were far from polished and their difficulties were compounded when they conceded penalties in the breakdown that undermined their attempts to build continuity. Even so out half Cory Brown managed the game well and Ballina enjoyed a territorial advantage for most of the game. When Ballina moved the ball wide, which they frequently did, they always looked threatening and the fielding and counter attacking by wingers and full back Francis Conroy, Michael Clarke and Kieran Rouse was always well executed and threatening. Centres Chris O’Neill and David Newman combined well on several occasions and Ballina were coming closer and closer to making the break through. A rare period of good continuity play almost saw Francis Conroy touch down in the right corner, but he was held up over the line. From the ensuing scrum Ballina maintained the pressure with number eight Phillip Timoney doing well to ensure Ballina were going forward. The ball was quickly moved wide to the right and from quick ruck ball Ballina attacked back to the left where good work by David Newman eventually put Francis Conroy away for the games first try thirty five minutes into the game. Cory Brown put over the difficult side line conversion so Ballina lead 7-0. From the restart however they allowed Ballinasloe a foothold back in the game. Ballina conceded needless penalties including a further ten yards for dissent which gave Ballinasloe’s winger Alan Naughton the opportunity to try and kick for the 3 points but his effort was wide. Ballinasloe continued to carry the ball to Ballina with some excellent picking and driving by their forwards which brought play right up to Ballina’s line before number eight Mark Harrigan proved unstoppable as he crashed over for a try under the posts. Naughton added the conversion so the sides were level 7-7. Stung into action Ballina’s response was immediate. Cory Brown got them a foothold deep in Ballinasloe territory and good pressure from Francis Conroy forced the hosts to concede a lineout in their 22. Ballina secured the ball and after good driving play from the forwards swiftly attacked down the blind side where Chris O’Neill handed off his would be tackler before grounding the ball for Ballina’s second try. Cory Brown added the conversion again so Ballina’s lead was restored 14-7 before the half time whistle which followed minutes later. Ballina started the second half very brightly as they gathered the ball and ran from deep in their half. Full back Kieran Rouse was put away and put in an excellent kick which rolled into touch within two metres of the Ballinasloe line. The hosts won their lineout and cleared to touch but Ballina had a throw in on the 22 and from this lineout the ball was moved wide where David Newman stepped inside the defenders and ran in to score under the posts. Cory Brown again added the conversion so his side now lead 21-7. Ballina should have been comfortably in control of the game at this point but instead once again allowed their hosts back into the game as the conceded a series of penalties which allowed the Galway men to bring play right up to Ballina’s line and when a penalty was conceded from a scrum under the posts Mark Harrigan took a quick penalty and dived in for a try in very similar fashion to the one he got in the first half. Alan Naughton again added the penalty to reduce the gap between the sides to just 7 points 21-14. Once more Ballina’s response was immediate and within two minutes they had scored another try. This time it was Francis Conroy who outpaced the defence to get his second try after Cory Brown secured a turnover following a great tackle from which Michael Murphy spun the ball wide where Phillip Rowe powered forward before Conroy beat his man on the outside and ran in for the five points. Cory Browns conversion stretched Ballina’s lead to 28-14. Frustratingly Ballina again allowed Ballinasloe come back at them and this time their indiscipline culminated in the Mayo side earning a yellow card and being reduced to 14 men. Ballinasloe’s onslaught on the visitors try line was relentless until eventually Ritchie Sheppard got over for a good try after a series of forward drives. Alan Naughton missed the conversion but got a second chance as Ballina had ran out to pressure his attempt too soon and he made no mistake with his next effort. The score was now 28-21 with just minutes left in the match but Ballinasloe’s revival was crushed by a brace of trys from Chris O’Neill. As always when it was put up to them Ballina had the ability to put men away in space out wide and O’Neill almost put Niall O’Malley away only to be called back for a forward pass before eventually he was put away himself by good handling from Kieran Rouse and David Newman. O’Neill’s pace couldn’t be matched as he touched down in the corner. Cory Brown was wide with his conversion attempt but Ballina were again restored to fifteen as the sin binning expired. From the restart Ballina ran back at Ballinasloe and once again O’Neill carved through the Ballinasloe defence to score his third try of the day. Brown’s conversion stretched the final score to 40-21. Ballina will be pleased with the win but will be determined to improve on what was a below par performance by the side. They certainly have the players with the ability to perform at a much greater level of intensity and in a more clinical fashion as they will have to if they wish to advance in this competition. Training continues Tuesday, Thursday and Friday at 8pm each week as they strive towards this objective.           
BALLINASLOE; J.J. Carey, Andy O’Hara, Tommy Dolan, Harry Reynold, Kevin Dolan, Kealan Headd, Aidan Doorly, Mark Harrigan, Sean Daly, Gary Hogan, Alan Naughton, Joe Dunne, Cian Loughrey, Mark Gibbons, Mike Colohan, Alan Wade, Greg Donnellan, Ritchie Sheppard, Aaron Maloney, Colin Bartlet.
BALLINA; Ciaran Melvin, Rodney O’Donnell, James O’Connor, Connor Forde, Aiden McNulty, Judd Ruane, Phillip Rowe, Phillip Timoney, Michael Murphy (C), Cory Brown, Michael Clarke, Chris O’Neill, David Newman, Francis Conroy, Kieran Rouse, Liam Lynch, Alistair Brown, Stephen Dolan, Niall O’Malley.


Mini-Rugby between Ballina RFC and Loughrea RFC