Both of these sides would have entered the arena at Graigueawoneen on Sunday with quite differing aspirations. Castlebar would have been hoping to extend their lead at the top of Div1A while the home side would have more modest ambitions, that of moving off the bottom of the table. Little wonder then that the smart money was on the table toppers to continue their winning ways. Yet those of us who have observed Ballinasloe at close quarters in recent outings would have been expecting a big home performance and feeling quietly confident that they would deliver their first home win of the season. They did not disappoint.

You don’t beat Castlebar, in their current form, either by surprise or by chance, so Ballinasloe deserve all the kudos for their huge win. At the final whistle, any casual spectator in attendance would have been bemused if told that the winners were fighting from the cellar of the league.

Castlebar started confidently and were 3pts to the good in the opening minutes when Ballinasloe were penalised for side entry at a ruck and Ronan Conway kicked them into the lead.

A searing run by Matthew Tierney, into the Castlebar half, led to a penalty for Ballinasloe in the 6th minute and Ruaidhri Doolan landed the equaliser.

Ballinasloe were playing a running game, keeping their opponents on the move across the pitch while dominating the exchanges.

One was waiting for Castlebar to ignite but instead it was Ballinasloe who moved into the lead. Having won their own lineout in the visitor’s half they mauled strongly towards the line before John Hayes, who else, finished off the drive with a try in the 18th minute. The conversion was missed but the home side was moving nicely.

Doolan added another penalty in the 23rd minute to put the home side 11pts to 3 ahead.

Castlebar forced their way back into the contest when they realised that they had a fight on their hands and had some good attacking moments but found the home defence just about as generous as a little boy clutching his last sweet. They were poorly served when one of their forwards was yellow carded for a ruck infringement after 31minutes.

With half time approaching, a big Ballinasloe push in the scrum forced Castlebar into collapsing and Ruaidhri Doolan punished them by landing his third penalty of the afternoon to leave the locals 14-3 ahead at the interval.

Twelve minutes into the second period and Ballinasloe were on the march again. They rejected a kick at goal from a penalty in favour of kicking into the corner. Aidan Doorley  took the lineout and the Ballinasloe maul drove forward with purpose. The Castlebar defence fell away and that man Doorley was on hand to touch down for a vital try for the home side. The conversion went to the right of the posts but the score was now out to 19pts to 3 and the visitors were in real trouble.        With Ballinasloe dropping the tempo Castlebar once more got a handle on events but found it very difficult to find a way through the still stubborn home rearguard though they did maul their way over for a try after 62minutes with Gavin O’Sullivan touching down. The conversion went wide.

The hosts went on the prowl again and a strong run by winger, Emmet Croffy, who was lively all afternoon, brought play into the visitors half and the Mayo side rarely threatened for the final fifteen minutes.

Ruaidhri Doolan was unfortunate to see a well struck penalty come back off the left hand upright in the 66th minute. And then the locals put together the best move of the game. Passing from the right saw powerful prop, Tommy Dolan, suck in the visitors cover in mid-field. Rodney Cullinan and Lorcan Feerick re-cycled quick ball to bring John Hayes crashing through for his second try of the game and his side’s third of the afternoon. Doolan added the extras to put the hosts into a 26pts to 8 lead and cause consternation in the Castlebar ranks. It was never envisaged that the league leaders would find themselves in such disarray.

The locals dominated the closing exchanges and were unlucky not to chalk up a fourth try when lock, Niall Staunton, made tracks for the visitors line but elected to pass inside rather than back himself against the last defender. Still, Ballinasloe will be happy with a fine performance, an 18pt win and hopefully some upward momentum in the table. Afterwards the Castlebar contingent spent over half an hour in a huddle on the pitch. Oh to be the proverbial fly on the wall!   

BALLINASLOE : D.Burke, E.Croffy, L.Feerick, R.Cullinan, M.Tierney, R.Doolan, C.Loughrey, K.Gavin, A.O’Hara(capt), T.Dolan, N.Staunton, H.Reynolds, A.Loughrey, J.Hayes, A.Doorley. Replacements:(all used) J.J.Carey, M.Harrigan, R.Wakefield, C.Loughrey, J.Kelly .

Ballinasloe  3    Buccaneers  19

Ballinasloe’s Development Squad /Second XV came up short against a well organised and more forceful  Buccaneers side at home on Sunday and though the home side were game to the end, the visitors deserved their win.

Ballinasloe took an early lead when David Freeman kicked a penalty and they were unlucky with two subsequent efforts. Buccs Darren Costelloe, who was proficient with the boot all afternoon, levelled with a penalty and then put his side ahead with another mid-way through the half. Buccs went further ahead before half time when Brian Walsh finished off a passing movement with a try in the corner that was converted by Costelloe.   

Ballinasloe tried hard in the second period with Shane Reynolds particularly lively but the lack of discipline and the concession of too many penalties did not help their cause. Costelloe added two further penalties for good measure. Ballinasloe finished strongly but the promptings of experienced heads, Alan Wade, Eoghan Clogher and Neville Kelly was never going to be enough to pull back a comfortable lead.

Age Grade Results

Ballinasloe’s U14s went down to Creggs by 17pts to 14 away on Saturday in the second round of their league. They will be disappointed with the outcome having already beaten Ballina 26-5 at home in the previous round. Ballinasloe’s U15s fared better when making the journey to  Galway to take on Galweigans in the first round of their league, returning home with a hard earned 12pts to 5 win. They led 5-0 at the interval before adding a converted try in the second half.  The winners had to withstand some strong pressure from the locals late in the game before taking the spoils. Scorers for Ballinasloe were Kevin Manning 2 tries, Jack Canning 1 conv.                                                 

LIAM COURTNEY, Club PRO                                                                                                                                                                                                     


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