Ballinasloe  9     Galweigans  7

Ballinasloe defied all the odds and predictions when overcoming Galweigans in this promotion/relegation play off at Corinthian Park on Sunday. The smart money was on Galweigans to retain their Division 1A status while consigning Ballinasloe to another season of Division 1B fare. Unfortunately for the city outfit the East Galway side did not read the script, rather they requested the menu and chose as their main course a generous dollop of Division 1A rugby for next season. And were they not hungry for that platter. They dominated the favourites for long stretches and their  ‘play in your face’ approach paid rich dividends as ‘Weigans were never allowed to get into any sort of rhythm or pattern. Indeed a Ballinasloe victory looked a likely outcome for some time before the finish.

Ballinasloe followers would have not been too surprised with the result. Their side have improved their game steadily since the turn of the year. This is a fair testimony to the management team and indeed the players who never lost faith when things were misfiring earlier in the campaign. Sunday’s performance was a solid and committed team effort against a Galweigans side that seemed unusually subdued on the day.

The afternoon started in a sombre mood as both sides lined up for a minute’s silence in respect of Ms. Pauline Treacy, Ballinasloe’s Senior Vice President, whose unexpected death earlier in the week had cast a cloud over the club. The win would no doubt have brought a wide grin to her face in that Great House in the sky.

When the action got underway Ballinasloe made the brighter opening and forced ‘Weigans onto the back foot from early on. In fairness to the Glenina men, they were playing into a contrary wind that squalled at times and that in addition to a soggy pitch that held many pools of water, it was not easy to make headway.

Ballinasloe drew first blood after 12minutes. Galweigans were penalised for a scrum infringement and Kealan  O’Neill landed a thirty five metre penalty kick.

Minutes later and the city men demonstrated how threatening they could be when they took the lead, somewhat against the run of play. They won ruck ball on half way and Ballinasloe were too slow in closing them down as outhalf, Ross Shaughnessy, made the telling break and off loaded inside to his scrum half, Conor O’Rourke, who ran in for a try that Shaughnessy converted.

Ballinasloe went back on the hunt and reduced the arrears after 23minutes when Galweigans were penalised for not releasing and O’Neill made no mistake with his kick at goal. As the half progressed the winners continued to make the running but found it difficult to get in behind their opponents defence to cause real havoc. Just before half time Niall Staunton took a good lineout ball and Ballinasloe set up a well structured rolling maul heading menacingly for the Galweigans try line when it appeared to be brought down illegally. However, the referee saw it differently and no penalty followed as some good work went unrewarded.

With ‘Weigans a point to the good at the break and the breeze to their backs on the turnover it looked as if the game was theirs to lose. They did not help their cause having a player yellow carded minutes into the second period and the victor’s greater hunger and driving game never allowed them to settle.

Ballinasloe were back in front by the forty sixth minute. Cian Loughrey put in a good kick that bounced in-field. John Hayes followed up with intent and when ‘Weigans were penalised for not releasing the ball O’Neill made them cough up the lead when slotting his third penalty of the afternoon. Even at this stage one had an inkling that it was going to be Ballinasloe’s day. A prayer was coming from afar.

Galweigans were not going down easily. They were strong in the scrum and solid in defence but could not find the thrust to get their game going yet all the while the momentum was with Ballinasloe. With Aidan Doorley getting down and dirty on the deck as well as being influential in the lineout and Mark Harrigan giving real meaning to the term impact sub, the winner’s dander was up. And amid all of this Galweigans again shot themselves in the foot by having a second player yellow carded in the sixty third minute.

Ballinasloe came close to getting a try late on when a driving maul was held up on the line. It would have been the icing on the cake but who wanted cake on an afternoon when that main course-that of securing promotion to Div1A for next season- was tasty enough.

There was a great outpouring of emotion at the final whistle amongst the rather large contingent of Ballinasloe supporters and the players. After the week that the club had it was a small release from the turmoil experienced.

And so it is higher level rugby for Ballinasloe for next season. Unquestionably, greater demands and new challenges will have to be met head on but that is for reflection for a later date. For now, sufficient for the day suffices.                                                                                                                         Ballinasloe Team: M.Tierney, Cian Loughrey, D.Freeman, C.Johnston, R.Doolan, K.O’Neill, Conor Loughrey, J.J.Carey, A.O’Hara(capt), T.Dolan, H.Reynolds, N.Staunton, R.Wakefield, J.Hayes, A.Doorley. Replacements: K.Gavin(for J.J. Carey), A.Wade, M.Harrigan(for H.Reynolds), A.Loughrey(for N.Staunton), D.Burke(for D.Freeman).                                                                                 Liam Courtney, Club PRO.                                                                                                          

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