BALLINASLOE 21——11 CORINTHIANS

Ballinasloe got back to active service on Sunday after a week’s break in league activities when overcoming table toppers and favourites, Corinthians, at Graigueawoneen. Their down time stood them well and it was a rejuvenated side that took the field for this fourth round league tie. Their form in the opening three rounds had been patchy and their performances were inconsistent but on Sunday they looked the real deal when inflicting Corinthians first league defeat of the season on them.

The city team may have been short a few would be first choice players but the same misfortune befell Ballinasloe who had to field without their regular second row combination of Niall Staunton and Kealan Headd (both injured) and were also without the services of their tallisman, John Hayes, who was unavailable. However, the fifteen that  went on the paddock were full of zip and gave a totally spirited and committed performance that had their opponents rattled long before the finish.

Ballinasloe looked composed and focused from the outset and posessed a structure to their game from which they rarely strayed.

Corinthians had the better of the territorial battle early on but Ballinasloe’s tackling was un yielding. The visitor half back pairing of David Keogh and Phil Noone worked hard to get their side on the front foot but they could make little positive use of their  posession. The Ballinasloe horse fair may have been in full swing down town but the rugby team was not prepared to do any sort of a deal out in Moher. They took the lead in the 10th minute when Kealan O’Neill kicked his first penalty. Corinthians spurned a similar chance to equalise minutes later but opted instead to kick to the corner where their eventual driving maul was repulsed by the hosts. It was instances like this that helped the homeside to grow in confidence and with Conor Johnston tackling like a demon in the centre things were looking up for the homeside. Ballinasloe gave themselvees an enormous shot in the arm with a well worked try after twenty five minutes when Kevin Gavin finished off a move that he was involved in earlier with the conversion going right and wide. The same Kevin Gavin was a ball of energy throughout and his hunger for hard work was infectious. He was a thorn in the Corinthian side all day long.

The visitors were now clearly on the backfoot but clawed their way  into the game just before half time when centre Cathal Evans ran a sweet line to find a rare hole in the locals defence and touch down for a try. They were unfortunate with the conversion as a well struck kick from close to the touchline came back off the upright. An 8-5 interval lead for the home side was a fair reflection on the first half action.

The second period was scarcely five minutes old and O’Neill was already landing his second penalty of the day. Corinthians responded with a penalty of their own from the boot of Phil Noone. Ballinasloe then introduced fresh legs to maintain their momentum. Ross Keller replaced O’Neill at out half while Aidan McGrath came on for Aidan Loughrey in the back row. And then Ballinasloe showed how up for it they really were. Conor Johnston broke left on half way before bringing Andy O’Hara into play who put Cian Loughrey through down the left touchline. Unfortunately for him he spilled the ball in the tackle just as he was about to touch down. Three scrums later and the locals were pushing their opponents back over their own line for Kevin Gavin to claim his second try from the base of the scrum. Ross Keller was spot on with his conversion attempt, kicking into a swirling breeze. This brought the score to 18-8 with just over twenty minutes left on the clock. Big questions were now being asked of the league leaders but they were struggling to provide any answers. Noone threw them a lifeline of sorts when he popped over a penalty following a yellow card for the locals Harry Reynolds when he committed an infringement too many in the eyes of the referee. Still, the demeanour of Corinthians players on the pitch, with over ten minutes to play, never suggested that they would be likely to win their fourth league game on the trot. A 70th  minute penalty for the locals from the boot of Keller meant that they   were really now out of reach and an unexpected but fully merited victory was about to be theirs.

One now has to ponder how consistently can Ballinasloe produce this level of desire and drive when it will be expected of them. Perhaps, in a perverse sort of way, it was the ideal time for them to meet Corinthians. With key players due to return and if they can come near to producing this type of performance again then they will probably end up winning more games than they will lose.                                                                                                                                BALLINASLOE: A.Mannion, C.Gormley, C.Johnston, R.Cullinan, Cian Loughrey, K.O’Neill, Conor Loughrey, J.J.Carey, A.O’Hara, T.Dolan, H.Reynolds, M.Harrigan, A.Loughrey, K.Gavin, R.Wakefield. Replacements, G.Donnellan, E.Freyne, A.McGrath, R.Keller, D.Freeman.                 Referee: Dave Connolly, CBIRFU

                                                           Under-Age Results

Ballinasloe U14s produced a big performance to defeat Buccaneers 21pts to nil in their first round league game in Athlone on Sunday. They led by 14pts at the interval. This squad has been showing good form this season with big wins in friendlies over Old Crescent and Tullamore. Scorers    on Sunday: S.Horkan, L.Corbett, J.Carry (one try each), C.Treacy(2 cons), S.Jennings(1 con).                                                                                                                                                                     The U16s lost out to Galweigans by 24pts to 5 in their league fixture. However, the final scoreline did not reflect Ballinasloe’s brave effort. Dylan McDonagh scored their try.                      Liam Courtney, Club PRO


The Jes reach last four with last minute winner