CONNEMARA CALL THE SHOTS

CONNEMARA 20—-7 BALLINASLOE

A barnstorming second half performance by Conemara was instrumental in their taking of the league points at The Monastery Field on Sunday. They came out for the second period with a mission and that was to increase the tempo and play at pace with their high octane plan kicking in from the off. They ran direct and with gusto, avoided being pulled in at the break down and kept the ball going wide as much as possible. Ballinasloe were forced on to the backfoot for most of the half, having to second guess their opponents for long stretches. They would have much preferred a close old battle up front but Connemara were having none of it. Not surprisingly, they out scored the visitors 13-0 in the second half.

But it was not always so. On a day borrowed from June and with the temperature hitting the high teens both sides went about their tasks in a business like manner from the kick off. The opening exchanges were physical without any great headway being made as the checking out process took place. It was 13 minutes before any attack was made in anger when Conal Gormley made a run deep into the Connemara 22 metre line but nothing positive came of it.

Ballinasloe were forced to make a change after 20 minutes when Aidan Loughrey retired injured to be replaced by John Hayes. The opportunity to use Hayes as a real impact sub in the second half was now gone. Minutes later the visitors were in trouble and it was of their own doing. Their throw in to a lineout on half way was wayward to say the least and the locals took advantage of a bobbling ball. Dave McHugh made good headway with the ball before  being held up. Then, prop, Kevin Barry made the hard yards before releasing Barry Gibbons for a try that Shane Sweeney converted. Though it was now 7-0 to the locals, Ballinasloe were begining to dominate in the forwards,  with a rock solid scrum.

Further misfortune was to hit the visitors in the twenty eighth minute when Conal Gormley departed with a hand injury, to be replaced by Darragh Burke. Connemarara’s Jack Vaughan then tested the young Ballinasloe full back, Andrew Mannion, with a huge garryowen but he proved equal to the task with a magnificent take. The referee had warned Connemara about some cynical play around the breakdown and when Eugene Conroy was rather slow to roll away after a tckle the official had enough and introduced him to the yellow card. Ballinasloe were quick to take advantage and with Conor Johnston making sure that nothing was going to come through the centre they went on the offensive. A big Ballinasloe scrum fifteen metres from the locals line saw the hosts retreat faster than a fox from a huntsman and when they collapsed it on the line the referee had no hesitation in awarding a penalty try with the conversion being added to level the scores. A late Mark Harrigan charge just before half time was held up short of the line and when the ball was scrambled to touch on the 22, it was time for the oranges.

Ballinasloe would have been satisfied with their first half performance and with the fall in the pitch to their advantage on the turnover, they would have been reasonably confident of pulling off a win. But then they had  not reckoned for the Connemara upsurge in the second period.

Ross Keller was now on at fly half for Ballinasloe but Connemara’s direct running was causing all sorts of problems for the visitors. When Dave McHugh got posession inside the Ballinasloe 22 it was going to take more than a few shadow tackles to prevent him from touching down and when Sweeney added the conversion the locals had moved to 14-7 ahead. Niall Staunton replaced Mark Harrigan in the second row for Ballinasloe but they were experiencing difficulties with their lineout darts. Connemara missed with a penalty attempt in the 57th minute but continued to dictate the flow of the game. Ballinasloe had their third casualty in the sixty third minute when Robbie Wakefield had to leave the pitch with a nasal injury to be replaced by David Freeman as Sweeney disected the posts with a close in penalty.

With ten minutes remaining, Conor Loughrey left the field with a knock but the visitors had used their full compliment of substitutes at that stage and played out the remainder of the game with fourteen players. Ironically, it was to be their best stretch of the half as they threw caution to the wind. They now had Connemara inside their own half and when the referee was unsighted for a clear local knock on it was not to be the visitors day. A scrum for Ballinasloe at that stage might have set them up for something to fight for in the closing stages; they certainly needed anything that was going. Sweeney added a last minute penalty for the home side to seal their win.

So its back to the drawing board for Ballinasloe. Another inconsistent performance from them following their great heroics against Corinthians last week-end but the injuries that they encountered during the game did not help their cause. While Connamara deserved their win, a thirteen point defeat was harsh on the visitors considering their input over the eighty minutes. Next up for them is a clash with Our Lady’s Boys Club and with home advantage on Sunday next they will be hoping to get back on the winning track.                                                                            

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: D.Freeman, J.Hayes, N.Staunton, R.Keller, D.Burke.                           

Liam Courtney, Club PRO.

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