All Ireland Junior Cup

By Clive Moore

Dromore 52 Ballina    22

(In Barban Hill, Dromore)
Ballina made a disappointing early exit from the All Ireland Junior Cup in what was always going to be a difficult game for the Mayo men. Deprived of the services of such players as Ciaran Melvin, Tom Tolan, Mark Healy, Phillip Rowe and Cory Brown due to injury and unavailability, it was always going to be a challenge to take on one of Ulster’s top four junior sides in their home ground. Even so Ballina will be disappointed with their performance last Sunday. Dromore had a particularly strong front row where props Richard Mackey and Jonny Murray excelled in the scrummage and in the loose where they carried the ball with great effect. The fact that Ballina failed to secure ball from their put in to the scrum in the entire first half, and didn’t win a lineout until a full thirty minutes into the game demonstrates the kind of pressure they were under in the set piece.
The ensuing tide of possession that flowed to the County Down side was bound to yield scores but even allowing for this inevitability Ballina will be disappointed in their first up tackling. Just five minutes into the game Dromore scored their first try. It came from well secured lineout ball which was mauled to within yards of the Ballina line before second row Stephen Robinson powered over for the opening score. Full back Craig Williams added the conversion. Ballina got a chance to respond straight away when Dromore were penalised from the restart as they failed to keep their feet in a ruck. Ballina’s out half Kieran Rouse struck the kick well from just outside the ten metre line to record their first points but soon Dromore scored again from a driving maul which flanker Dewet Bekker broke free breaking through tackles before passing to winger James Gibson who scored in the corner. Williams added the conversion from the difficult angle. Dromore again gave away a penalty after the restart giving Ballina an opportunity to put points on the board but this time Rouse’s kick drifted wide. Ballina were able to exert sufficient pressure on their opponents to earn another penalty which also narrowly drifted wide. They still couldn’t get a hold of any decent supply of possession and Jonny Murray was punching holes in the westerners defence which gave his backline good go forward ball. Soon centre Chris Leatham took advantage of poor first up tackling and cut through to score his side’s third try which Williams was unable to convert.
It was to get worse for Ballina as Dromore flanker Dewet Bekker crossed for a try and just before half time Leatham added his second. Williams added both conversions and in-between the trys also kicked a penalty, so when referee Dan Wallace blew the half time whistle, it was 36-3 to Dromore and the game was effectively over as a contest.
There was no reason to expect anything but more of the same in the second half, but astonishingly (and to their credit) Ballina scored two trys in the second half within five minutes. The first was scored by centre Chris O’Neill from the first decent piece of possession off a scrum that came the backlines way all day. A delayed pass from Rouse to O’Neill running from deep, gave the Ballina centre the opportunity to step inside the defence and race in under the posts to touch down. Kieran Rouse added the conversion and within minutes Ballina had scored again. This time the ball was ran from deep inside their own 22. It again came from rare possession off the scrum. Chris O’Neill and David Newman injected pace and guile into the attack, put winger Michael Clarke away who found support from flanker William O’Connor as he was being tackled. He in turn took it on before finding David Newman who had a lot of work to do but had the pace and evasive skills to score in the corner for an excellent try. Rouse was narrowly wide with the difficult conversion.
But hopes of a revival by Ballina were undone when number 8 Gary Hall finished off attacking play from Dromore when Ballina’s defence was far to porus on all most every contact. Williams missed with the conversion attempt. The game disintegrated when Ballina (who had used all their subs) sustained further injuries and were forced to finish with 14 players, while the scrums were uncontested for the last twenty minutes. Ballina were trying to run everything, but when play broke down, or possession came their way. Dromore took full advantage of the extra man. Lively scrum half Tom Finn scored trys twice, one of which was converted by Williams.
Ballina did play right up to the final whistle and it was Chris O’Neill who eventually undid the northerners defence again to score the final try of the game which Kieran Rouse converted.
It was a very disappointing game for Ballina, and one which exposed many areas which they must work on before they travel to Dunmore for a Cawley Cup match next Sunday. That they can perform better is without question and they will feel they owe those who travelled to Co Down to support them last Sunday a performance that demonstrates this.    

DROMORE: Richard Mackey, Stuart Sloane, Jonny Murray, Stephen Robinson, Rory Pepper, Michael Harshaw, Dewet Bekker, Gary Hall, Tom Finn, Chris Brigl, Michael Allen, James Frome, Chris Leatham, James Gibson, Craig Williams, Jamie Kirk, Adam McDonald, Brian Davidson, Garreth Fitzpatrick, John Russell.
BALLINA: Rodney O’Donnell, Liam Lynch, James O’Connor, Conor Forde, Dan Carrabine, Phillip Lewis, Phillip Timoney, Aidan McNulty, Michael Murphy (C), Kieran Rouse, Kevin McCarron, Chris O’Neill, David Newman, Niall O’Malley, Stephen McCarron, Paul Newell, William O’Connor, Arthur West, Michael Clarke, David Brunker.
REFEREE: Dan Wallace

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