Cawley Cup
(In The Fairgreen, Dunmore)
Ballina needed to bounce back from their heavy defeat to Dromore in the All Ireland Junior Cup last week, and did so by inflicting an equally crushing defeat on a spirited Dunmore side in the Cawley Cup last Sunday. Ballina and Dunmore play in different leagues and the gulf between the two sides was demonstrated when the visitors racked up eleven trys against their hosts during the game. Captain Michael Murphy scored three, including one that would be contender for try of the season, but his efforts were eclipsed by dynamic centre Chris O’Neill who scored four. Ballina had to be patient before they broke down this spirited Dunmore team. The home side were initially competent and efficient in the set piece and early on out half Ronan Cleary kicked well out of hand to bring play within metres of the Ballina line. But Ballina were able to soak up this initial pressure from the home side and their defence held firm and never looked likely to be breached, although they did concede a kickable penalty which was put wide by Cleary who unfortunately slipped on his approach run. Ballina eventually got a relieving penalty as Dunmore went in off their feet at the breakdown. When Cory Brown ran it when it seemed likely he’d kick down the line to touch it was a statement of intent. The ball was quickly put through the hands and good interplay between forwards and backs brought the game deep into the Dunmore half, until it eventually broke down due to a forward pass. It wasn’t long before Ballina got their hands on the ball again, and when they did the onslaught was relentless. Determined defence by Dunmore kept the Mayo men out but at the cost of a series of penalties. Ballina opted for a scrum on each occasion and they were getting the upper hand in this particular set piece. Ciaran Melvin and later Paul Newell (rolling substitutions are being used in this competition which gave all players plenty of time on the pitch) along with Tom Tolan and Rodney O’Donnell and Liam Lynch were all making their presence felt in the front row in various combinations throughout the game.
Eventually the breakthrough came after some excellent handling, running and continuity play by Ballina, Conor Forde couldn’t be prevented from crossing the line and touching down. Cory brown added the conversion to stretch the lead to 7-0.
Dunmore were stung into action and established themselves in Ballina’s half after the restart, where they eventually won a penalty which Ronan Cleary put over to get them right back in the game 7-3. It is to Dunmore’s credit that for the next fifteen minutes they remained this close to Ballina repelling wave after wave of attack from the Moy siders, but in the end the Galway men were undone by Chris O’Neill following possession from a scrum just inside their half. Cory Brown popped a late pass to the hard running centre who ran from deep and cut right through the defence to cross the try line without a hand being left on him. Cory Brown added the conversion stretching the lead to 14-3. Three minutes later centre Stephen McCarron couldn’t be stopped either from finishing off another Ballina attack which involved forwards and backs, with Tom Tolan, Aiden McNulty and Phillip Lewis doing some hard work up front, and Michael Murphy, Kieran Rouse and David Brunker prominent amongst the backline. Brown added the conversion bringing the score to 21-3.
It became harder for the home side to get out of their half. Attempts to clear the ball down field only resulted of the back three of Michael Clarke, David Brunker and Kieran Rouse counter attacking and cutting through the Dunmore defence deep into their half. Ballina Captain and scrum half Michael Murphy got the ball quickly away from the breakdown and patiently Ballina built the phases, ran hard, took the tackle and set up rucks when they had to and off loaded when they could. Eventually Dunmore ran out of defenders and McCarron put Brunker in for a good try in the corner which wasn’t converted so the score was 26-3 when referee Peter McCarthy blew for half time shortly afterwards.
Ballina were even more on top in the second half. The rout continued when Michael Murphy got the first of his hat trick of trys after Phillip Timoney, Mark Healy and Tom Tolan had brought play right up to the line, again following good interplay between forwards and backs. Ballina’s determined number 9 couldn’t be denied as he picked and drove over the line from the base of a ruck. The conversion was missed but soon Chris O’Neill had scored again as he broke through tackles sprinted through for a good try. The conversion attempt drifted wide so it was 31-3, but the next score was the try of the match and possibly the season so far as excellent handling by Chris O’Neill, Stephen McCarron and Michael Clarke followed a powerful run by Phillip Timoney which was finished off brilliantly by Michael Murphy.
The conversion was missed but soon Ballina were adding to their tally again. Cian Mullarkey was on the field now playing on the wing, and the young Ballina player hit a long floated pass at pace and finished brilliantly to score a good try. The difficult touchline conversion attempt was wide, but soon Ballina were pressing again for a score as Kieran Bourke who was now on in the second row made some powerful ball carrying drives forward as did Phillip Lewis before Michael Murphy got hold of the ball and sold dummy after dummy to bring play right up to the tryline before passing to Chris O’Neill so the centre could score his third try. The conversion was missed but following the restart Conor Forde gathered possession and drove forward and following the ensuing ruck Ballina’s handling and hard running wouldn’t be denied by a tiring Dunmore team until Michael Murphy touched down for his hat trick of trys on the day. Stephen McCarron added the conversion from a difficult angle and shortly afterwards was pressed into service again when Phillip Timoney gathered the ball and tore through the hapless Dunmore defenders before eventually being tackled inside Dunmore’s twenty two. The ball was again moved quickly before Chris O’Neill crossed for his fourth try of the day. McCarron added the conversion and Refferee Peter Mccarthy blew the final whistle.
Particularly satisfying for Ballina was the performance of young players such as David Brunker, Kieran Bourke and Cian Mullarkey who relished the opportunity to play at this level and showed they have a lot to offer. Ballina are back to business in the league next Sunday when they host Ballinrobe in Heffernan Park, and they will hope for a large and vocal support to cheer them on as they endeavour to continue to play this attractive brand of rugby which makes them so enjoyable to watch.                

DUNMORE; Anthony Gleenon, Noel Rattigan, David Keaveney, Paddy Costello, Nigel Silke, Shane Rattigan, Eugene Stritch, Brendan Burns, James Noone, Ronan Cleary, Donal Raftery, Kevin Cummins, Steven O’Toole, Rory Coyne, Shane Gilmore, Thomas Lee, Martin Donellan, Liam McGarry, Fergal Heavrin, Chris McHugh.
BALLINA: Ciaran Melvin, Rodney O’Donnell, Tom Tolan, Conor Forde, Mark Healy, Phillip Lewis, Phillip Timoney, Aiden McNulty, Michael Murphy, Cory Brown, Michael Clarke, Chris O’Neill, Stephen McCarron, David Brunker, Kieran Rouse, Paul Newell, Liam Lynch, Kieran Bourke, Craig Culkin, Cian Mullarkey.
REFFEREE; Peter McCarthy


The Jes reach last four with last minute winner