Ballinasloe recorded their third away win on the trot when overcoming a battling Castlebar side, on Sunday, by the narrowest of margins. In a game that had everything, the visitors came back from the brink to earn their one point win in a pulsating finish. Trailing 22-13 as the game entered the final quarter, Ballinasloe showed great character and composure in quelling a fired up Castlebar side and posting ten unanswered points in that period.

After an even opening, Ballinasloe took the lead in the seventh minute. Andy O’Hara and Conal Gormley set John Hayes free on a charge before offloading to James Dillon to score a try. The conversion went wide. Castlebar pulled three points back shortly afterwards with a penalty from the boot of Stephen Rogan.  A comedy of errors then took place  underneath the visitors posts with the ball bobbing around this way and that and it seemed any number of knock ons occurred. However,the referee allowed play to continue and when Ballinasloe were penalised for coming in from the side Ronan Conway kicked the locals ahead with a close in penalty in the 13th minute. The lead was restored a few minutes later when Ruaidhri Doolan landed his first penalty of the afternoon.

As the half progressed Castlebar were playing the more forceful rugby. They were dominant at the breakdown and more fluid in their play. Ballinasloe, in comparison, were sluggish in their approach and were just about “hanging in there” at times though they did threaten on the few occasions that they got the ball wide.

The hosts were back in front on the half hour mark with another Conway penalty to make it 9-8. Ballinasloe were probably let off the hook minutes later when Rory Hughes charged in field rather than passing to free running backs outside with the visitors cover thin on the ground. The Galway side laboured honestly and as half time approached they ran the ball out of defence in a fast passing movement where Ruaidhri Doolan was at the end of it all to dive over close to the corner but failed to convert his own try. The home side remained as tenacious as ever and came back for a Rogan penalty just before the break to trail just by a single point 12-13 at the interval.

Both sides gave it a real go on the turnover but the locals remained as slick as ever probing for openings and one duly arrived in the fifty third minute. As they flashed the ball across the line inside their opponent’s 22 a Ballinasloe player rushed up out of their defensive line leaving the inevitable dog leg with Nigel Byrne expertly exploiting the gap to run in a try. And when Conway added the conversion the home side were looking good. They continued on the front foot with Rogan floating over a penalty eight minutes later to make the score 22-13. There now seemed no way back for the visitors. But this Ballinasloe side doesn’t do panic. Instead they regrouped and went about chasing the game with a firm resolve.

First they won a few big scrums on the half way line that gave them forward momentum. Then they kicked in behind the Castlebar backs and had them retreating and as fresh legs arrived from the bench they seemed to be getting stronger, as the clock moved on, while the locals tired. The visitors made a serious assault on the Castlebar line in the 63rd minute and only a knock on kept them out. They pressed on and Ruaidhri Doolan knocked over his second penalty minutes later. Suddenly it was back to a one score game. Then with ten minutes left on the clock Ballinasloe drove off the tail of a lineout close to the local’s line and Kevin Gavin peeled away with the ball to touch down for a well constructed try. Doolan added the conversion with the help of the upright to leave the score 23-22 in favour of the visitors. The hosts made one final effort to retrieve their situation. They were awarded a penalty when Ballinasloe infringed at a ruck in the final minute. It was quite kickable from  thirty five metres out and to the right of the posts but it was a real pressure kick. And as a hush descended it seemed that Ballinasloe’s great fight back was to be in vain but the kick screwed off to the right and wide. Ballinasloe’s place in Division 1A  of the league assured for next season; Castlebar’s not so certain. Such small margins!

Ballinasloe: D.Burke, D.Freeman, C.Gormley, R.Cullinan, J.Dillon, R.Doolan, Conor Loughrey, J.J.Carey, A.O’Hara (capt), T.Dolan, N.Staunton, M.Harrigan, A.Loughrey, J.Hayes, A.Doorley. Replacements: K.Gavin, H.Reynolds, R.Wakefield, R.Sheppard, Cian Loughrey.

Congratulations to the girls U15 team on capturing the Cup at the Sportsground on Sunday. They defeated Westport by 31pts to 5 in a keenly contested final. Though Westport might have only put 5pts on the scoreboard they proved to be worthy finalists. And so Ballinasloe bring the curtain down on their fine season where they also won the league a few weeks back.


Ballinasloe take on Westport in their final league game at Moher on Sunday next, kicking off at 2.30pm. Though safe from relegation it is still a very important game to determine their final league placing. It is possible that Ballinasloe could qualify for the AIL round robin series but they will have to win on Sunday and depend on results from elsewhere to see them through.

Garbally school take on Marist school from Athlone in the Connacht Schools Cup semi-final at Garbally on Tuesday afternoon with a 2.00pm kick-off.Liam Courtney, Club PRO


Gallery: University of Galway hosts Kay Bowen Cup