Ballinasloe Back On Track

Ballinasloe bounced back in the best way possible following their recent defeats, when they overcame a gutsy Connemara side at the Monastery Field on Sunday.

The league points on offer were crucial to both sides in their fight to banish the spectre of relegation. In an absorbing battle,  Ballinasloe’s strong finish proved decisive and moved them to fifth in the league table. However, despite their current placing, it is still all to play for with four teams, including  Ballinasloe, slugging it out to avoid the dreaded drop with Tuam already doomed to J1B rugby for next season.

Both sides went to battle knowing the high importance attached to results at this business end of the season. Not surprisingly, Sunday’s opponents contributed to a cagey opening and it was fifteen minutes into the game before the first score was registered, Shane Sweeney landing a penalty for Connemara. Ballinasloe responded at once and Ruaidhri Doolan levelled matters with a similar kick.

Connemara were beginning to show more urgency, forcing Ballinasloe back into their own 22. Big Niall Staunton, the Connemara version of the species, came perilously close to making it over the try line in the 18th minute.

Still they pressed on and when a Ballinasloe clearance was easily blocked down on their own line in the 26th minute, scrum half, Michael O’Toole, was alert to the opportunity  and pounced for a try. The conversion was not added.

Ballinasloe, making sure that the lead was reined in, landed a second penalty via Doolan after 32 minutes.

The locals, who had been testing  the resolve of the referee at the breakdown, paid the price in the 35th minute with Shane Sweeney being shown the yellow card. In fairness he was carrying the can for other earlier misdemeanours.  Ballinasloe took advantage of the extra man and Doolan landed another penalty to give his side a 9-8 interval lead.

Connemara opened the second period with renewed intensity and again had the visitors on the back foot. With Kevin Keogh trying valiantly to get things moving off ball from the base of the scrum they drove forward but came up against a stonewall Ballinasloe defence. It was the locals undoing that they could not capitalise on their possession when they were in the ascendancy. In the 50th minute the home side’s right winger, Ian Heanue, with pace and neat footwork, made tracks for the visitors try line but a last ditch tackle by Darragh Burke denied him his moment of glory and with that went Connemara’s last chance of a further try.

Ballinasloe introduced Stanley Hayes to the fray with half an hour to go and he made an immediate impact , putting in some big tackles and raising his team’s intensity. Unfortunately, he had to depart the scene ten minutes later with a knock to the knee but before that he worked in tandem with his brother John to work the ball downfield and into the Connemara red zone where Ballinasloe played most of the final quarter.

A big drive by Niall Staunton, the Ballinasloe member of the clan, almost yielded a try and the visitors were now playing with purpose. Their more experienced players were coming to the fore, perhaps none more so than flanker, Aidan Doorley. He was the go-to man in the lineout, he was winning ‘’dirty’’ ball at the breakdown and he took it upon himself to keep the opposition back row honest for the afternoon (never an easy task). Suffice to say that he succeeded admirably at all three.

A John Hayes drive brought play to the local’s line and their indiscipline again let them down when they had a second player yellow carded. Ballinasloe were now bossing matters and scored their try in the 66th with replacement scrum-half, Richie Sheppard, touching down at the base of a scrum that made its way over the line. The conversion was knocked over to bring the score to 16-8 in favour of the visitors. Both sides exchanged penalties before the end with Ballinasloe’s marksman Ruaidhri Doolan having a particularly prolific day when landing four penalties and a conversion.

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

Ballinasloe Under Age RoundUp

The club’s U13s had a runaway win over Galwegians in their cup fixture at home on Saturday morning scoring 58 points in the process. Their tally included ten tries with an even spread of scorers amongst the backs and forwards. They are due to meet the winners of Loughrea v NUIG Academy in the next round.

The U14s also made it through to the next round in their cup competition when defeating Castlebar on Sunday. The team from Mayo were strong and abrasive and held the upper hand early on but Ballinasloe’s running  game told in the finish as they ran out worthy winners.

Well done to the ladies U15s in qualifying for the final of the cup following their comprehensive win over Creggs in the semi –final. They will be hoping to add cup success to their league triumph earlier in the season.

NEXT UP

Ballinasloe’s first XV are away to Monivea in a re-arranged J1A league fixture on Sunday next with a 2.30pm kick-off. They will have two remaining league games after that; away to Castlebar and at home to Westport. The U17s are away to Connemara, in the cup, on Sunday.

Liam Courtney, Club PRO 

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