Connacht Junior League Div1A
TUAM       12

Ballina travelled to Tuam last Sunday and secured a victory in what was a difficult game for the Mayo men. Trailing by 9-3 at half time it wasn’t until twenty minutes into the second half that the visitors took the lead, which they then refused to relinquish until full time. Compared with the dizzy heights of the Monivea game last week much of this match was played at much less intensity, not because either side lacked determination, passion or even ability (this is a good Tuam side), but different teams pose different challenges and Ballina found it hard to get to grips with their hosts for much of the game. Tuam also found it hard to break Ballina down and, although they were full value for their 9 points in the first half, even when they were dominating field position and had a reasonable supply of possession they never really threatened the Ballina line. What we had then were two teams that found it hard to play rugby against each other. This was manifest in a high penalty count, misplaced passes, and more scoring opportunities created by defensive error than attacking endeavour at times. Ballina should have been doing better. Their set pieces were solid, comfortably winning their own lineout which had been a problem for them the week before, and exerting a lot of pressure on their opponents scrum. It was props Ciaran Melvin and Tom Tolan who were dominating the scrum, and Aidan McNulty was throwing well to find Conor Forde and William O’Connor in the lineout. Despite a reasonable supply of possession, error and the concession of needless penalties at the breakdown prevented Ballina building many meaningful phases of attack in the first half despite having the potency of Chris O’Neill and David Newman and Stephen McCarron in their side. It was Tuam who got the points on the board and they didn’t have to wait long, Centre Cillian McDonagh striking the ball well to convert a penalty after only five minutes of play, Ballina having failed to keep their feet in a ruck. Five minutes later McDonagh kicked over another penalty from outside Ballina’s 22 when a Ballina tackler failed to roll away after the tackle.

Ballina finally put together some good phases of play, in the build up of which Michael Murphy, David Newman and Chris O’Neill were prominent, one of the rare occasions in the first half that Ballina threatened deep in Tuam territory which eventually yielded a penalty. Kieran Rouse’s attempt drifted wide so the score remained 6-0 until Cillian McDonagh stretched his sides lead to 9 points when Ballina were again penalised, this time for straying offside in their enthusiasm to defend. Ballina responded as they had to with the game slipping away from them and, after some good sustained pressure in the Tuam half of the field and a patient build up, good play involving Stephen McCarron, Chris O’Neill, William O’Connor and Conor Forde threatened to breach Tuam’s defence. Ultimately it led to a penalty which Ciaran Rouse put over with an excellently struck kick.

In the second half Ballina got to grips with the game. From the restart they established themselves in the Tuam half and kept the pressure on their opponents. Phillip Timoney entered the battle in the Ballina back row and was soon making his presence felt. The dominant Ballina scrum yielded possession and a fair few indirect penalties. Later in the half James O’Connor came at Prop forward for Ballina and his contribution ensured the Mayo men maintained their advantage. Tuam were now also finding it hard to secure clean lineout ball under the attention of William O’Connor and passes were beginning to stick and Kieran Rouse was able to unleash O’Neill and Newman outside him. After a couple of near misses the Tuam defence was eventually unlocked with some excellent continuity play from Ballina, good evasive running from their centres and good interplay between forwards and backs, with Conor Forde’s support play rewarded when the Second Row crossed the line to touch down for the try. Stephen McCarron’s conversion attempt was wide so Ballina were trailing by a point 9-8. It was up to Tuam to respond now and again Ballina handed them the opportunity by conceding another kickable penalty which Cillian McDonagh struck unerringly, stretching his sides lead to 12-8. Ballina got back on the attack again, establishing a foothold in Tuam’s half through some astute and very well executed kicking out of hand from half backs Michael Murphy and Kieran Rouse. Mark Healy came on in the Second Row of a reorganised Ballina pack after Wing Forward Judd Ruane (who had competed well) came off. With the ball kept in hand and a raising of the intensity which the Moysiders went about their task, the phases were put together and the Tuam defence was stretched and eventually unlocked with good handling and running. Michael Clarke the substitute Winger for Ballina changing the angle and running in under the post for a good try. Kieran Rouse added the conversion, so Ballina led for the first time in the match 15-12. Tuam tried to get back in the game again, but this time Ballina were less accommodating, and the visitors established themselves in Tuam territory. Phillip Timoney broke through tackles and got behind the home sides defence, setting off on a great run. He found the support of Mark Healy who did well, setting up the ruck for Ballina before all the good work was undone by a knock on in the next phase.

Ballina maintained the pressure and were soon rewarded again when Kieran Rouse put over a difficult penalty kick when the home team were penalised at the breakdown. It stretched Ballina’s lead to a more comfortable 18-12 and although there was much endeavour from both sides Ballina maintained control of the game until the final whistle with relative ease. They will not be the only side to find this Tuam team difficult opponents to play against and Ballina will be pleased they had the patience, tenacity and faith in their abilities to come back from behind in an, away game, but they will also be aware that there is much for them to work on before next Sunday’s derby match at home in Heffernan Park against Castlebar (3pm K.O.). It promises to be hard fought battle between the Mayo rivals and a large crowd is expected. Mention must be made of the many vocal and enthusiastic Ballina supporters who travelled to Tuam. No doubt they will be heard again next Sunday at what promises to be a great match.

TUAM; Stephen Kavanagh, Eanna Hegarty, Fergal O’Neill, Johnny Tierney, Stephen Bourke, Brian Ruane, Patrick Cunningham, Robert Kavanagh, Jamie Murphy, Colin Hegarty, Nicky Brady, Cillian McDonagh, Dave Bourke, Rob Lee, Alan Tierney, Eoin Lydon, Garoid Connolly, Alan Cahill, Dave Cahill.
BALLINA; Ciaran Melvin, Liam Lynch, Tom Tolan, Conor Forde, William O’Connor, Phillip Rowe, Judd Ruane, Aiden McNulty, Michael Murphy, Kieran Rouse, Nial O’Malley, Chris O’Neill, David Newman, Francis Conroy, Stephen McCarron, James O’Connor, Mark Healy, Phillip Timoney, Kevin McCarron, Michael Clarke.

REFFEREE; Paul Jennings.


Gallery: HT minis – Ballinrobe, Ballyhaunis, Corinthians and Dunmore