Tuam pulled out all stops to overcome a numerically-disadvantaged Ballinasloe 23-15 in the Heineken Connacht Junior Plate final at the Sportsground on Sunday.

Ballinasloe played almost the match entirety a man down after prop JJ Carey incurred a red card on the back of an earlier yellow.

The yellow came for a late tackle four minutes in, and the unfortunate second offence occurred within five of his return to the fray. 

Despite the handicap, Ballinasloe toiled well ably-backed by a Robert O’Bierne masterclass kicking exhibition which kept the East Galway crowd in the mix. He slotted five penalties in the first half alone, the majority of which from long-range.

Tuam managed two unconverted tries to stay within five at the break, capitalising both times on the personnel disparity. Stephen Burke grabbed the first one after a Ballinasloe midfield defensive lapse. Evergreen Mick Ward once again showed his class in nabbing the second shortly after, the sinewy number-eight hard to stop at the best of times, proved impossible to halt backed by a useful and concerted shunt from his forward colleagues.

Not to be outdone, Ballinasloe back-rower Kealin Headd shone against Ward and co, but succumbed to an injury minutes from the break.

Tuam, five points in arrears, struggled to breach a re-invogorated Ballinasloe on the restart but Eoin Cosgrove squeezed the gap to two with a 35m penalty a quarter-hour in.

Lock forward Conor Hurst drove over for Tuam’s third, Cosgrove successful with two more for a 20-15 lead. Ballinasloe’s John Hayes launched a last-gasp assault on the line, made it, but was held up inches short.

Tuam rode down the clock and posted another three points from Cosgrove’s boot to go 23-15 up.

Ballinasloe’s Conor Johnston got himself a red card in the final seconds for a late tackle, albeit more clumsy than sinister.

Ballinasloe’s season finished a clear third in Division 1B. They opened with six wins on the trot, upset only by Buccaneers 27-6, before clocking up another four successes. League winners Loughrea pipped them 14-11, and Buccaneers managed a second victory.

While Ballinasloe has no shortage of talent, numbers conspired against them on occasion and will count against them before any serious challenge be made for inclusion in the premier junior division. They wound up seven points adrift of second-placed Buccaneers on the table, but a 20-point country mile clear of fourth spot Corrib.

(contributed: Liam Courtney)

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