BALLINDERRY 1-13 ST VINCENT’S, DUBLIN 2-16
Ballinderry can have few complaints after this hugely entertaining, utterly compelling, clash between the best of Leinster and the best of Ulster.
That they gave themselves a mountain to climb with the concession of two early goals to trail by six points, 2-02 to 0-02 after 12 minutes but fought back in the second quarter to go in at half-time just one behind, was rich testament to the character and determination of this side.
There were spells in that first half when St. Vincent’s played champagne football with the majestic corner-back Michael Concarr driving up and down the flank with the class of a Rolls Royce on a motorway.
With Gavan Bonie, midfielder Daithi Murphy in the first quarter, Shane Carthy and Ciarán Dorney and Sligo player Brendan Egan all centrally involved in sweeping and penetrative passing movements, Ballinderry struggled to stay in the game as the mercurial ‘Mossy’ Quinn finished the half with a superb goal and an assist for Ciarán Dorney’s early opening strike to go with his plethora of points.
But they did, with James Conway and Enda Muldoon getting on top at midfield, Collie Devlin, and Ryan Bell when quality ball was given inside, then causing problems for the Vincent’s defence.
They needed a good start to the second half but it was Vincent’s who put scores on the board with three inside five minutes for a four point lead.
That left Ballinderry still chasing the game. That they did but they were mostly met by a brick wall. Every time they appeared to have Tommy Conroy’s side pinned down with nowhere to go, the Dubs would steal the ball and off they would go on another surging run upfield.
Whenever Ballinderry did get a score Vincent’s were able to hit back. Their counter-attacking play was simply stunning at times, smooth and effective.
They’d got a very good first half out of Mossy Quinn and a superb second half out of Diarmuid Connolly.
Enda Muldoon had a big second half, while Kevin McGuckin really stood up and got to grips with Mossy Quinn inside, something which made a big difference. But when Quinn went quiet, Connolly came into it.
Ballinderry could never close the gap fully and, even though Enda Muldoon really stood up at midfield, the Marino men were just more clinical when the opportunities presented themselves.
By the 45th minute St. Vincent’s again had a six-point lead, 2-10 to 0-10, after Connolly and Quinn from two frees did the damage. Daniel McKinless’ goal was out of nothing but it was superbly taken and roused the Ballinderry fans to new heights of vocal support.
That brought it back to two when Aaron Devlin kicked Ballinderry to 2-11 to 1-12 but it was not to be as Vincent’s pulled away again to reach the St. Patrick’s Day final against Castlebar Mitchel’s from Mayo
After the game Ballinderry manager Martin McKinless commented, “They’ve done well all year. I suppose when you’re an hour away from an All-Ireland final, you’re looking for that bit more. But look, they’ve worked hard all year. We were a bit slower to the ball, second to a lot of the ball, especially in the first 15 minutes and they were more clinical in front of goal. When they won the ball, they were punishing us. When we won it, we were working it up but we weren’t ruthless enough. We were turned over two or three times and they hit us on the counter-attack, which they were very good at.
“On the breaking ball, we had been working on it. Breaking ball can be funny. Sometimes you’re there, sometimes you’re not. We didn’t win the breaks, they did and they were able to dominate the possession.
“Fair play to James and Enda. After the first 15 minutes they ruled the roost in the air. We got hit by the two goals and we came back to a point at half-time, I thought we were doing well. Even though they had the breeze in the second half, I thought we would have been pushing on, but the first 10 minutes of the second half turned out to be crucial. They got the scores on the board and we were chasing the game again.
On the concession of the two early goals he reflected, “You’re up against a different opposition. If you make mistakes further down the line you’re probably not punished for them, but we were punished for them today. I said that all along, that the possession we gave away today was crucial, and came back to haunt us.
“We said that if we didn’t concede goals, we’d win the game. If we hadn’t conceded those two goals in the first half, we would have been going in four or five points up.
“We regrouped at half-time and thought we’d go at them in the first 10 minutes after half-time, but it turned out the other road, they came at us again.”
On their ability to respond whenever Ballinderry got a score he agreed, “I thought that too and every time we scored, they seemed to come down the field and get a score with more ease than we could. Their forward line was ruthless. They’ve some good forwards and they proved that. Mossy Quinn was hard to handle and Diarmuid Connolly too.
“We weren’t quick enough at getting the ball in at the other end of the counter-attack. One against one, we might have got more scores out of it. We brought it back to two points but we needed a goal. If we got a goal it was going to be luck, no point saying any different, because we were finding it hard to get through their defence. We still thought we were in it until they went four points up, it was different then.”
It was indeed but Ballinderry can field proud of the performance they put up after a difficult opening period. They gave their all but it was not enough on this occasion as Vincent’s emerged deserving victors.