Leinster Club Intermediate Football Championship quarter-final
WHEN the Carlow champions look back at this game, there will be a sense that they left themselves too much to do as they fell short with a spirited and rousing second-half comeback after a first half during which they never found their stride.
Having trailed 0-9 to 1-1 at the break in this Leinster club encounter, it was always going to be an uphill task as Shamrocks, the Offaly senior B champions, had enjoyed dominant spells in the opening half.
But Ballinabranna showed their true form in an entertaining second half at The Faithful Fields, Kilcormac.
Shamrocks opened the game through their best forward Nigel Dunne with a fine point from play, and continued in a rich vein of form leading 0-5 to 0-0 before Ballinabranna got their opening score, a goal from Darren Lunney which came from a speculative effort which caught the Shamrocks goalkeeper off guard.
Shamrocks continued to score up front through Dunne and Paddy Duncan, while Ballinabranna’s only other score of the half came from a Lunney free as they headed in at the break trailing by five.
When Johnny O’Toole-Greene of Shamrocks received a straight red for an off-the-ball incident, it served to aid the Carlow men’s chances, and Lunney traded scores with Dunne early on.
The decisive moment in the game came midway through the second half when Dunne was brought to ground and a penalty was awarded which Paddy Dunican duly blasted to the back of the net to give the Offaly men an eight-point cushion once again.
Ballinabranna continued to fight on with the impressive Gary Dunne kicking some good scores and Shamrocks found it hard to deal with the aerial threat of Robert Sansom at full-forward. Lunney too, was deadly accurate when given the chance.
There was a big shout for a penalty for Ballinabranna when Sansom fielded a high ball on the 14-yard line and was hauled down, but the referee waved away any claims.
With that, the much-needed goal chance went a begging. Ballinabranna will certainly have regrets that they didn’t get going in the first half, but they proved more than a match for the Offaly champions in a thoroughly entertaining second half.
After a brilliant Carlow campaign, they will definitely benefit from the experience in Leinster, giving them a good platform to build on ahead of the 2019 senior championship.
Shamrocks: Brian Lowry, Darragh Minnock, Conor Condron, Jack McNamara, Dan Heffernan, Scott Delaney (0-1), Gary Hutchinson, Johnny O’Toole-Greene, Andrew Delaney (0-2), Shane O’Toole-Greene, Alan Heffernan (0-1), Adam Keyes, Paddy Dunican (1-3, 1-0 pen), Nigel Dunne (0-8, 0-1 free,45), Shane Heffernan
Ballinabranna: Adrian Brennan, Colin Byrne, Bobby Daly, Bobby Comerford, Conor McNally, Darren Geraghty, Jimmy Cahill, Michael Jackson, Jakub Mikolajczyk, Graham Amond, Gary Dunne (0-2), Eric Robinson, Darren Lunney (1-4, 0-2 frees), Robert Sansom (0-3, free), Darren Sheehan. Subs: David Cox (0-1)