Éire Óg 3-15
By Kieran Murphy
IN the days leading up to this senior football championship first round tie at Netwatch Cullen Park on Sunday there was a sense of realism surrounding the outcome of this game.
Very few gave last year’s intermediate champions a chance. They were hopeful, of course, and five minutes into the contest their optimism had been given a huge shot in the arm.
Ballinabranna, the rank outsiders, led by 1-2 to 0-0. Jamie Lunney scored their opening point and then Robert Sansom picked a ball out of the clouds and buried it in the back of the Éire Óg net at the O’Hanrahan’s end of the ground. Darren Lunney followed up with another point from play.
Other sides might have been rattled. Not the county champions. Jordan Morrissey led the way when he gained possession on half-way. Charging through several would-be tackles he got himself into a scoring position and duly obliged with a point. Eoghan Ruth had a half-goal chance and settled for a point.
The revival was complete when Darragh O’Brien scored the equalising goal. At that stage the optimists would have had to accept the inevitable.
On the pitch the Ballinabranna lads still put in the hard tackles and tried not to falter. It wasn’t easy. After the concession of the first goal Ballinabranna actually went two points up again when Darren Lunney and Sansom scored a point each.
The Carlow kingpins then showed their class and put up 1-6 to 0-1 in a 16-minute spell before the interval. The second goal was simply executed when Darragh O’Brien found Morrissey with an accurate delivery across the face of the goal and the recipient only had to tap home.
By half-time, and leading by 2-8 to 1-5, Éire Óg were on their way. Recce Denieffe opened the second-half scoring with a point for the champions. Colin Byrne replied for Ballinabranna. Chris Blake scored three points on the trot. In reply Darren Lunney was unlucky not to find the Éire Óg net when he cleverly changed the direction of a flighted ball which dipped just over the crossbar after he had chased an effort which looked to be going wide.
At the other end the eventual winners worked the ball in close to the Ballinabranna goal and Sean Gannon was on the end of the move to score Éire Óg’s third goal.
That was rubbing salt into open wounds but it could have been worse. With time running out Gannon looked set to score his second goal but goalkeeper Adrian Brennan did brilliantly to save point-blank from the Carlow intercounty star.
Gannon did score another point and Mark Furey finished the scoring with a rare point from the defender. It was easy in the end but for Ballinabranna, with the good start and a willingness to battle, it was honour in defeat.
Éire Óg: Ricky Keating; Evan Kelly, Mark Fitzgerald, Benny Kavanagh; Jordan Lowry, Mark Furey (0-1), Paul McElligott; Jordan Morrissey (1-1), Eoghan Ruth (0-2); Sean Gannon (1-2), Darragh O’Brien (1-0), Recce Denieffe (0-1); Chris Blake (0-5, 0-4 frees), Derek Hayden (0-1), Colm Hulton (0-2). Subs: Adam Murphy for Hulton (47 mins), Richie Mahon for Lowry (49 mins), Diarmuid Ruth for Denieffe (51 mins).
Ballinabranna: Adrian Brennan; Bobby Comerford, Bobby Daly, Jimmy Cahill; Conor McNally, Darren Geraghty, Jamie Lunney (0-1); Ben Dorgan, Jakub Mikolajczyk; Colin Byrne (0-1), Gary Dunne (0-1), Eric Robinson; Darren Lunney (0-4, 0-1 free), Robert Sansom (1-2), Jim Dunne. Subs; Keelan Brennan for Dunne (41 mins), David Cox for Robinson (41 mins), Graham Amond for J Lunney (48 mins).
Referee: Jonathan Murphy (St Mullins)