Ballyheganís quick, quick, slow title win.

Thursday, 12 October 2017

Ballyheganís quick, quick, slow title win. thumbnailBallyhegan celebrate winning the junior football championship title. Picture by Vincy Loughran.

THIS was certainly the 'tale of two halves' if not the 'tale of two parishes' with Ballyhegan's last Junior title win occurring in 1995 while Corrinshigo last lifted the trophy in 1982.


As a spectacle it was exciting, entertaining, laced with good open play, competitive and had an enthralling tense finish as the final quarter still saw the result in doubt.

In the end, Ballyhegan, marginally deserved to win the game largely because they were the better side for two thirds of the game.

Each side bagged a goal but goals were at a premium here yet goal chances were plentiful.

The game was not high scoring yet both sides hit double figures in points either by economy of effort, wastefulness or the efficiency of both defences with the third choice the better reason of the trio listed.

While Corrinshigo hit only two scores from frees and Ballyhegan hit five, the openness of the game is reflected in that just over 70% of scores were scored from play.

The game also was graced by an outstanding exhibition of how to take scores by Ballyhegan's Conall McKeever who landed 10 of his side's scores (five from frees).

Ballyhegan's quick, quick, slow winning of the title came by the domination of the first half, their continuation of that domination of the early moments of the second half which quickly saw them as likely winners.

The rest of the game they were on a slow burner as they had to stoically and resolutely defend against a now rampant Corrinshigo who at last showed the worth of their pedigree as finalists.

While Conall McKeever went a long way to securing the title for Ballyhegan, their goalkeeper, Johnny McKeever saved them from losing their grip on the title in that second half. To their credit and it's significant, the Davitts led the game from start to finish.

Ballyhegan began with a 'we're here to win' rush of play and after a one/two with Mark Hughes, Paddy Marley hit the opener on 30 seconds. Shortly after Jonny McKeever made his first telling save taking a dangerous, just under the bar, dropping ball.

Declan Loye equalised soon after but Conall McKeever forced T'Davis 'keeper, Karl Kimmins to excellently tip his dipping volley over the bar.

Conall added a fine long range point soon after.

Corrinshigo stirred as Ryan Courtney's penetrative solo and vicious volley was brilliantly parried away by Johnny McKeever only to see Phelim Flanagan point the rebound.

In a quick counter, Rory McKeever pushed Davitts' lead out to two. Corrinshigo reacted as this early exchange of 'end-to-end' scores had rolled out and Phelim Finnegan (free) brought the gap back to a minimum.

Ballyhegan reminded themselves of their 'we're here to win' determination and duly replied with three points without reply from three superbly struck frees by Conal McKeever.

To a man, Corrinshigo sensed they needed to act with conviction and did so inside four minutes with their own 'three' without reply from David Murphy, Conor Loye, and Jordan King reducing the deficit to a point.

Ballyhegan injected another 'we're here to win' serum into their play, beginning with a turnover and three passes for Mark Hughes to burst through the defence and volley to the net.

Another excellent long ranger from Conall McKeever and a silky evasion Conor McGlinchey point had Ballyhegan go in at the interval six points ahead and comfortable at 1-9 to 0-6.

Reminded at the interval and in the preceding week by seasoned followers that Ballyhegan had 'died' second half many time in games this year, I began to feel this 'mindset' had bedded into Davitts' minds and so it panned out later in the game as they slowly laboured to their title win.

By contrast, Ballyhegan began the second half in blistering fashion with four superb Conall McKeever points (1 free) establishing a commanding if not unassailable lead 10 point lead at 1-13 to 0-6.

Remarkably they would score just one more point as a now rampant, co-ordinated and penetrative Corrinshigo out-scored Ballyhegan by 1-5 to 0-1 in the remaining 30 minutes of the game (including four minutes of injury time).

David Murphy (free) and Phelim Flanagan had posted points before Conor Loye's long, accurate diagonal pass found Declan Loye who quickly volleyed to the net.

The lead was reduced by half to five catchable points.

Two more points were added within a minute beginning with another brilliant Jonny McKeever save from Caolan Finnegan shot but David Murphy was on hand to point the loose rebound ball.

Ryan Courtney followed up with a pointed free. With just 10 minutes to go, sub (later black carded) Eoin Reynolds scored the point which gave Ballyhegan a degree of 'insurance' as a precarious three point lead became four.

Eoin had reacted fastest to a Paddy Marley shot off the post to calmly point.

A period of rushed play saw Corrinshigo waste chances. A great relieving dispossession of Mark Hughes saw Corrinshigo almost score yet they then missed the resultant '45'.

Soon after a double assault on Ballyhegan's goal collapsed as, firstly, Caolan Flanagan mis-hit a clear goal chance before Jack Rafferty, secondly, in a soon after attack denied Corrinshigo's threatening attack with a magnificent turn-over block.

Ballyhegan were under pressure but they were coping. Just into injury time, a beautiful 'chip up' lift and subsequent Caolan Finnegan point reduced the gap to a goal.

Corrinshigo peppered Ballyhegan's goal for the next three minutes plus yet Ryan McWilliam's blast wide with 'goal on' being the only late threat meant Ballyhegan deservedly fulfilled their intention of 'we're here to win'.

A joy to watch, an honour to be there was how I felt after an excellent game between two worthy finalists.

Ballyhegan and Corrinshigo can now look to the future with a powerfully positive view of their ability.

Conal McKeever, Mark Hughes and Jonny McKeever were outstanding for Ballyhegan and they wer excellently supported by Jack Rafferty and Conor McGlinchey.

For Corrinshigo, Jordan King, Karl Kimmins, Phelim Finnegan, David Murphy, and Declan and Conor Loye were those who enhanced their reputations.


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