Gaels win on the road
Ballinastragh Gaels 4-8 St. Martin's 2-6
Ballinastragh Gaels won an exciting battle of two up-and-coming teams in the New Ross Standard Under-14 football Division 1 championship in Piercestown recently.
The Kilanerin/Tara Rocks combination, and their hosts St. Martin's, have previously put in some solid performances against good teams in the top tier. However, wins have been hard to come by, not that it was evident in the way both clubs approached the game.
On a fine evening for football, both teams set up to attack and play open, expansive football. The visitors looked to hold all the aces in the opening quarter as they roared into a 2-3 to nil lead.
In a clear statement of intent, Micheál McGonigle broke up the wing, latched onto a handpass from playmaker Cillian Byrne, and kicked the opening score. Midfielder Byrne popped over a free after Lee Polglaise was fouled before Brendan Bolger sliced through the hosts' defence and pointed.
A speculative Byrne attempt dropped short in the sixth minute and Hugh Fahy deflected it to the net from close range. Moments later another punt forward fell to Polglaise and he rattled the net to put the Gorey District side nine points up.
Just when it seemed like the Gaels would waltz away, St. Martin's responded. Oisín Kavanagh and Diarmuid O'Leary lobbed over nice points before Sam Norval's fantastic through-ball picked out John O'Sullivan and he calmly slotted past Eoin Blanchfield.
Norval's classy point in added-time left just a goal between the sides at the break (2-3 to 1-3). After two distinct periods of dominance in the first-half, the second proved to be much more end-to-end throughout.
Scores from Byrne, David Neville and Fahy bettered St. Martin's points from O'Sullivan and O'Leary in the third quarter. The crucial score came with eleven minutes remaining when Neville's booming effort dipped just under the crossbar to the net.
Leading by 3-6 to 1-5, Ballinastragh pushed on with Cian Hughes scoring a late 1-2, including a dead-ball that beat a crowded St. Martin's goal-line. The hosts never quit and Diarmuid O'Leary hit the net off the inside of the post in added-time, but it wasn't enough to prevent a deserved Gaels victory.
Ballinastragh Gaels: Eoin Blanchfield; Shane Kelly, Conor Jones, Dylan Nash; Ben Ryan, Aidan Mulcahy, Micheál McGonigle (0-1); Cillian Byrne (0-2 frees), David Neville (1-1); Lee Polglaise (1-0), Seán Hughes, Cian Hughes (1-2, 1-0 free); Gearóid Boland, Hugh Fahy (capt., 1-1), Brendan Bolger (0-1). Subs. - Daniel Bolger for Boland (41), James Higgins for Ryan (46), Finn Mulcahy for Bolger (47).
St. Martin's: Cian Clarke; Harry Quirke, James Molloy, Josh Whitty; Conor King, Kevin Reck, Brian Codd; Rory Devereux (capt.), Chris Ryan; Oisín Kavanagh (0-1), Diarmuid O'Leary (1-2, 0-1 free), Joe Mernagh; Derry Crowley, John O'Sullivan (1-2), Sam Norval (0-1). Subs. - Eoin Ormonde for Crowley (7), Oisín Kehoe for Devereux (7), Jack Mullen for Mernagh (29), Ronan Griffin for Ormonde (32), Conor Dempsey for Quirke (41), also Reuban Lafferty.
Referee: Francis Neville (Shelmaliers).