Ballaghaderreen too hot for Curry in second-half show
CONNACHT SFC SEMI-FINAL Ballaghaderreen 1-15 Curry 1-7:A second-half master class led by midfielder James Kilcullen has earned Ballaghaderreen a place in the Connacht club final, a stage they last graced in 1972. If they are to win the province, they will have to depose reigning champions St Brigid’s.
Curry folk headed back up the road yesterday evening wondering what had transpired in the Ballagh’ dressing room at half-time. For the first 30 minutes, the Sligo side had the measure of the Mayo men and had played themselves into a superb position: 1-05 to 0-6 to the good and enough trouble caused around the Ballagh’ goal area to prompt manager Mark Dowd to hastily rearrange his defence.
They had every reason to be confident returning to the field. But for ten minutes after half time, Curry simply couldn’t live with the Mayo champions. They were just left behind during a furious blitz of score taking.
Ballagh’s resurgence came through their impressive midfield axis. First, Barry Kelly thumped a point with conviction while the crowd was still settling for the second half and then claimed the kick-out. James Kilcullen took a pass at speed and confidently fired a goal which seemed like a clarion call for the rest of the team. Suddenly, Ballagh’ were on fire.
Kilcullen made three brilliant high claims at midfield and up front Barry Regan was beginning to buzz, making light of two frees from distance and then landing a fine point from play during Ballagh’s unstoppable phase of play. They scored 1-4 in ten minutes and understandably silenced the visiting Sligo contingent.
Curry’s misery was compounded when John Feeney’s late challenge on David Drake merited a red card. Ballaghaderreen pressed on and had moved into a 1-13 to 1-5 lead coming into the last 10 minutes of the match. Nothing about the first half had suggested such an easy passage for the Mayo men.
That opening period did much to refute the notion that there is anything wrong with Gaelic football in its current guise. The sides were a mirror image of the other, with strong direct midfielders and forward lines characterised by lively, intelligent movement. Both half-forward lines pressed hard to turn the ball over and the game remained wonderfully open.
Players from both sides tried at all times to defend cleanly and fairly. Several of the scores were worthy of high summer rather than this drab November Sunday. Adrian Marren was full of mischief in the opening quarter but it was the classy point he struck on 14 minutes that prompted the Ballagh’ sideline to dispatch David Drake, their attacking wing-back, into keep him company.