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.

Pressed on

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.

Even so, the Ballagh’ rearguard had a hectic first half hour. Curry’s attacking game was simple and effective, with their towering full-forward David Maye employed as the weapon-in-chief. He didn’t disappoint, clipping the Sligo men’s opening point and then claiming a fine long ball from Cathal Brennan and cooly working a gap through which to slide a fine right-footed shot past Ballagh’s Ollie Flanagan.

Twice more the Curry side threatened Ballagh’s goal and when Seán Davey initiated a brisk counter-attack before half-time Ballagh’s Stephen Maher cleared Jason Marren’s shot off the line. Curry paid for that miss and for the six wides they chalked up during their dominant period.

Adrian Marren’s performance never dipped and Kenny Morley had a terrific game for Curry but as a team, they had no response to Ballaghaderreen’s sudden shift of tempo.

With David Kilcullen the latest addition to Ballaghaderreen’s extensive injury list, their squad gets thinner.

The sight of Andy Moran, their injured playmaker, delightedly congratulating his team-mates was a reminder of how well the side has responded to his absence. They play an attractive brand of football and once they took control of the match, they didn’t let up, with Stephen Drake, the team captain, enjoying a storming second half from corner back.

But if they offer Frankie Dolan and company the kind of chances they gave up to Curry in the first half of this match, they will pay for it dearly in the Connacht final in a fortnight.

BALLAGHADERREEN: O Flanagan; S Drake, K Rogers (0-1), T Regan; P Kelly (0-1), D Drake, P Rogers; B Kelly (0-2), J Kilcullen (1-1); O Jordan, A Hanley, S Finn; M Tyrell (0-1), B Regan (0-8, five frees), J Dillon (0-1). Subs: R Conway for P Rogers (23 mins), C Doohan for M Tyrell (53 mins), B Solan for J Dillon (60 mins).

CURRY: J O’Hora; K Morley, S Marren, A Brennan; S Maher, J Feeney, D McDonagh; B McDonagh, S Davey; C Brennan, A Marren (0-4, two frees), N McDonagh; C Brennan (0-1), D Maye (1-1), J Marren (0-1 free). Subs: E Marren for S Maher (half time) M Gordon for C Brennan (52 mins), G Maye for B McDonagh (57 mins).

Referee: E O’Grady (Leitrim).

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