High fliers roar out of the west


On the wall of the Ballina Stephenites clubhouse, there is a ballad from the club's founder James Wallace Melvin dating back to 1886 which calls on the players to give "one wild hurrah for Ballina". Yesterday, Ballina's rain-saturated captain Brian Heffernan stood up on a trailer in the middle of James Stephens Park to lay his hands on the proferred trophy, and was smothered in a chorus of roars.

Ballina have waited a long time to win the Connacht club title, but Heffernan was keen for everyone associated with the victory to savour the moment. "It's very, very sweet; a superb achievement," said Heffernan. "We were hungry for this, and I think it showed in the performance."

He added: "In our previous matches we didn't put in a solid 60 minutes. We'd start well and then tend to fade, but I think that was due to some inexperience in the team and we have learnt well as we've gone along. This time we got off to a great start and then we just had to make sure that we didn't let Roscommon back into it, and we didn't."

One of the broadest grins in the Ballina dressing room belonged to Brian McStay, the prodigal son of the Mayo town who just keeps coming home.

Five times this season has made the trip home from Boston to assist his club realise a dream, and he enthused: "This is fairytale stuff for us. This is a great bunch of lads, young and hungry, and we were due a good game. We finally got it right. We got off to a dream start, and once we got the goal we had a nice cushion because I knew that they would come back at us. It was important to keep the ball moving, put our heads down and stick to the game plan."

Tomorrow, McStay will step onto a plane again to head across the Atlantic - but the travelling will start again in the New Year.