Champions hold on just
April 28, 2001
Dunshaughlin were put to the pin of their collar by a fiercely determined Ballinlough outfit but in the end the class of Richie Kealy and Niall Kelly won out.
Champions are usually at their most vulnerable in the first defence of their title, and so it proved to be with Dunshaughlin as they came within a whisker of failing to win their opening game in the 2001 championship. With 10 minutes of the second half gone Ballinlough had drawn level and they had the impetus as well as the elements behind them, but an inability to take the right option when in front of goal proved to be their undoing.
Credit must be given to the champions for when questions were being asked of them they upped their performance and the accurate kicking of Niall Kelly added to the accuracy of Richie Kealy won the day for Eamon Barry's side.
Two frees from brothers Richie and Denis Kealy helped Dunshaughlin into an early lead in a match that was played in wet wintry conditions. A Francis Tunney free got the North Meath side off the mark after ten minutes but it was a further 16 minutes until the same player scored his sides only other point of the half. By that stage Dunshaughlin had troubled the scorekeeper on five occasions with the pick of them coming from Richie Kealy far out on the right hand touchline.
Jody Devine who was hampered by injury was given a roving commission but this backfired badly as Dermot Kealy moved out to follow him and ended up being one of the game's outstanding performers. Richie hit his fourth point of the half to leave it 0-6 to 0-2 at the interval.
Ballinlough had halved the deficit within five minutes of the restart thanks to points from Kevin Devine and Tunney. Declan Lynch then hit one of his trademark 40 yard points before setting up Jody Devine for the equalizer. Devine had now moved onto the edge of the square and the switch proved very effective. However, the eventual losers should have had at least two more points during their period of intense pressure, but too often the wrong man elected to take a shot at goals.
Dunshaughlin responded like the champions they are with four unanswered points through Dermot and Richie Kealy (3) in the next eight minutes. Two of the younger Kealy's points were from play and were of the highest order.
The turning point in the match was the move of Niall Kelly to midfield. The long kicking Meath under 21 had lived in the shadow of Ballinlough centre back Vinny Ryan for most of the match but the move to the middle saw him grab the game by the scruff of its neck. He got on the ball much more in both open play and from frees and his long accurate passing opened up Ballinlough on numerous occasions.
The match was far from over though as no sooner had Fergal Gogan made a point blank save then he was picking the ball out of the back of his net. Ronan McGuinness was first to react to a Jody Devine knock down and he blasted past the keeper to leave the minimum in it with ten minutes left to play. The next score was vital and crucially it was Dunshaughlin who got it. Jody Devine responded with a 55 yard free from his hands but it was to be his sides last score. The losers pressed hard for an equalizer but failed to get a shot on goal.
Then with five minutes of injury time played due to both Vinny Ryan and Brendan Kealy being stretchered off after different incidents, Graham Dowd popped over the insurance score.
It was an enthralling game played before a large crowd that included a fair amount of Simonstown and Kilmainhamwood players. They will have been glad to see that there was a winner in the game but will have left Pairc Tailteann knowing that you will get nothing easy from either of these sides.
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