A strong second half showing from Ballinlough was enough to see off Laois champions Ballyfin in Portlaoise in the first round of the Leinster I.F.C. in Portlaoise on Saturday afternoon.
'Efficient' would probably be the best way to describe the Ballinlough display as they did enough against the strong breeze in the first half to ensure that the game was very much there for the taking at half-time as they trailed by just two points.
The Meath side started without two of their championship winning team, midfielder Derek Muldoon was ruled out with a hand injury while centre half forward Ronan Mc Guinness was restricted to a place on the bench due to an ankle injury, consequently manager Tommy Shine and his management team gave starts to two of their U-21 players; James Baugh and Jack Tunney. Both players acquited themselves well; Tunney did well to set up a score when supplies were very limited during the opening period while Baugh was particulary impressive and defended confidently from start to finish.
After three weeks without any competitive action Ballinlough were slow to settle while the Laois champions tried to take advantage of the strong wind. Ricky Quinlan was active throughout but got limited return from his battle with Padraig Muldoon, but he did find some space to kick the first score of the game, a James Moore pointed free made it; 0-2 to 0-0, for Ballyfin after 14 minutes, as both teams played with a lot of players behind the ball.
Jack Tunney done the hard graft as Ballinlough opened their account with a pointed free from Colm Mallen, some over fussy referring ensured the majority of the scoring chances came from placed balls in the opening 30 minutes. Louis Duff pointed again for the Laois champions and then Peadar Byrne and James Moore traded frees as Ballyfin were; 0-4 to 0-2, ahead at half-time.
Ballyfin must have feared that two points wasn't enough of a cushion and that county player James Finn was being well marshaled by Ballinlough's roving corner forward Colm Mallen. However their concerns were somewhat abated when they doubled their lead with points from Sean Moore and James Moore (free) shortly after the restart, as they went four ahead; 0-6 to 0-2.
Ballinlough looked to be struggling but it was then that some of their younger players, Baugh, Jonnie Reilly, Colm Mallen and Mark Mc Cullen shouldered the responsibility and turned the game in their favour. Reilly was the best player on the pitch while Mc Cullen and Mallen kicked a couple of points apiece as the game turned in their favour; 0-9 to 0-7, with nine minutes remaining. Ballyfin weren't finished though and Ricky Quinlan kicked a contentious point as the umpires looked indecisive, but none the less only one point separated the teams with seven minutes remaining.
The game was on a knife edge but it was the strength of Ballinlough's panel that seen them across the line; Ronan Mc Guinness came on and won a couple of vital breaks, while Ken Rothwell and Simon Deevy were also introduced to great effect; both scoring late points to seal a memorable victory and the send large travelling support home happy.
Ballinlough will have a home fixture against the Offaly champions next weekend.
Ballinlough: K. Mc Guinness, B. Smith, P. Muldoon, R. Farrell, L. Maguire, J. Baugh, J. Reilly (0-1), K. Devine, P. Byrne (0-2f), M. Mc Cullen (0-2), S. Geraghty (0-1), Cian Mallen, J. Tunney, T. Mc Cullen, Colm Mallen (0-4, 2f). Subs: R. Mc Guinness for Tunney, S. Deevy (0-1) for Devine and K. Rothwell (0-1) for Geraghty.
Report courtesy of Ballinlough GFC