Ballyholland 1-12 v 1-4 Kilclief

Senior Football: IFC (Final)

12th October 2003 at 1.00pm - St Patrick's Park, Newcastle

Published by Anthony McNamee on 12th October 2003.

2003 saw Ballyholland land their third IFC title

We’ve only gone and done it again! For the third time in under a decade, the Down IFC trophy is resident in Fr Lynch Park as Ballyholland overcame a stubborn Kilclief resistance with some eight points to spare at the final whistle.

Some would say it wasn’t pretty, but then some people just like to grumble – the majority though will simply be delighted that once again the name of Ballyholland Harps will be etched on the famous old trophy.

Kilclief game out fighting and they did all they could to stop Ballyholland from playing football. For fifty minutes there was never much in it, but the last ten minutes saw the Harps rip into their opponent’s rearguard and finally put some distance between the sides.

As would be expected Ballyholland lined out with the same team that so emphatically buried Atticall in the semi-final. Playing with the distinct advantage of the upfield wind, all things pointed to a strong start for the Newry side. But, although John Barry did open the scoring as early as the second minute after a nice one-two with Ronan Murtagh, Ballyholland never really threatened the scoreboard as they could have during the opening period.

A lot of this was down to a good showing from the Kilclief midfield, although some overly pedantic refereeing and a series of stoppages meant it was very difficult to build momentum.

Mark O’Hare opened his account with a fine drive and Ronan Murtagh tapped over a simple free, but neither side was fashioning many openings. In particular Kilclief were finding great difficulty in creating any sort of opportunity against a well organised Ballyholland backline. A couple of missed frees could be pointed to, but these were difficult chances given the prevailing wind.

When Ronan Murtagh stepped up for his second score of the day things were starting to ominous for the seaside club – but then they were suddenly handed the lifeline of a penalty kick.

A long range free had dropped into the Ballyholland square and in the confusion that proceeded, the referee picked up on a foot-block and awarded the penalty – much to the disbelief and confusion of many in attendance.

The confusion didn’t bother Ciaran Sloan though and he accepted the chance with glee, striking the ball with conviction past Kevin Loughran.

This score visibly shook Ballyholland, who were only a point up despite the wind advantage and with the half-time turnaround fast approaching.

Although Shane Mulholland did restore some of the advantage with a free, there was no doubting it was Kilclief who trudged off at half-time the happier side, despite being down by two points, 0.05 to 1.00.

Kilclief came out visibly pumped up for the second-half, maybe even too much so, as their lack of discipline in the tackle was to cost them dearly not long after the throw-in. Having picked up a couple of bookings in the first period they probably didn’t need the threat of players like Ronan Murtagh running at them, but that is what they had to face.

Almost from the off Ciaran Polly was in trouble for bringing the county player to ground with a high challenge, and moments later his captain Liam Woods was guilty of an equally poor challenge. Having booked him for a similar offence in the first-half, the referee had little choice but to produce a red-card.

The loss of a player was to prove a huge blow to Kilclief as the extra-man afforded Ballyholland the opportunity to play keep-ball when necessary, a tactic which can be so advantageous against the wind.

Ballyholland extended their lead with an excellent Mulholland free, but were to lose their free-running corner back, Eugene Campbell, shortly afterwards with a nasty cut to his head after a collision with the Kilcief goalkeeper.

The game settled down to a war of attrition in midfield, with Rory Sharvin and Paul Murphy both showing off some wonderful fielding, but even when they secured possession, Kilclief could not break their opponents down. Ciaran Sloan kept them in the hunt with a couple of long-range frees, but Aidy McAteer and Mark O’Hare were both in fine form and a point from each kept the margin in place.

Another free from Sloan preceeded Kilclief’s only score from play, a lovely effort from Mark Polly, but as the game entered its final ten minutes, Ballyholland noticeably stepped up a gear and powered away. Some of the movement was exceptional during this time as the Harps carved apart the Kilclief defence time and again, the coup de grace being when Ronan Murtagh flicked the ball into an empty net after great work from Johnny Shields and Robbie Quinn.

That was pretty much the last kick of the game. Moments later the final whistle blew and with it Ballyholland were crowned as champions.

Gary Cull, Ciaran Sloan and Rory Strain were Kilclief’s most effective players on the day, but they were all put in the shade by the better Ballyholland performers.

Among those were Glen Elmore and Sean O’Hare, twin towers in the full-back line. O’Hare gave a virtuoso display of tackling and game-reading, while Elmore covered every single blade of glass on the field.

Further out the field Paul Murphy scooped the official award. It was easy to see why with his eye-catching fielding and tireless running.

For my money though, the biggest difference between the sides was that Ballyholland had all the game-breaking forwards. Ronan Murtagh was a constant threat and some of the challenges he shipped would have finished off many a player – but he kept going and kept on hurting Kilclief where it counted, by making and taking scores.

Mark O’Hare chipped in with some excellent scores as well, but Robbie Quinn was a step above them all. He won a huge amount of possession and never wasted one ball, had a hand in several scores, including the goal and sent over two points as well. A tremendous display.

Ballyholland:

K Loughran, G Elmore, S O'Hare, E Campbell (R Murphy), John Patterson (P McAteer), B O'Hare, C Smith, P Murphy (0-1), James Patterson, A McAteer (0-1), S Mulholland (0-2f), R Quinn (0-2), J Barry (0-1) (C Hartigan), R Murtagh (1-2, 1f), M O'Hare (0-3) (J Shields).

Opponents:

J Steenson, G Cull, P Watterson, C Shields (D Sharvin), J Hanvey (A Fitzsimmons), C Polly, L Woods, R Sharvin, M Johnston, P Sharvin, B Sloan (D Curran), C Sloan (1-3, 3f), M Polly (0-1), D Swail, R Strain.

Player of the Match: Robbie Quinn

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