Ballyholland 2-10 v 1-7 Ballymartin
Senior Football: ACFL II Promotion Playoff
14th October 2007 at 1.00pm - Pairs Esler
Published by Anthony McNamee on 14th October 2007.
A last 10 minutes that dug as deep as any in the club's history
Having just watched a previously five point lead become reduced to a single score, and then lost star man Ronan Murtagh to a sending off, with 10 minutes to go in this match it really didn’t look as though Ballyholland would be returning to top-flight football for 2008.
But what a final 10 minutes their players delivered. Occasionally accused of being a one-man show, without that one man they displayed a willingness, spirit and commitment that on this occasion, Ballymartin just couldn’t match.
In fairness, they were quite impressive in the first half too, even if this wasn’t overly reflected on the scoreboard. Michael Higgins might have opened the scoring, but the inventful running of the pacy trio Joe Murphy, Robbie Quinn and John Barry manufactured a series of chances at the other end, and only for three good saves from Gavin Joyce plus a handful of uncharacteristic missed attempts by Murtagh, Ballyholland could have gone home at halftime and still not been beaten.
In the end it took a somewhat fortuitous goal from Tony Havern to open them up any sort of a margin by the interval.
Two points from Shane Mulholland and one from Murtagh had been met with a fine display of long-range shooting by, in turn, Liam Byrne, John Fitzpatrick and Darren Magennis, before Havern’s crucial strike. Mulholland’s ‘45 dipped just below the crossbar and after Joyce failed to secure clean possession, the ball dropped to Havern, who made no mistake.
Then further points before the half, one each from the impressive brothers Joe and Paul Murphy, finally gave the Harps some breathing space.
But seeing as Ballyholland managed to lose a seven point halftime lead to these opponents a month ago in the Championship, nobody was writing this off as a contest just yet.
And reminiscent of that game, the Lilywhites started the second half in impressive fashion, working early scores for Peter Fitzpatrick and Cathal McDowell. Only this time, Ballyholland’s midfield stood up strongly to the task and this led to two scores from Murtagh and another one from Mulholland, meaning they entered the final quarter with a handy five point cushion.
The following five minutes turned the game on its head. First of, Cathal Rogers reacted quickest to a high ball and drove high past Kieran Murphy, then Cathal McDowell made it a one point game with a short-range free.
And just a few seconds later, we witnessed Ronan Murtagh’s last involvement in the game. Having been kicked up and down the football fields of Down all season long, he could take it no longer and struck out at a defender, leaving referee Seamus O’Hanlon with no choice but to send him to the line.
Rather strangely, the loss of their key player seemed to reinvigorate the Harps. The listlessness of the previous five minutes was replaced with a feverish pace and a never say die attitude. Muholland coolly slotted over a 35 metre free to calm the nerves, and substitutes Aidy McAteer, Paddy McAteer and Conor Sands came in and each lifted their teammates. Indeed, Sands’s first contribution could not have been any better, deflecting the ball into the net after a tremendous piece of work by Mattie Shields tore a hole in the Ballymartin defence.
After that, Ballyholland killed the game off by swamping possession, although there was still time for James Patterson to dink over a fine effort. Now six points to the good, the Harps had sealed promotion.
K Murphy; A Haughey, D McCrink, J Murphy (0-1); P McAnulty, C Murtagh, D Campbell; James Patterson (0-1), P Murphy (0-1); R Quinn, S Mulholland (0-4, 3f), J Barry; T Havern (1-0), M Shields, R Murtagh (0-3, 1f). Subs used: C Sands (1-0), A McAteer, Paddy McAteer.
G Joyce; S Brannigan, S Cunningham, Paul Fitzpatrick; L Byrne (0-1), S McManus, J Fitzpatrick (0-1); P Fitzpatrick (0-1), D O’Hanlon; C McDowell (0-2f), D Magennis (0-1), E McEvoy; M Higgins (0-1), J Fitzpatrick, C Rogers (1-0). Subs used: Paul Cunningham, Pat Cunningham, S Rogers, S Trainor.
Player of the Match: Joe Murphy