The Roscommon and District Football League received a major boost when Boyle Celtic and St Peter’s from Athlone joined the Premier Division at the start of the season.
Celtic were returning after a spell in the Sligo league while the Saints were a welcome addition after a very successful spell in the Combined Counties league. Ballinasloe Town had been the dominant force for many years and welcomed the fresh challenge provided by the two new teams.
A major test faced The Town on their return to action after the Christmas break when they welcomed Philip Coffey and his Saints outfit to the Curragh Grounds last Saturday night (January 6 ). The Athlone team had dropped just two points to date and with two games in hand on the league leaders were hoping to take advantage of Castlerea not being in action. Ballinasloe were level with the Saints and, unbeaten at home, were also hopeful of joining the Roscommon team at the top of the table.
The opening half was scoreless, but the visitors took the lead just after the hour mark, only to be pegged back by Ballinasloe with 15 minutes remaining. The first half contained little goalmouth action as both teams struggled to create an impression after being idle for more than two weeks. Neither goalkeeper was seriously tested in a poor opening 45 minutes. The only save made came after 25 minutes when a glancing header from Mark Duffy was easily gathered by Saints keeper Aidan Browne.
The second half contained much more in the way of goalmouth thrills with Browne called into early action to tip over a right wing cross from Mahmoud Giumaa. David Nee headed wide from the resulting corner kick.
A swift counter attack by the home side saw Giumaa race down the right but he drilled his shot into the side netting. Mark Sherlock then had a chance at the other end when volleying over the bar from the edge of the six yard box.
The deadlock was eventually broken just after the hour mark when Niall Scullion found the net with a lovely strike. Mike Lee’s free kick after Sherlock was fouled was headed clear but Scullion returned the ball with interest, volleying to the net from outside the penalty area.
Ballinasloe levelled matters with 15 minutes remaining as Des Hope salvaged a point for the hosts. Gary Egan’s corner kick was met by The Town captain with the header nestling in the top corner of the net.
With little between the teams, the next goal would surely have proved to be a winner, but in spite of an additional seven minutes stoppage time neither side was able to claim victory. Mark Duffy fired over for Ballinasloe, with Lee also off target for the visitors in the last action of the game. In spite of being idle, Castlerea though were the real winners at the weekend, as they still retain top spot on their own although the advantage is now down to just two points.