They left it late, but that won’t matter a bit to Balla after they booked their place in the Mayo Intermediate Championship final in dramatic fashion in MacHale Park on Sunday afternoon.
They had been denied a goal all day by a string of top class saves from Luke Jennings in the Ballinrobe goal - but deep into injury time Gary McHale managed to win the break from a long ball in, dink the ball up into his hands and just clip it over the onrushing Jennings to break Ballinrobe hearts and explode the ones belonging to Balla men and women all over the world.
The south Mayo men looked like they were heading into the final for long stretches of the game, none more so than when 12 minutes into second half Kevin Quinn lashed home a screamer of a goal cutting in from the right to put his side 2-6 to 0-7 up - but Balla hadn’t read that script and they kept plugging away on the scoreboard and when the finally took a goal chance it was the one that won it for them.
Three years on from winning the junior title the West Mayo men will be facing into another local derby when the take on Kiltimagh in the final in a fortnights time.
Ballinrobe led by two at the break on a score of 1-5 to 0-6, their first goal coming after just eight minutes when Peter Butler followed in a long ball from Evan O’Brien and got there ahead of Mattie Flanagan to flick the ball home.
Both sides went toe to toe on on the points front in the first half with Colm Murphy kicking two for Balla and Evan O’Brien doing the same for the south Mayo men who went in two in front at the short whistle.
A Colm Murphy point cut the gap back to just one not long after the restart, but Balla looked to have been dealt a serious blow on 32 minutes when JP Reilly was sent to the sin bin for ten minutes.
But they should have got in for a goal when Aaron Walsh was played in behind the cover only for Jennings to pull off a fine save. Ballinrobe went straight down the field and Stephen Burke put them two clear again.
On 42 minutes Quinn lashed home his goal and it was looking good for Pete Warren’s men, but Balla kept coming and the introduction of Val Roughneen along with the moving of Conor Walsh out the park and Gary McHale inside proved vital in their comeback.
Roughneen kicked two points from frees and the game began to tighten up on the scoreboard with Rian O’Connor for Balla and Eoin Gilraine who had a fine game for Ballinrobe leaving the contest on a knife edge on 60 minutes with the game all square at 2-8 to 0-14.
Then McHale struck and Ger Butlers men were in dream land - they held out Ballinrobe’s probing down the final two minutes with only a point from Oran O’Malley coming in response and Balla were heading into the final.
Balla: G McHale (1-3, 1f ), V Roughneen (0-2, 2f ), C Murphy (0-2, 1f ), M Flanagan (0-1, 1f ), G Flanagan (0-1 ), B Duffy (0-1 ), T Reynolds (0-1 ), C Kilkenny (0-1 ), R O’Connor (0-1 ), J Harte (0-1 )
Ballinrobe: J Burke (1-1 ), K Quinn (1-0 ), O O’Malley (0-2 ), E O’Brien (0-2, 1 45 ), L Burke (0-1 ), E Duffy (0-1 ), S Burke (0-1 )
Balla: M Flanagan; C Dunleavy, G Holian, S McNicholas; G Flanagan, S Morrisey, T Reynolds; B Duffy, JP Reilly; G McHale, C Murphy, A Walsh, J Harte, C Walsh, P McLoughlin.
Subs: V Roughneen, R O’Connor, C Kilkenny, C Golding
Ballinrobe: L Jennings; J Burke, C Keane, O O’Malley; E Gilraine, A McDonnell, E Reaney; E O’Brien, J Murphy; L Burke, K Quinn, D McDonnell; E Duffy, JE Flannelly, S Burke.
Subs: P Butler, C O’Brien,