The league is one thing, but as we all know championship is a whole different game off football and that was clearly shown in Flanagan Park in Ballinrobe on Saturday night. Ballinrobe had good reason to be confident going into this game against Ballina after a number of good performances in the league this season, a new management team and home advantage all in their favor. But for the first twenty or so minutes of this game, they were just passengers on the Ballina juggernaught which trampled right through their well appointed ground in south Mayo. Paul McGarry was causing havoc breaking out from his full forward position, leaving Paul Finnerty in a tail spin in the early stages and everything Liam Brady seemed to touch flew over the bar as Ballina blitzed their opponents to run into a 0-5 to 0-0 lead inside ten minutes. While it looked for a while as Ballina were going to completely overawe the south Mayo men, credit must be given to them for hanging in their and not imploding like some other sides did over the weekend.
Brady knocked over two frees from at least fifty yards out and another score from play from nearly the same difference and Patrick Crowe who finished the game with three points to his name got in on the act. While all Ballinrobe could muster was two badly skewed frees from scorable positions form the boot of James O'Malley.
Ballinrobe finally got out of the scoring blocks 16 minutes into the first half when Ray McGreal made his way up from wing back to show the forwards how it's done. But any ideas that Ballinrobe had that this might signal a comeback before half time were cancelled out by another pointed free from a long distance from Liam Brady. Kenneth O'Malley was dispatched up field to take the placed ball's for Ballinrobe and he landed two points, but they were cancelled out by fine scores from Pat Harte and Lorcan Healy, which left Ballina five clear at the break by 0-8 to 0-5.
The start of the second half saw neither side manage to hit the target for 15 minutes as they both sailed a few balls wide and broke up each others play. If Ballinrobe were going to get back into this game they really needed to get a few scores up on the board in the opening stages of the half. The terminal half dead lock was finally broken on 45 minutes when Peter Staunton dropped over a placed ball for the home-side. Soon after Ballinrobe got the break they needed, the aforementioned Staunton dropped the ball into the danger area where David Clarke spilled the ball into the path of the incoming Mark Walkin who palmed the ball to the net, it should have been game on from here on in.
But the goal woke Ballina from their slumber and they went straight down the pitch and Crowe clipped over a point to push the gap out to two once again. Ballinrobe did go for it from here on in but a series of wides intersected by points from Staunton and Sean Grimes, was not enough as Ballina were able to tack on two late points of their own from Crowe and Paul McGarry to seal the two point win for the Stephenites.
Ballinrobe: K O'Malley (0-2, 2fs ); D McDonnell, P Finnerty, R Keane; J O'Malley, D Killeen, R McGreal (0-1 ); D Vaughan, R Macken; P Staunton (0-2, 2fs ), S Grimes (0-1 ), S Owens; C Keane, K McTigue, S Burke. Subs: M Walkin (1-0 ) for S Owens, D Costello for Walkin; P Costello for R Macken.
Ballina: D Clarke; S McCarron, P Rouse, E Casey; C Leonard, G Cafferkey, K Golden; R McGarrity, P Harte (0-1 ), B Ruane, P Crowe (0-3 ), L Brady (0-4,3f ), D O'Hara, P McGarry (0-2 ), L Healy (0-1 ). Subs: R Smyth for Healy
Ref: Peter Geraghty (Swinford )