One can only imagine what odds you would have got at the start of the year that Glenhest Rovers would pitch up against Ballina Town on Sunday, in the Connacht Gold Shield Final. Last year’s Super League winners will feel that they should be taking part in the showpiece event a couple of hours later but it has been that sort of season for Ballina. After losing a string of top quality stars it was always going to be tough to repeat the kind of form that parachuted them to glory last season.
Joint-top scorer in the Super League this season, Brendan Lavelle tried to put his finger on where it all went wrong. “We certainly expected to be pushing up there at the top again. We were just too far behind Westport. It definitely wasn’t what we had planned. We have struggled for players most of the season in terms of numbers.”
In the last couple of weeks Brendan has been knocking in goals for fun for both the Mayo and Connacht sides. Being his first time playing for the interprovincial side it was a new experience. “I really enjoyed it. It was nice to get a chance with the Connacht team. I’ve had a good season all in all; scored a couple of goals and carried that into the Mayo team.”
Ballina will be heading into unknown territory on Sunday after their path to the decider included wins over Bangor Hibs, Conn Rangers and Ballyhaunis Town in the semi-final. Glenhest will be something different but will have to be taken on merit. “They are in the final for a reason. We played them in a friendly at the beginning of the season so we have a small idea of what they are about. They won’t fear us. They’ve nothing to lose.”
It has been a rollercoaster year of sorts for Glenhest Rovers which culminated in promotion to the Premier ‘A’ division. With Ballina Town hovering 18 places above them in the Mayo league standings they are in underdog territory but they certainly won’t be fazed by the challenge on Sunday.
After being founded in 1974 it took them ten years to grab their first piece of silverware, a Third Division Title. Like lots of clubs across the codes, emigration has hindered their progress but they are still there and will no doubt have a big following on Sunday. In the last couple of weeks they have been working tirelessly at Glenhest Sports ground to conjure up a plan to land a potential killer blow against one of the Super League big boys.
When Pat Mulchrone fired home the winner against Charlestown Athletic (AET ) in the semi-final a couple of weeks back it rekindled memories of the glory years. After taking down Fahy Rovers B, Moy Villa B, and neighbours Newport Town they are bristling with confidence.
Sunday will be a new challenge no doubt, but the experience garnered from the victory over Charlestown Athletic could propel them to greater heights. Stranger things have happened.