Loftus Recycling (Ballina ) 78
An Cearnog Nua (Moycullen ) 80
Loftus Recycling suffered a narrow two-point defeat in this very entertaining and closely fought match in Ballina Sports & Leisure Centre on Thursday night.
Despite lining out without the injured Paul Barrett, the home side had 10 points on the board before An Cearnog Nua (Moycullen ) got off the mark. Peter Papic, who had a game high of 30 points, got most of the early scores for Team Loftus with Mark Cunningham also making a major contribution in general play. But the visitors eventually found their rhythm and had cut the deficit to just four points at the end of the first period (25:21 ) with Cian Nihill doing most of the damage. Moycullen maintained the pressure in the second quarter, and just two points separated the sides at half time (48:46 ) with Nollaig Cunningham to the fore for the visitors.
With Liam MacHale on the bench at the start of the third period, Moycullen took the initiative and had gone into a six-point lead within three minutes of the restart, a lead which they had extended to 10 points halfway through the quarter. Coach Oisin Ginty recalled MacHale and both he and Deora Marsh combined well with Papic and Taofic Mustapha to cut the deficit with Marsh landing a three just before the end of the period and Papic adding two to cut the deficit to two points at the three quarter stage (63:65 ).
The stage was set for a right battle in the final quarter and it certainly lived up to expectations. The lead changed hands a number of times but when MacHale landed a huge three-pointer half way through the final period, to put his team a point ahead, they appeared to have taken back the initiative. However scores from several Moycullen players kept their side right up with Loftus Recycling and the game went down to the proverbial wire. With Ballina trailing by two points, and just four seconds left on the clock, Marsh set up Mustapha for an equalising score but the young Ugandan was unable to take the opportunity and Moycullen held out for a win that meant they had finished top of the southern conference of the league. The sides could meet again in the play-off stages; if they do, it will be some game!
Loftus Recycling: Taofik Mustapha (12 ), Liam McHale (15 ), Deora Marsh (7 ), Willie Popplewell (6 ), Stephen Popplewell, Peter Papic (30 ), Colm Leonard, Lamar Marsh (4 ), Colin O’Malley, Mark Cunningham.