Conditions were terrible and some of the football left a lot to be desired, but that won’t matter to Balla who are into the semi-finals of the Mayo Junior championship after a four point win over Achill on MacHale Park on Saturday night. Achill only managed to score once from play in the entire game and Balla were only able to add on one more point to the ten they hit in the second half. Come the semi-final Pat Fallon’s men know they will have to up their game if they are to make it into their second successive junior final.
Balla started with the the aid of a very strong breeze and three minutes in Colm Murphy hit the first point of the day when he intercepted a short Thomas McGlynn kick-out. Val Roughneen doubled their lead two minutes later with a well taken effort from out the park and the same man put Pat Fallon’s side three clear on ten minutes with another long ranger.
Achill got their first score of the day when Brian Lavelle tapped over a close range free on 11 minutes and the same man cut the gap back to a single point three minutes later from another free. Both sides missed chances over the net few minutes until Conor Walsh played in Gary McHale who fired over on the run. Mattie Flanagan pushed his side three clear again with a long range snap shot as Balla looked to build up a lead with the breeze at their backs. Colm Murphy stretched that lead out to four points eight minutes before the break from a free, which was quickly followed up by Val Roughneen’s third point of the day to leave Balla leading 0-7 to 0-2. The former Mayo underage player landed his fourth point of the half on 26 minutes and it was looking good for the men in maroon and white. Matthew Flanagan landed his second of the day after a blistering run by Gary McHale to set him up and a minute later McHale put eight between the teams in first half injury time, with Balla leading by 0-10 to 0-2 at the short whistle.
Achill struck first blood in the second half with Thomas Joyce pointing a free four minutes in as they looked to reel in Balla’s lead. They tried to drop the ball in on top of the imposing Martin Keane who was stationed at full forward but the breaks weren’t falling their way as Balla mopped up any loose ball. They got their second point of the half 11 minutes in when Lavelle kicked over his third of the day after Eddie Doran was hauled to the ground as he tried to break for goal. The play became messy for the next few minutes with neither side able to take any of the chances that presented themselves, with Achill dominating the possession for long stages. It took until the 53rd minute for the next score to arrive through a Pee Sweeney free from close range to cut the gap back to five.
Finally Martin Keane won a ball inside with four minutes of normal time to go, but his shot for goal put out for 45. From the resulting kick it dropped long and Johnathan Mac Phaidin put it over the bar from close range and leave just four between them and in the process get Achill’s first score from play for the day. Balla went down the field and Matthew Flanagan kicked their first score of the second half from a long range free into the teeth of the breeze to ease his sides nerves and put them five clear once more. Sweeney kicked his second free to close the gap that little bit, but time was against his side. Achill were reduced to 14 men right at the start of injury time when Ciaran Boylan was shown his second yellow for a late hit and Balla were able to hang on and book their place in the semi-finals.
Balla: V Roughneen, (0-4 ) M Flanagan (0-3, 1f ), C Murphy (0-2, 1f ), G McHale (0-2 ),
Achill: B Lavelle (0-3, 3f ), P Sweeney (0-2 ), J Mac Phaidin (0-1 ), J Joyce (0-1, 1f )
Balla: J Barrett; B Freyne, C Brennan, E Early; G Holian, G Flanagan, C Kilkenny; C Walsh, S Conway; C Murphy, B Duffy, V Roughneen; D Lyons, M Flanagan, G McHale. Subs: E O’Neill, J Harte, P McLoughlin
Achill: T McGlynn; B Gallagher, T Dever, J Gallagher; C Boylan, G Cafferkey, D McNamara; E Doran, M Keane; F Gallagher, B Lavelle, J Joyce; T Cooney, F McNamara, D Gallagher. Subs: MD McNamara, J Mac Phaidin, P Gallahger, P Sweeney, S Grealis, C Cafferkey
Ref: B Holmes (Ballina )