Ballinagh breeze into semi-finals

Second win over Belturbet in the space of a week

Ballinagh 2-16

Belturbet 1-7

Kevin Óg Carney at Kingspan Breffni

Ballinagh beefed up their challenge for IFC honours at Kingspan Breffni on Sunday afternoon last by cruising into the semi-finals at the expense of an out-classed Belturbet squad.

On the back of their 1-23 to 1-6 victory over the Rorys in the qualifiers the previous week, Ballinagh’s victory was predictable. However, such was the winners’ level of consistency, hunger and ambition, second time around, that a major turnaround in the formbook was never on the cards last weekend.

Like all underdogs, Belturbet yearned for a quick getaway from the starting blocks but their failure to cash in on two decent goal chances within the opening five minutes let Ballinagh off the hook and duly warned.

Ballinagh burst into the game with Padraic O’Reilly opening the scoring with a point for Ballinagh after 51 seconds.

However, less than one minute later, Sean Óg Lawlor made light of two powder-puff tackles to run through on the Ballinagh goal only for ‘keeper Enda Brady made a block with his knees after making himself big and the angle for the shooter even more acute.

Later in the 6th minute, when trailing by 0-1 to 0-3, Belturbet engineered another opening for a precious major but Cormac Donohoe was robbed of possession just as the whites of Brady’s eyes came into his view.

Played in perfect conditions, Ballinagh were in the box seat for all but fleeting minutes of the game; even in the ten minutes that they were denied the services of Evan Finnegan who was black carded in the 13th minute.

Belturbet were at their best in an opening half that was open and fluid but, crucially, Enda Henry’s inspirational point (20) from 43 metres wasn’t built upon ‘till eight minutes into the second half when Conal McGinley’s free cut Ballinagh’s lead to eight points, 0-12 to 0-4.

Belturbet badly needed goals to morph the game into a proper contest but just prior to McGinley’s aforementioned effort, the raging hot underdogs again failed to find the net from a good opportunity.

In fairness to Ballinagh ‘keeper Brady though, he made a good save to deny a palmed effort from point blank range by Enda Henry in the 35th minute.

Sadly for Belturbet, they were out of luck again when the in-form Henry received a black card for dissent in the 36th minute.

Physically more powerful, lighter on their feet and with a cutting edge in the final third that cemented their lead time and time again, Ballinagh steamed into a 0-9 to 0-3 interval lead after Evan Finnegan’s peach (32) closed the scoring.

Thereafter, the Saffrons were able to prepare for their last four tilt with Ballyhaise by ringing the changes as the second half advanced without diminishing their potency or superiority.

With subs Kevin Smith and Kyle Tyler particularly influential in keeping Ballinagh’s foot on Belturbet’s throat, the game cried out for some sort of comeback from the Fermanagh border side but no green shoots ever saw the light of day.

After McGinley’s free (0-4 to 0-12), Ballinagh produced a clinical repost by notching 2-2 over the course of the next 14 minutes with some excellent points – invariably after some patient approach work – being coloured in bold by goals from Tyler and Smith in the 42nd and 53rd minutes respectively.

Ballinagh’s belters bolstered their advantage considerably and a repeat of their erstwhile 17-point winning margin over their same opponents beckoned with the guts of ten minutes remaining.

To their credit, Belturbet eschewed the temptation to throw in the towel and, instead, they actually matched Ballinagh’s tally of scores in the final 13 minutes of play with Enda Henry’s successful spot-kick – after Jack O’Callaghan was upended in the square – making an unlikely indentation on the scoreboard.

Predictably, Ballinagh had the final say(s) in the run-in with the impressive Shane Finnegan putting the cherry on the cake.

Ballinagh: Enda Brady; Aaron Reilly, Patrick Carroll, Shane Finnegan (0-3); Niall O’Reilly, Cormac Timoney (0-1), Philip Bogue; Padraic O’Reilly (0-1), Thomas Moore; Thomas Smith, Paddy O’Brien (0-1), Evan Finnegan; Niall McDermott (0-5, 2f), Daryl Gaynor (0-1), David Finnegan.

Subs; Kevin Smith (1-3) for D Finnegan; Kyle Tyler (1-1) for D Gaynor; Damien Reilly for P O’Brien; Barry Connolly for N O’Reilly; Oisín Finnegan for K Smith.

Belturbet: Cian Vaughan; Luke Smith, Peter Shannon, Kevin McConnell; John Cahill, Shane Fitzpatrick, Stuart Dunne (0-1); Cormac Donohoe, Mark Lawlor; Eoin McGuigan, Donal McDonald, Enda Henry (1-3, 2f); Sean Óg Lawlor, Conor Vaughan (0-1), Conal McGinley (0-2, 2f).

Subs; Niall Lawlor for D McDonald; Sean Grogan for M Lawlor; Jack O’Callaghan for C McGinley.

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