Thomas Moore and Enda Maguire under the kick-out. Photos: Adrian Donohoe.

Ramor make the last four as brave Ballinagh lose out

Intriguing SFC quarter-final played at atmospheric Kingspan Breffni

Highly-fancied Ramor United had to pull out all the stops to beat off the challenge of Ballinagh in an intriguing SFC quarter-final played in perfect conditions at an atmospheric Kingspan Breffni on Sunday afternoon last.

Ramor justified their pre-match favouritism with a controlled, workmanlike and professional display but last year’s IFC winners made United earn their passage into the last four with a typically, spirited, forceful and never-say-die attitude.

Ramor were at their best in the first half, at the end of which they were sitting pretty on the back of a convincing 1-9 to 0-6 lead. Their failure to score more than four points thereafter had more to do with Ballinagh’s stubborn resistance than any Ramor complacency or going down through the gears.

Sadly for them, Ballinagh’s cause was to be dented by two black cards - one in either half - which left them having to expend even more energy in playing what was a gutsy game of catch-up from as early as the 8th minute.

Predictably, it was Ramor’s James Brady who opened the scoring with a free in the 2nd minute into the hill at the town end of the field but it was his brother Jack who scored the crucial goal in the 27th minute which, ultimately, separated the sides at the final whistle.

Less than a minute after Ramor’s goal, Ballinagh lost the influential Patrick Carroll to a black card and, thereafter, in the 41st minute - just as Ramor boasted a 1-9 to 0-8 lead – Ballinagh also had Kyle Tyler black carded.

It was one-way traffic in the early minutes of the first half as spring-heeled Ramor pushed forward with intent. But, in their first attack, Ballinagh equalised when Thomas Moore found himself in space and with the time to chip the ball over from the right wing in the 5th minute.

Ramor quickly regained the initiative and their quick hands and swift movement off the ball going forward had the Ballinagh defence working overtime to retain a foothold in the game.

In only Ballinagh’s second attack, they were awarded a free in the 14th minute which Kevin Smith converted and then less than 40 seconds later David Finnegan whipped the ball over from 35 metres to leave Ramor just 0-4 to 0-3 in front at the first sos uisce.

Ballinagh were now very much in the game and had every reason to feel reasonably optimistic of turning things around as they re-grouped after the restart.

The Saffrons placed a lot of their hopes on reaping a harvest on the counter attack but their frustration was heightened in the 22nd minute when Kyle Tyler’s attempted slide-rule pass to Niall O’Reilly was brilliantly intercepted by Mark Magee 24 metres from the Ramor goal.

Ramor’s defence came under more scrutiny moments later and David Finnegan again showed how its done from long range. Moments later, Thomas Moore arrowed one over on the run from 42 metres and, suddenly, Ballinagh were on level terms (0-5 apiece) after 23 minutes.

For all Ballinagh’s disciplined aggression and tigerish tackling, it seemed to be a matter of when and not if Ramor would find the jugular and, true to form, in his first foray forward Jack Brady worked the oracle by cooly picking his spot after Brian O’Connell and Paddy McNamee had afforded him time and space on the ball.

Brady’s belter made it a five point game (1-7 to 0-5) with 27 minutes on the clock. The chasing team suffered a double whammy with the black carding of Patrick Carroll just over a minute later when referee James Clarke pulled back the play after Brian O’Connell was left prostrate on the ground having off-loaded the ball. James Brady’s subsequent free meant that Ballinagh were now trailing by six points.

It could have gotten so much worse for Ballinagh shortly afterwards when Jack Brady cut inside and rattled the post. The recycling of the ball in the follow up by Ramor finished with Enda Maguire splitting the posts to leave Ballinagh with it all to do in trailing by 0-6 to 1-9 at the interval.

Points by Thomas Moore and Kevin Smith (38) gave Ramor plenty to think about about but the black carding (41) of Tyler was not what the doctor ordered for the team chasing the game.

However, Ballinagh refused to let go of their dream and after Simon Cadden thumped over a great point, Niall McDermott’s free (50) again left just a goal separating the sides.

The sides exchanged points thereafter but Ramor had the final say in the 64th minute when Cathal Maguire picked out James Brady with a long distance pass which allowed the latter to square the ball to Laurence Caffrey who promptly fired the ball over the bar to put the cherry on the Ramor cake.

Ramor Utd: Liam Brady; Lorcan Lynch, Damien Barkey, Matthew Magee; Adam O’Connell, Jack Brady (1-0), Mark Magee; Laurence Caffrey (0-2), Enda Maguire (0-1); Ben Smith, Brian O’Connell (0-1), Simon Cadden (0-1); Sean McEvoy (0-1), James Brady (0-6, 5f), Paddy McNamee (0-1).

Subs; Eoin Somerville for B Smith; Aido Cole for P McNamee; Killian Maguire for E Maguire; Cathal Maguire for E Somerville.

Ballinagh: Eoghan McGrath; Evan Finnegan, Patrick Carroll, Aaron Reilly; Niall O’Reilly, Cormac Timoney, Paddy O’Brien; Padraic O’Reilly, Thomas Moore (0-4, 1f); Thomas Smith (0-1), David Finnegan (0-2), Shane Finnegan; Kyle Tyler, Niall McDermott (0-2, 1f), Kevin Smith (0-4, 3f).

Subs; Killian McBride for S Finnegan.