Ballyhaise breeze into last four

Intermediate Football Championship quarter-final

Ballyhaise 2-13

Denn 1-10

Kevin Óg Carney at Kingspan Breffni

Ballyhaise will meet Cootehill Celtic in this year’s IFC semi-finals after beating Denn pulling up in an entertaining but largely predictable duel at HQ last Sunday evening.

The winners were a class apart for most of the contest but after establishing a convincing 1-8 to 0-5 interval lead showed a penchant for taking their foot off the pedal thus allowing Denn to chisel a rare, extended foothold in the game.

To their credit, Denn were a much more competitive, stubborn and ambitious outfit on the restart but, sadly for them, the boat had sailed by the time they showed anything like their true worth as a team.

In a pedestrian opening quarter, Denn were toothless and without the passion and drive which was their stock-in-trade when in their pomp in winning the Ulster JFC title less than 12 months ago.

Denn – minus the injured TED - trailed by just the odd in point when Ballyhaise exploded into action in the 13th minute. The losers-elect were far too passive when Michael Brady created an incision in the heart of the Denn defence before laying the ball off to the flying Eoin Clarke who firmly buried the ball in the back of the Denn net.

A classy Michael Brady point – after sterling work by Brian O’Rourke – made it 1-3 to 0-1 by the 14th minute and already Denn looked on the cusp of the slippery slope.

Despite being shorn of the services of star forwards Kevin Tierney and Paraic Moore (both injured), Ballyhaise patently packed a punch and they looked like scoring on each foray into enemy territory.

Denn were busy on the ball but lacked directness, invention and awareness as they laboured to make a real dent on the scoreboard.

For the most part, it was too easy for Ballyhaise going forward and David Brady’s gallop was unrestricted allowing him to set up Martin Conaty for a precision point (19) which was followed by an equally accurate brace from Clarke in the 21st and 24th minutes which gave the leaders an unflattering 1-7 to 0-2 advantage.

With a rock solid midfield platform of messrs. Clarke and Brady to build upon, the Ballyhaise boys oozed belief and conviction as they sought to put the tie to bed ASAP.

A hat-trick of Cavell Keogan frees subsequently made it a five point (1-8 to 0-5) game at the interval but even at that juncture it appeared the die was cast as far as the maroon and white brigade was concerned.

However, Denn looked re-energised and imbued with a greater degree of determination as they ate into Ballyhaise’s lead and with a quarter of the game to play, Ballyhaise’s lead was down to a much more manageable four points, 1-10 to 0-9.

However any lingering hopes Denn had of pulling the fat out of the fire were all but extinquished with the game being turned on its head by a great solo goal by David Brady in the 51st minute after he latched onto a pin-point long delivery from Eoin Clarke. A fisted point by Brady from the restart left the writing on the wall in big bold letters for the Crosskeys-based men as they trailed by 0-9 to 2-11.

Ballyhaise hadn’t quite killed off their foe but it was a foe that was on death’s bed with an eight point deficit and the clock serving as massive challenges to overcome in the final ten minutes.

Denn’s pride came through in the run-in and they at least got a smudge of consolation when Caolan McCabe’s effort rebounded off Gary O’Rourke into the path of the in-running Ben Conaty whose volley had the net billowing with three minutes left in ordinary time but the war had long been won and lost by that stage.

Ballyhaise will lock horns with Cootehill Celtic in the semi-final as they seek to return to the decider once more.

Ballyhaise: Gary O’Rourke; Darren Reilly, Aodhghán Watters, Ross O’Gorman; Marcus Duffy, Fiachra McGoldrick, Aaron Watson; Eoin Clarke (1-2), David Brady (1-3); Colin McKiernan, Martin Conaty (0-1), Jack Maguire; Brian O’Rourke (0-2, 2f), Michael Brady (0-4, 1f), Killian Brady (0-1).

Subs; Cormac Clarke for J Maguire; Shane McKiernan for C McKiernan; Adam Heaslip for D Reilly; Sean McCormack for M Conaty; Desmond Reilly for F McGoldrick.

Denn: Mark Fegan; Andrew Cusack Smith, Michael Gaffney, Leon Cobey; James Brady, Caolain McCabe, Cian Courtney; Mark McSherry, Brandon Keogan; Shane Galligan, Oisín Kiernan (0-1), Sean Donohoe; Bernard Galligan (0-1), Cavell Keogan (0-7, 6f, ’45), Ben Conaty (1-1).

Subs; Bernard Gaffney for C Courtney; Kian McMahon for A C Smith.

Ref: Ollie Donohoe.