Ballyhaise cruise into IFC semi-final

Intermediate Championship quarter-final

Ballyhaise 1-15

Drumlane 0-12

Paul Fitzpatrick

Ballyhaise cruised into the semi-final of the Intermediate Championship with this one-sided win over a disappointing Drumlane side at Kingspan Breffni.

While Ballyhaise were favourites to win this game – and indeed, fancied by many neutrals to win the championship outright – it was felt that Drumlane, who were so impressive in the county and provincial Junior Championships last year, would provide a stern test.

And when Drumlane won the throw-in and Ryan Connolly blasted over a great point from the wing after just 18 seconds, that sense was strengthened. Drumlane looked confident in those early exchanges and held the ball for a couple of minutes after that opener but once Ballyhaise won it back, they owned it for the remainder of the first quarter.

In three and a half minutes from the third minute on, the winners racked up 1-4 in a devastating display of attacking quality. They stretched their lead to 10, spurning three clear-cut goal chances, before half-time, with Drumlane knocking over a couple of frees to reduce the deficit to a slightly more manageable seven at the midway point.

Ballyhaise’s performance in the first 25 minutes was almost flawless bar the goal opportunities which went a-begging. In tough conditions, their handling and passing was first-rate, they worked tirelessly and they varied their play very well, hitting the excellent David Brady with direct ball at times but also running hard lines down the heart of an unusually-loose Drumlane defence.

Brady opened Ballyhaise’s account after a Jack Maguire lay-off and they soon added two more from play from Eoin Clarke (a huge strike from the left wing) and Pauric Moore.

Drumlane were repeatedly careless in possession and Ballyhaise punished them, Martin Conaty adding the fourth, before the first goal arrived when great work from Aodhagán Watters along the sideline saw Evan Crowe square for Brady to palm in.

Drumlane were pinned back in their own half and couldn’t beat the Ballyhaise press on their kick-out. Moore was denied a goal by a fine Harry Clarke save and Clarke was again called into action to turn a shot from Brían O’Rourke over the bar.

A David Brady mark was cancelled out by a Connolly free as Ballyhaise lost Darren Reilly to a black card but it did nothing to halt their momentum.

From another goal chance, Maguire belted over a point and a Michael Brady free extended their lead before Drumlane finished the half well with three Connolly frees while a ‘goal’ from Moore was ruled out for a square ball.

The second half was low key and forgettable. Ballyhaise opened the scoring after just 12 seconds through Michael Brady but despite enjoying lots of possession, they didn’t push on – although, to be fair, they didn’t need to.

Damien Keaney’s men were sloppy after the break and won’t be happy with elements of their performance, notably their shooting. Their eight second-half wides spared Drumlane’s blushes to some extent in terms of the final score.

Martin Dunne’s side were almost exclusively reliant on their captain, Ryan Connolly, for scores. He landed 0-11 including some well-struck frees and a couple of excellent points from play but it wasn’t enough to get them close to Ballyhaise.

Drumlane, who were the only side in the three grades to make the last eight with just one win, now exit the championship after what was a disappointing campaign following the highs of last year.

Among those who stood out for the winners was Eoin Clarke, who was their best performer in the second half. Moore and the Brady brothers also shone while youngster Evan Crowe turned in an impressive shift. At the back, Ballyhaise’s defence were outstanding all through.

Ballyhaise: Gary O’Rourke, Aaron Watson, Eoin Clarke (0-2), Fiachra McGoldrick, Marcus Duffy, Aodhagán Watters, Darren Reilly, Brían O’Rourke (0-1), Evan Crowe (0-1), Colin McKiernan, Michael Brady (0-4, 3f), Jack Maguire (0-1), Martin Conaty (0-1), David Brady (1-2, 1m), Pauric Moore (0-3)

Subs: Kevin Tierney for C McKiernan, Sean McCormack for J Maguire (both ht), Cormac Callaghan for A Watson (50), Luke Gilmartin for M Duffy (55), Adam Heaslip for F McGoldrick (57)

Drumlane: Harry Clarke, Shane Dolan, Ciaran O’Brien, Killian Tubman, Mark Maguire, James McCahill, Liam Belton, Michael Owens, Dane O’Dowd, Darragh Dolan, Daryl McGurren, Ryan Connolly, Cormac Flynn, Fergal Brady, John O’Dowd

Subs: Gary Tubman for F Brady, Aaron Gilroy K Tubman (both ht), Ciaran Crowe for D McGurren (55), Ben Monahan for J McCahill (58)

Ref: Ollie Donohoe