Resilient Ballyhaise march on to Ulster final

Ulster Club IFC semi-final

Ballyhaise 1-14

Glenullin 1-13

Damien Donohoe at Healy Park

Sometimes you come away from a game scrambling to remember anything worth including in a match report - and then you have games like this. Struggling to pick out the moments that you will have to leave out of the report as a second by second account would constitute a book - but maybe this game deserves a book.

It wasn’t that it was without mistakes - there were a lot from both sides - but in terms of a spectacle, Ballyhaise against Glenullin was from the top shelf. Sweepers were left in the dressing rooms for the vast majority of the game and kicking was plentiful and fruitful as it rained scoring opportunities.

David Brady manufactured the all-important goal for Ballyhaise when a goal wasn’t possible for most but, funnily, it wasn’t any of the scores that tells the tale of their victory best. The work rate and turnovers by the Ballyhaise forwards, in particularly after half-time, was a death by a thousand cuts for Glenullin. Couple that with Evan Crowe cutting off the head of the dragon in Eoin Bradley in a super man-marking display and Ballyhaise had figured out the formula for victory.

In reality a one-point defeat flatters Glenullin as they hit the last two points of the game deep in injury-time and were awarded a point in error. Ballyhaise will also look back on the number of goal chances they squandered that could have had them out of sight long before the final whistle.

The game kicked off with a point to settle the Ballyhaise nerves inside the first minute when Kevin Tierney was fouled 20 metres from goal allowing Michael Brady a confidence builder free to open the scoring. Ballyhaise, pushing up on the Glenullin kick-out, won back possession and this time Tierney wasn’t for stopping as he side-stepped two defenders before blasting for goal only to see the ball rise over the bar for their second point.

Kevin Tierney in possession. Photo: Michelle Warren.

A Martin Conaty kick pass to the scoring zone finished off a strong start in the fourth minute when Michael Brady timed his run off Padraig Moore perfectly before slotting the ball over the bar on his left foot. Glenullin, on the brink of being on the end of a Ballyhaise run of scores that could end the game before it started, needed the next score.

Going short with their restart, Glenullin worked the ball to Donal O’Kane from a free and O’Kane turned and pointed with his right to open their account. A clever turn by Eoin Bradley drew a foul and the 39-year-old - 40 on New Year’s Eve - converted the free to leave the minimum between the sides.

After a couple of missed chances by Ballyhaise, Neil McNicholl, who was very well marshalled by Brían O’Rourke, won himself a free for Bradley to send over.

Aaron Watson won a well-placed kick-out from Gary O’Rourke and immediately kicked forward to Brían O’Rourke who played a one-two with Michael Brady before kicking Ballyhaise into a one-point lead.

Adam Heaslip and Fiachra McGoldrick combined to win back the ball for Ballyhaise on their 20-metre line, setting Watson off on the attack. A pass forward to Kevin Tierney saw him carry the ball 50 metre before it was worked to Colin McKiernan just inside the ’45 for an outside of the left boot special, sent over the bar.

A poor clearance from a Ballyhaise free at the back gave Paddy Bradley’s side the ball, resulting in a beautiful point from the left boot of Eoin Bradley. Ballyhaise should have claimed the game’s first goal on the 18th minute when Michael Brady squared a ball to Moore at the back post, but his palmed effort hit the woodwork.

The clinical nature of Glenullin shone a minute later when two kick passes from back to front by Cathal Hasson and Traglach Bradley picked out Eoin Bradley who turned Eoin Clarke and with two plays of the ball, he rolled it to the net on his right. A free two minutes later by Bradley gave the Derry champions a three-point lead but Ballyhaise responded with a second point from mid-fielder Brían O’Rourke.

From the resulting kick-out, Tierney won the ball and set David Brady in on goal but his shot was saved after he was fouled with referee Paul Faloon correctly awarding the free for Michael Brady to tap over, leaving one between the sides.

A powerful run through the middle of the Ballyhaise defence by Traglach Bradley saw him shoot for goal but Gary O’Rourke deflected his shot over the bar, giving Glenullin a two-point lead at the break.

Donal O’Kane opened Glenullin’s scoring in the second half with a point inside the first minute with half a chance available. The two in a row Derry intermediate champions opened a four-point gap a minute later when Eoin Bradley’s effort, which looked well wide, was awarded as a point.

Michael Brady broke through for Ballyhaise’s third goal chance of the evening but his effort went to the left and wide - but he made amends with a free after an inspirational turnover and free won by Tierney. A goal line clearance by Adam Heaslip set Ballyhaise on a counter-attack with Martin Conaty kicking into the full-forward line for Eoin Clarke to gather, turn and send the ball over the bar with his left foot.

Eoin Clarke drives forward. Photo: Michelle Warren.

With the Glenullin ’keeper having to play out-field a lot as a result of the high press, Ballyhaise implemented opportunities which became available for the spectacular. Colin McKiernan dispossessed Niall O’Kane to give the ball to Martin Conaty on the 45-metre line and with the goals open, Conaty went for the goal but missed the target narrowly, much to Glenullin’s relief.

With Eoin Bradley having lost a couple of his inside battles to Evan Crowe he now began coming out the field to try to influence the play. A controversial line ball awarded to Glenullin saw Ryan McNicholl get on the end of their attack and brilliantly curl the ball over the bar from the left corner.

When Donal O’Kane fisted over a point, Ballyhaise trailed by four points with 13 minutes remaining but, showing real character, they just kept working.

One of the strong contenders for Man of the Match, Michael Brady, started the comeback with a close-range point. Kevin Tierney needed all his power to create his second point of the game as he pointed on his right to close the margin to two points.

With momentum now in Ballyhaise’s favor, Glenullin tried to slow down the game but the referee wasn’t stopping the play for any of their stalling tactics. With six minutes of ordinary time remaining, Ballyhaise, having been turned back out to the 45, gave sub Sean McCormack the ball and he floated it to the square. David Brady won possession in the air and with his left side blocked off, he turned to his right and placed the ball to the far corner of the net with his left foot.

Ballyhaise, now leading by a point, were denied another goal, with the butt of the post keeping out Michael Brady’s effort. Eoin Bradley levelled the match with a free against the run of play but it didn’t effect Ballyhaise.

Fiachra McGoldrick executed a perfect shoulder to put Eoin Bradley over the end line and with the resulting kick-out Michael Brady won the aeriel battle and laid off to Watson running off his shoulder. Watson then played the ball forward to David Brady who with two solos brought himself to the 20 meter line before raising a white flag to put Ballyhaise back into the lead.

For the second time in the game Niall O’Kane was caught out of goals when Kevin Tierney turned over the ball but the after being fouled Tierney gave the ball to Conaty who was denied a goal by Conor Rafferty’s goal line stop. Michael Brady converted the free after the advantage giving Ballyhaise a two point lead with one of the four announced injury time minutes gone.

Less than a minute later Tierney sent crowned off a strong performance with his third point followed by a black card for Aaron Watson. In the 35th minute Glenullin were awarded a 13 meter free which Eoin Bradley surprisingly tapped over the bar. Glenullin won the following kick-out and a free on the Ballyhaise 45 but after going short with the free to eliminate the square ball rule Cormac Hasson over kicked his attempt to land it on the square and sent it over the bar with the final whistle sounding on Gary O’Rourke’s kick-out.

Ballyhaise: Gary O’Rourke, Adam Heaslip, Eoin Clarke(0-1), Fiachra McGoldrick, Aaron Watson, Aodhagan Watters, Darren Reilly, Brían O’Rourke(0-2), Evan Crowe, Martin Conaty, Michael Brady(0-6,4f), Kevin Tierney(0-3), Colin McKiernan(0-1), David Brady(1-1), Pauric Moore

Subs: Sean McCormack for P Moore, Cormac Callaghan for C McKiernan, Luke Gilmartin for M Conaty

Glenullin: Niall O’Kane, Daniel O’Kane, Eunan O’Kane, Diarmuid McNicholl, Cormac Hasson(0-1), John O’Kane, Eunan Boylan, Traglach Bradley(0-1), Neill McNicholl, Conor Rafferty, Mark O’Kane, Cathal Hasson, Donal O’Kane(0-3), Eoin Bradley(1-7,5f), Ryan McNicholl

Subs: Eamonn Hasson for E Boylan, Christopher Dempsey for M O’Kane.