By Denis J. Croke
HAVING totally dominated the opening half, and going into the break with a five point lead, Ballylinan looked to be on their way to a comfortable victory in O’Moore Park on Friday evening. The addition of two goals within five minutes of the restart merely strengthened that notion.
Maybe they got complacent, but they hadn’t banked on Graiguecullen’s resolve. They upped the pace and aided by some substitutions, in particular the enforced introduction of Danny Doogue midway through the second half due to Daniel O’Reilly’s black card, they clawed their way right back into this game.
Apart from an early of exchange of points from Gary Walsh (free) and Aaron Forbes, Ballylinan were always in control. Pauric McEvoy and the outstanding Cathail Dunne put two between the sides after 10 minutes.
Ballylinan were carving holes in the Graiguecullen defence and on one such foray won a penalty when Andy McEvoy’s shot was foot-blocked. Walsh stroked the penalty inside the right hand post.
Minutes later, in a goalmouth scramble, Walsh got his foot to the ball but it came back off the post.
A Walsh free and Dunne from play put six between the sides. Doran and Dunne swapped points, as did Liam Kearney and McEvoy, while Brian Byrne’s 32nd minute free saw Ballylinan leading 1-7 to 0-5 at the break.
Ballylinan took even more control four minutes into the new half when McEvoy cut in from the left, laid off to James Redmond and the wing-forward made no mistake.
From the kick out a long delivery found McEvoy in behind the Graiguecullen defence and Patrick Scully was beaten again. With an 11 point advantage Ballylinan to be on their way to a comfortable victory.
But the Barrowsiders were not prepared to concede. Two points from Ian Fleming and another from Doran gave them hope.
Gary Walsh converted a free but Graiguecullen continued the revival when a long ball from Fleming found veteran Doogue and he buried it in the net, and the gap was down to six points.
Doran and Walsh exchanged frees before two points from Doran and another from Forbes reduced the difference to three points with four minutes remaining.
An amazing revival was on the cards but Ballylinan reacted in the best possible way. A bad clearance by Graiguecullen afforded Dunne to shoot his fourth point. Then on the hour mark Walsh scored a breakaway point. And when Walsh rounded off a 40 metres run with a point in the 62nd minute Ballylinan were on their way to the winners’ draw.
But there was to be one more twist when Doogue latched onto another long delivery and drilled the ball beyond Aidan Walsh. Suddenly the pressure was piled back on Ballylinan, and Graiguecullen came so close to sending the game to a replay. Forbes broke down a high ball to Doogue but his shot was too close to Walsh and with that went Graiguleen’s last chance.
BALLYLINAN: Aidan Walsh; Mark Garrett, Cathal Leonard, Oisin Leonard; Conor Behan, Alan Farrell, Robbie Donoher; Pauric McEvoy (0-1), John Kealy; James Redmond (1-0), Cathail Dunne (0-4), Jamie Farrell; Andy McEvoy (1-1), Gary Walsh (1-6, 1-0 pen, 0-4f), Podge Walsh.
Subs: Richie Ryan for Behan (48m)
GRAIGUECULLEN: Patrick Scully; Bobby Doyle, Liam Kearney (0-1), Wayne Humphries; Daniel O’Reilly, Ross Alcock, Trevor Collins; Michael Hand, Mark Timmons; Ian Fleming (0-2, 0-1 ‘45’), James Doogue, Brian Byrne (0-1f); Ambrose Doran (0-6, 0-5f), Chris Hurley, Aaron Forbes (0-2).
Subs: Shane O’Neill for Doyle (22m), Thomas Brennan for Hurley (29m), James Bolton for Kearney (42m), Danny Doogue (2-0) for O’Reilly (43m, black card), Sean Farrell for Timmons (49m, inj)
Referee: Maurice Deegan (Stradbally)