Ballyfin Gaels 1-12
By Denis J. Croke
HAVING won promotion last year, a year after being relegated, O’Dempsey’s took the first step in securing their senior status for another 12 months at least. The defeat of Ballyfin ensures their status but they will have a greater plan than that for the coming few months.
As expected, they had too much in hand for a gallant Ballyfin side but will also know they faded in and out of the games at times. And Ballyfin, who never gave up the battle, made the best of those chances.
Entering the final quarter the Killenard outfit held a convincing 13 point advantage but a late rally from Ballyfin saw the lads in green close the gap to six points by the final whistle.
O’Dempsey’s will know that a similar fade out against a more superior side could prove very costly as they go in search of honours. No doubt Peter Brady will have some serious words for his charges when they go training this week.
Ballyfin on the other hand will rue a few missed goal opportunities that could have changed the complexion of this game, although credit must go to both goalkeepers, O’Dempsey’s Padraig Bannon and Ballyfin’s Robbie for some great saves.
The game was just four minutes old when Peter O’Leary struck for the game’s opening score, a goal, when he palmed his brother, Stephen’s, pass to the net.
Ricky Quillinan opened Ballyfin’s account with a point, followed by a Sean Moore free. In between Micheál Finlay pointed for O’Dempsey’s.
By the end of the first quarter O’Dempsey’s had made their stamp on the game thanks to three points from Matthew Finlay and a single from Eoin Finlay. Sean Moore stopped the rot with a free and added another two before half time.
O’Dempsey’s responded in kind through Micheál Finlay, Barry Kelly and Eugene Nolan to lead by 1-8 to 0-5 at the break.
Just prior to the break Robbie Foran made a brilliant save to deny Johnny Kelly.
Stephen O’Leary extended that lead with a pint soon after the restart which was matched by James Finn. Ballyfin had introduced Rob Tyrrell at half time and the Laois minor played a crucial role in his side’s fight-back.
But in the four minute period between the 36th and 40th minutes O’Dempsey’s effectively killed off the game. Stephen O’Leary added a point before Matthew Finlay rounded off a fabulous end to end move with a cracking goal.
Soon after Foran did well to deflect a Stephen O’Leary shot over for a point while a Rory Bracken point saw O’Dempsey’s leading 2-12 to 0-6 with 40 minutes on the clock.
Ballyfin might well have had a goal just after when Quinlivan broke down a long delivery to Nick Cosgrave but his shot came back off the upright.
Stephen O’Leary and James Moore swapped points but Ballyfin were beginning to mount a more serious challenge.
Louis Duff was denied by a brilliant save from Bannon but the boys in green were beginning to find their range as Darragh Connolly, Rob Tyrrell, James Finn and Sean Moore all dissected the posts.
Ballyfin were driving forward in waves but their run was checked by points form Stephen O’Leary and Brian Nugent, but even still they battled away.
Tyrrell landed another point and with the game deep in injury time Finn delivered an exquisite cross-field pass to Sean Moore. He steadied himself, took a look up and spotted Finn’s run, send the ball across the goalmouth where Finn palmed to the net.
It was the old story of too little too late, but Ballyfin will take confidence from this performance and are capable of pulling off a shock or two yet.
O’Dempsey’s will be happy to have ensured their senior status but know improvements will need to be made if they are to carry their league form into the championship.
O’DEMPSEY’S: Podge Bannon; Tommy Kehoe, Shane Nerney, Cormac O’Hora; Robbie Kehoe, Johnny Kelly, Barry Kelly (0-1); Rory Bracken (0-1), Eoin Finlay (0-1); Micheál Finlay (0-2), Eugene Nolan (0-1), Brian Nugent (0-1); Stephen O’Leary (0-5, 0-1f), Peter O’Leary (1-0), Matthew Finlay (1-3).
Subs: Darren Fitzpatrick for Nolan (35m), Richard Whelehan for P. O’Leary (58m)
BALLYFIN GAELS: Robbie Foran; Barry Roche, Shane Farrell, Richie Downey; Alan Strong, David Connolly, Ciarán Fingleton; Nick Cosgrove, James Finn (1-2, 0-1f); Ricky Quillinan (0-1), Eoin Dunphy, Darragh Connolly (0-1); Seán Moore (0-5f), Louis Duff, James Moore (0-1).
Subs: Robert Tyrrell (0-2) for Roche (h/t), Darragh Delaney for Dunphy (48m), Max Connolly for Darragh Connolly (59m), Ciarán Fennelly for David Connolly (59m), Jack Cleary for Quillinan (59m)
Referee: Brendan McCann (Portarlington)