Ballina win mighty battle
By WILLIE O'CONNOR
Ballina 28-22 Seapoint
The heart strings of hundreds of Ballina people were tested to the absolute limit in Heffernan Park yesterday when the home side emerged victorious from a thrilling, tension-filled, Titanic struggle against Seapoint in the All Ireland League.
Over the past few months, the great Ballina adventure has produced more thrills and spills than any Hollywood blockbuster and that was certainly the case by the Moy on Saturday when seven tries and a cartload of drama decorated a wonderful afternoon.
The final whistle was greeted with great joy as a savage rearguard action in the final five minutes kept out the marauding Dubliners and sent Ballina six points clear at the top of the AIL Division 2C table.
Ballina began the game explosively and Kieran Lindsay capitalised on some excellent interplay between forwards and backs to get over for a try in the opening minutes.
However, Seapoint, who came into the match on a three-game winning streak, hit back almost immediately when some smart play in the loose, sent flanker Cian O’Gorman over to level the scores at five apiece.
This was a setback for the table-toppers and they had to set off in search of the lead again.
Shane Clarke, Paul Newell, Tim Wallace, Luke Sweeney and Andrew West were dynamic in the pack while Alex Corduff and Calum Quinn were tackling and carrying hard in the middle.
Ballina pressure paid off in the 15th minute when Quinn picked off a Seapoint pass and raced in under the posts for Lindsay to add the conversion.
Ballina kept the pedal to the metal after that and looked to be in for another try but a loose pass was intercepted and winger Theo Olivier raced the length of the pitch to level matter again after 25 minutes and it was turning into an epic.
Seapoint hit the front for the first time eight minutes before half time when full-back Bain Campion knocked over a penalty and the large traveling support were sensing victory but Ballina had other ideas.
The see-saw nature of the game continued after that when a foundation was laid by the Ballina pack and slick handling from Alex Corduff, Quinn and Chris O’Neill picked out Michael Cribben on the right and the winged-wonder set off towards the try line to leave the home team ever so slightly in front, 17-15 at the break.
A great second half was promised and the two teams delivered it in spades.
Ballina powered forward from the restart with great desire from Daniel Molloy, Bradley Nealon, Mickey Murphy nd Wallace, but needed a more clinical edge to extend their lead. They eventually broke through the well-organised Seapoint rearguard after 50 minutes when Alex Corduff got on the end of a fine move and they were seven points clear.
However, everyone knew there was still a long way to go and a Ballina mistake allowed Seapoint full-back Bain Campion race 50 meters to touch down under the posts and level the score going down the pipe.
Neal Moylett who had been very influential left the field injured at that stage and Ballina’s league credentials were being tested to the limit. They responded brilliantly.
Time and again they stepped into the white heat of battle with Billy McVann, Brian Boland and John Keaveney adding great impetus and were eventually rewarded when Seapoint indiscretions were punished by excellently-struck penalties from Dylan Prendergast to put six between them with time almost up.
However, there were five minutes injury time to be played and for the entirety of that, Seapoint were within inches of a match-winning try. It must be said, during that nerve-wracking period, the discipline defending of the Ballina men was courageous, composed and ferocious.
Richard Morrow, Mickey Murphy, Fergal Tully, Quinn, Corduff and their colleagues were majestic in their determination to secure the win and when the final whistle sounded they had extended their lead at the top of the table to six points.
Next on the list is a trip to Thomond next Saturday for another epic.
BALLINA: C O’Neill, B Nealon, C Quinn, A Corduff, M Cribben, K Lindsay, M Murphy; P Newell, L Sweeney, S Clarke, A West, R Morrow, F Tully, T Wallace, D Molloy
Replacements; B McVann, B Boland, J Keaveney, N Moylett, D Prendergast