AIB GAA Football All Ireland Junior Club Championship Final – Ballinasloe (Galway) 0-14 Kenmare Shamrocks (Kerry) 0-10

Ballinasloe shrug off jersey cock-up

By Daragh Ó Conchúir for the Irish Examiner newspaper

Ballinasloe 0-14 Kenmare 0-10

A day that got off to a most inauspicious start improved beyond measure for Ballinasloe, who donned the jerseys of Dublin club Na Fianna, to mark their return to intermediate football as All-Ireland JFC champions. One of the most storied clubs in Galway tradition, lying second in the county’s SFC roll of honour with 20 titles, Ballinasloe have fallen on very hard times in recent years. They relished a return to the spotlight and thrived in it, refusing to be affected by the potential mood-sapper of not being able to perform at Croke Park in their own jerseys.

“We just left them behind us” said a smiling Ballinasloe manager, Séan Riddell. “It was unfortunate but we used it as a bit of banter inside. We said ‘This is probably lucky’. Lads were having a joke saying ‘What Dublin team won the All-Ireland and never played in it?’ “But the lad that forgot the jerseys never forgets anything, and he was in bits. All the lads, they didn’t care. If we had to go out in pink jerseys today, we didn’t care. We had a mission and we really wanted to do it today.”

That was evident as they were the dominant unit, apart from the opening and closing ten minutes of the game, a fact conceded by Kenmare trainer, Enda Crowley. “It’s been a fairytale story but there was no fairytale ending” said Crowley. “It just didn’t happen. The better team won on the day. They blew us out of it in the first half and we were only able to get back into the game the last ten or 15 minutes of the second half. “The last day we took to it like ducks to water. I don’t know was it nerves or was it the occasion but something did affect our players today because‘cos we are better than that. We showed that in the last three games but we didn’t perform today.”

Kenmare had most of the early possession but Darragh McCormack scored at the other end from Ballinasloe’s first attack, in the fifth minute. That came from his left and he followed up with a point. The Galway men got a grip around midfield as they resolved to break the ball, and people like Pádraic Cunningham, who landed a super first half score, hoovered up the breaks. Ballinasloe led 0-7 to 0-4 at half-time and it was one-way traffic as they increased the margin to seven points, when Paul Whelehan landed their ninth successive score in the 41st minute. Paul O’Connor had been a very real threat early on for Kenmare but was starved of possession after the opening quarter. He did end a 25 minute scoreless period for Shamrocks from a free and as Ballinasloe retreated into their shells, the margin reduced to a goal. Stanley Harrington had a shot from a tight angle smothered by Nathan King – who had made a stunning finger-tip save from O’Connor in the first half – and when Whelehan landed a late point for Ballinasloe, the celebrations could begin in earnest.

Scorers for Ballinasloe: D McCormack, P Whelehan, K Kelly (2fs) 0-3 each, P Cunningham 0-2, D Burke, J Shaughnessy, L Lynch (f) 0-1 each.

Scorers for Kenmare: P O’Connor 0-5 (1f), DJ Brennan 0-4 (3fs), S O’Leary 0-1.

Ballinasloe: N King; E Fenton, D Nevin, J Shaughnessy; N Hynes, K Kelly, S Kenny; L Lynch, L Tierney; D Burke, P Cunningham, G Canavan; D McCormack, M Colohan, P Whelehan.

Subs: C Casey for Kenny (53); S Cogavin for Colohan (56).

Kenmare: H Murphy; D Crowley, T O’Sullivan, C O’Sullivan; A O’Callaghan, S O’Leary, A Crowley; S Dolton, J Wharton; R O’Sullivan, M Crowley, A O’Leary; DJ Brennan, P O’Connor, K O’Sullivan.

Subs: S Duncan for A Crowley (21); P O’Dwyer for R O’Sullivan (26); S Harrington for Dalton (45); S O’Brien for Harrington (54).

Referee: C Branagan (Down)

Match Preview

AIB All-Ireland Junior Football Club Final Preview

Kenmare Shamrocks (Kerry) v Ballinasloe (Galway), Croke Park, 2pm

Although Sunday’s AIB All-Ireland Junior club final is over two weeks later than initially planned due to the Kenmare Shamrocks-Castleknock saga, the third tier club showpiece has been given a fitting place in the schedule as the curtain-raiser for the M. Donnelly Interprovincial final at Croke Park.

After three games in Munster, Kenmare no doubt had planned to negotiate their semi-final hurdle at the first attempt. However, what started out as a regular All-Ireland Junior club semi-final turned into a gripping trilogy that reached a far wider audience.

Just 15 days after finally overcoming their Dublin rivals, Kenmare are back in Croke Park – and this time there’s silverware on the line as they face Galway’s finest in Ballinasloe. That 1-17 to 1-12 victory over Castleknock in the second replay finally separated the sides after 220 minutes of extraordinary action that took place in Mitchelstown, Cashel and finally Dublin 3.

In their three games in Munster, Kenmare enjoyed 23 (Kilmacthomas, Waterford), seven (Rockchapel, Cork) and six-point (Cappamore, Limerick) winning margins, before they met the seemingly immovable force that was the Dublin side in the All-Ireland series.

In keeping with the tone of their campaign to date, captain and full-forward Paul O’Connor was Kenmare’s star man in the second replay, scoring 1-8, including 1-5 from play, to sink Castleknock. O’Connor, a member of the Kerry panel from 2005 to 2010 and a three-time senior All-Ireland winner, has now scored a remarkable 2-43 in six games.

It’s comforting for Kenmare to know that they already performed so well at HQ, and with no real signs of stage fright. As well as Paul O’Connor, Mark Crowley and Alan O’Leary showed well in attack that night, while Hughie Murphy, Dara Crowley, Seánie O’Leary, Jimmy Wharton and Kevin O’ Sullivan have been their most consistent performers throughout a stellar campaign.

All the while, Ballinasloe have been waiting patiently for the Castleknock-Kenmare saga to conclude. Ballinasloe have scored 9-34 in three Connacht championship games without conceding a single goal. An excellent campaign started by beating Clifden after a replay in the Galway Junior Championship final, 2-16 to 4-9. Then they breezed past Leitrim Gaels in the Connacht quarter-final, and beat The Neale (Mayo) in the semi-final before winning a first-ever provincial title with a 4-11 to 0-9 win over Roscommon side Oran in the Connacht final. They continued that impressive record in the semi-final by beating Armagh’s An Port Mór by 2-7 to 1-10.

Sunday’s game will be a whole new experience for the Galway champions while Pat O’Connor’s Kenmare side know exactly what it’s like to prepare for a big game in Croke Park. Ballinasloe captain Keith Kelly, who takes their frees and is the team’s key man at centre-back, has been here before with the Galway minors, winning an All-Ireland medal on the side that beat Derry in the final in 2007. Nathan King, Liam Lynch, Paul Whelehan, Keith Kelly and Gary Canavan are their other players to watch.

Tickets for this Croke Park double header are priced at €10 for Adults, €5 for Juveniles with all proceeds going to Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital, Crumlin. Tickets can be purchased through www.gaa.ie/tickets or other usual outlets.