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Rangers Rock Ballymore in Extra Time Thriller

posted 27 Nov 2017, 14:20 by rúnaí Cill Daingin   [ updated 27 Nov 2017, 14:58 ]
ABBEY RANGERS V BALLYMORE   Under 15 League Final   26th November 2017   at Hawkfield 
Abbey Rangers finished the season making it a clean sweep of titles from under 14 through to under 16 with our under 15 team capturing the Division 4 county title following a titanic battle with Ballymore in a bitterly cold Hawkfield on Sunday 26th November. With Ballymore reaching the final following an unbeaten run and our lads having lost their only game to today’s opposition, this was always going to be a tight one.

With the thermometer struggling to reach 6 degrees and a biting wind blowing across the Hawkfield pitch the referee got the game going. Wing back Sean Culleton opened the scoring with a fine point from distance before Ballymore equalised, midfielder Daniel Gilbert had us back in front soon afterwards with a pointed free. We then had a twenty minute stalemate where both sides created several chances but just couldn’t score. Rather than poor shooting, it was mainly down to the tenacious tackling of both defences that meant that scores were in short supply.

Daniel Gilbert eventually got the scoreboard ticking again with two points scored one either side of a well taken Mikey Delahunt goal and Jack Curran was in hard luck as he almost managed to toe poke another goal following a scramble in the square. Still, Rangerswere in a strong position going in 1-04 to 0-01 up at the break.

Ballymore stormed into the second half with three points in the opening few minutes to reduce the deficit to three. Ballymore then came close to an equalising goal,  a combination of Sean Fitzgerald and John Kelly somehow kept it out. Two more Ballymore points left us just one ahead and it took some superb defending from Russell Grattan, Dara Perry and Sean McDonald to prevent the game from slipping from our grasp.

Eoin Connolly and Daniel Gilbert began to regain control around the middle as we went back on the front foot and attacked Ballymore with some cutting runs through the heart of their defence. But we had goals on our minds when points might have been the simpler option and several chances were missed as the men from the Wicklow border always seemed to be there to block or tackle at the critical moment.  

Jamie Robinson played in Dara Byrne for our first score of the second half with almost 20 minutes on the clock and Mikey Delahunt and Daniel Gilbert raised further white flags as we went four ahead with just minutes to go.

But Ballymore weren’t ready to give up and punished a defensive slip up to score a late goal before kicking an equalising point straight from the kick out. The referee’s whistle sounded full time as Ballymore attacked again and it was greeted with relief by the Kildangan and Ballykelly folk as we had almost had ‘our pockets picked’.

As Extra Time commenced the temperature for those of us shivering on the side-lines seemed to drop even more, however inside the white lines it was blistering! Daniel Gilbert had his opening point cancelled out by a Ballymore free before team captain Mikey Delahunt scored a cracking solo goal to put us ahead again. Eoin Connolly then pointed to put us four up as the first of the two ten minutes periods came to a close.

Following a quick change of ends, Daniel Gilbert and Eoin Connolly put us six ahead as we looked to be running away with it; Ballymore came back once more. Three points in quick succession left just a goal between the sides and John Kelly made his second goal line clearance of the day to maintain our lead. 

As we pushed forward again Rory McGrath almost put Rory Kenna in on goal, but the Ballymore defence intercepted before Daniel Gilbert won it back and kicked the insurance score as we ran out winners on a 2-12 to 1-11 score line.

While our players in the central positions were superb and did what they were expected to do, today’s victory was also built on the performance of the men in the wings and corners.  Cole Grattan and John Kelly played their hearts out in the corner back positions and Cormac Finnegan never put a foot wrong when he went back there. 

Russel Grattan and Sean Culleton were solid in the wing back positions and were also a constant threat going forward. Aaron O’Connor and Ciaran Byrne worked tirelessly from start to finish and Dara Byrne and Stephen White were constantly on the move in the inside corners.
And we won’t forget Cian Murtagh and Thomas Browne who have both had a great year but missed out today through injury, and a special word for Daniel Gilbert who played three quarters of the game with a broken hand.

Overall it was a great team effort and well done to all the panel and to our mentors Fergal, Damien & Trevor.

Match Report Declan McGrath

Abbey Rangers V Ballymore Under 15 Final