Ballina's Matthew Power shoots with Jack Flynn closing in. Photograph: Bridget Delaney

Ballina end twenty year wait for Minor ‘A’ success

GAA: Ger Gavin North Tipperary Minor ‘A’ Hurling Championship Final
Ballina  2-17
Roscrea  1-15
Report: Liam Hogan in Borrisoleigh
Player of the Match:
Matthew Power (Ballina)
SCORERS – Ballina: Matthew Power 0-8 frees; Kian Donnelly 1-2; David Grace 1-1; Daniel Tighe, Charlie King 0-2 each; Dara King, Cathal O’Donnell 0-1 each.
Roscrea: Conor Donovan 0-9
(6 frees); Darren Doyle 1-2; Kenny Lee 0-3; Dylan Hogan 0-1.
A strong second quarter produced the foundation for Ballina to win their second ever North Tipperary Minor ‘A’ Hurling title, and a first in twenty years, in a deserved five-point victory over Roscrea in last Saturday’s final.

Played in damp conditions, following heavy showers prior to throw-in, both teams served up a good contest without it reaching the dizzy heights of past finals. Ballina won’t mind because after a slow enough start their greater scoring power where seven players contributed, including their six forwards, the new champions were always able to keep their noses in front against a Roscrea side that never knew when to let go.

Ballina won because they were the stronger more physical team but yet they could have lost because of some weaknesses in defence where they allowed Roscrea spurn at three good goal chances and maybe two more that would sit in the half chance category. That and the fact that the Reds conceded far too many frees, some of them needless, which allowed Matthew Power to punish them. The Ballina centre forward (who had a great game) converted eight and could have scored least four more as the normally accurate marksman found the cross-field breeze and the wet conditions a little bit tricky. 

Ballina were on the front foot from the start and were two points in front inside four minutes as Matthew Power from a free and Kian Donnelly scored. Roscrea keeper James Treacy served up some lengthy puckouts and it wasn’t long before his team were level thanks to Kenny Lee and Darren Doyle points.

An angled free by Power in the seventh minute had Ballina in front and the lead doubled through Charlie King. However, Roscrea responded as Dylan Hogan scored brilliantly from the left and after Matthew Power missed the target with two scorable frees it was Conor Donovan who levelled at 0-4 each after fourteen minutes.

However, Ballina continued at a gallop. Sam Loughran and wing back Shane Kelly ran the show and from the 15th to the 22nd minute they outscored Roscrea 1-5 to 0-1 to take control with a seven-point lead. The good run began with midfielder Dara King pointing. At the other end Dylan Hogan had a half chance of a goal but struck wide from close range before Kian Donnelly moved Ballina two in front in the 18th minute.
Donnelly was popping up everywhere and a minute later his effort for a point dropped short. James Treacy appeared to have control, but the ball slipped from his grasp and over the line for a goal. Matthew Power found his accuracy again with his third free before Roscrea’s chief scorer Conor Donovan replied from play in the 22nd minute.

From the puckout, Matthew Power won a free and converted before Roscrea began to find their feet once again. Luke Seacy had been operating as a sweeper but returned to his natural habitat in attack and after another Donovan free it was Seacy who commenced a defence splitting run before offloading for Darren Doyle to score a good goal.

Ballina replied with a string of attacks but had to settle for a Daniel Grace point in the 28th minute. Then it was the turn of Roscrea as Kenny Lee raced in from the left corner before he tested James Power in the goal. Play was called back for a foul on Lee and Donovan was accurate from the free.

Roscrea continued to attack as Darren Doyle spurned a half chance of a goal before another close range free by Donovan close brought a half to an end with Ballina leading 1-10 to 1-8.
Michael Powers’ free in the 32nd minute moved Ballina three clear before Darren Doyle scored a brilliant point from over his left shoulder. Another Power free made it three again but Roscrea appeared to be timing a comeback as two Conor Donovan scores, a free and a 65, left the minimum between the teams 1-2 to 1-11 with 41 minutes gone.

Sensing danger it was Ballina’s turn to restore their three-point lead as wing forward Daniel Tighe scored twice in three minutes before Conor Donavon replied in the 50th minute. Seconds later Charlie King extended Ballina’s lead with point and in the 51st minute a mark of genius by Matthew Power saw the saw Ballina grab the decisive goal when his quick free to the unmarked David Grace allowed the full forward beat James Treacy from close range.
The five point lead looked safe for Ballina but lead the final ten minutes gave anxious moments to the Ballina supporters as the Reds gathered three quick points commencing with a Conor Donovan penalty followed by a Kenny Lee score from play before Doyle hit the crossbar in the 55th minute.

One minute later, Roscrea came within striking distance as Lee scored again but the concession of frees was hitting them hard and in added time it was Matthew Power recovering his accuracy as he sealed the game with two pointed frees including one from ninety metres.

The Man of the match was Matthew Power, Ballina with good support from James Power in goal as well as Josh Egan at full back plus Sam Loughran, Shane Kelly played well in defence. Kian Donnelly and Power led the way in attack as the entire front eight had key moments in the game. As top scorer on 0-10 (0-6f) Conor Donovan was Roscrea’s best with Conor Shanahan, Luke Seacy, Kenny Lee, and Darren Doyle also prominent.  

P.S. There was a minute’s silence prior to the final for the late Karen Meagher of Ballina. Her son Conor was on the bench for Ballina.
TEAMS – Ballina: James Power; Cian Cummins, Josh Egan, David Coughlan; Mark Lyons, Sam Loughran, Shane Kelly; Dara King, Jack Collins; Kian Donnelly, Matthew Power, Daniel Tighe; Charlie King, David Grace, Cathal O’Donnell.
Sub: Braoin Cleary for Tighe (60+5).
Roscrea: James Treacy; Leo Doran, Aaron Delahunty, John Hornet; Conor Phelan, Conor Shanahan, Jack Flynn; Conor Donovan; Oisin Moloney; Luke Seacy, Kenny Lee, Jamie Ryan; Dylan Hogan, Darren Doyle, Ryan Thompson.
Subs: Nathan Carroll for Moloney (58); Joe Brooks for Thompson (60+4).
Referee: Gerry Treacy (Borris-Ileigh)