Moyne/Templetuohy’s Conor Bowe goes high to gain possession watched by Ballina’s Tom Lee.

Ballina make winning start in second tier

GAA: FBD Insurance County Intermediate Football Championship Group 2

Ballina 0-11

Moyne-Templetuohy 0-3

Report: Thomas Conway in Moneygall

And so, the journey continues. 2022 was always going to represent a complex challenge for Kevin Byrne and the Ballina footballers. Could they translate last year’s junior championship heroics into a grade which is twice as competitive and probably three times as intense? Could they rediscover the magic and maybe, just maybe, secure back-to-back county titles and successive promotions? Both questions remain unanswered, but they’ve made a good start.

On Saturday evening, the North side hit the ground running, punching holes in a Moyne-Templetuohy defence which lacked structural coherence or solidity.

Perhaps the Mid-Tipp outfit were still reeling from their unflattering defeat to Silvermines in the Premier Intermediate Hurling Championship a week previously, or perhaps they just weren’t as invested in the cause, but it should be noted that they are significantly understrength - a string of injuries and player departures depleting their panel of its usual resources.

Any which way, Ballina were comprehensively better, rattling off four unanswered points within the first twelve minutes and laying the foundations for a convincing win which should help them to progress from their three-team group.

The most impressive aspect of Ballina’s play? Undoubtedly their shot execution. Teddy Doyle set the tone. In the fourth minute the former Templenoe forward swept over a twenty-metre side-line which David Clifford or Shane Walsh would have been proud of, lacing the ball perfectly between the posts from the most uncompromising of angles.

His side would add three more points in the subsequent eight minutes, patiently retaining the ball before cutting Moyne apart with incisive runs and crisp finishing. Michael Breen pinged over an impressive effort, Jack O’Mahoney knocked another between the sticks, before Conor Maguire worked a channel through the centre to add Ballina’s fourth.

In fairness to the Mid-Tipp outfit, they started to emerge as the half wore on, bounding forward in waves but failing to execute when it mattered most. Their first score eventually arrived in the 23rd minute, Conor Bowe curling over with his instep, but Ballina responded on the double, Doyle, and Ben King clipping over frees to quell any hint of a Moyne revival.

Ballina might have been quicker in the transition and more clinical in front of goal, yet their half-time lead of 0-6 to 0-1 seemed far from unbreakable.

There was a sense, on both sides, that Moyne could still salvage something from this game, and although Doyle kicked the first point of the second-half, a brace of quick-fire scores from midfielder Ciarán Lloyd and corner-forward John Hassett suddenly propelled the Mid side back into contention.

Even as the last quarter began to elapse and Ballina pushed further ahead, the feeling of jeopardy remained, but a quartet of points from Grace, Egan, Brady, and O’Donnell ultimately proved decisive.

On reflection, Moyne-Templetuohy will rue their infuriating total of eight scorable wides, but Ballina are becoming more polished with each passing week. They now know how to finish a game - an indispensable art for any team with their sights on a county title.

Next up for Ballina is a tie against Mullinahone after the South side were given a walkover by Borrisokane who have pulled out of the championship.

Player of the Match: Teddy Doyle (Ballina)

Ballina: Jack Brady (0-1f, 7); Paddy O’Donovan (7), Josh Egan (0-1, 7), Terry O’Halloran (7), Sam Loughran (7), Tom Lee (7), James Hanly (7), Michael Breen (0-1, 7), Conor Maguire (8), Ben King (0-1f, 8), Teddy Doyle (0-3, 1f, 1 side-line) 8), Dara King (7), David Grace (0-1, 7), Jack O’Mahoney (0-1, 7), Matthew Power (7).

Subs: Conor Power (7) for D King (47); Eoghan Dalton (7) for M Power (47); Cathal O’Donnell (0-1, 7) for Grace (60+2).

Moyne-Templetuohy: Barry Ryan (7); Shane Lowe (6), Pearce Meade (6), Louis Everard (6), Mark Ryan (6), John Coughlan (6), Jack Taylor (7), Ciarán Lloyd (0-1, 7), Paudie Gleeson (6), Diarmuid Fogarty (7), Conor Bowe (0-1, 7), Diarmuid Leahy (6), Éanna Guilfoyle (6), Donnacha Dunne (6), John Hassett (0-1, 7).

Subs: Niall Russell (7) for Gleeson (37); Kieran Larkin (7) for Ryan (43).

Referee: Pat O’Mahony (Kiladangan).