Ballina’s Michael Breen breaks free of Galtee Rovers David Harold Barry. Photo: Eamonn McGee

Returning O’Brien inspires Ballina into Intermediate Football semi-finals

GAA: FBD Insurance County Intermediate Football Championship Quarter Final

Ballina 2-12

Galtee Rovers 0-9

Report: Joe Scully in Templetuohy

Ballina qualified for the County Intermediate Football Championship semi-finals with a well-deserved nine-point victory over a gallant Galtee Rovers side on Saturday.

Their victory was based on an excellent defensive performance as they hounded their opposition all through and never gave them any time on the ball, forcing them into making mistakes and turning the ball over throughout the hour.

Unbeaten Galtee Rovers were the quickest out of the block, and were a point up inside the first minute from a free from the impressive Shane Egan at full forward. Rovers would continue to put on the early pressure and caused problems for the Ballina rear-guard with diagonal balls into Egan who was causing all sorts of problems as the Ballina defence struggled to get to grips with him. The West Tipp side added to their lead in the ninth minute with a superb score from play by centre-back Daire Egan from all of 45 metres.

Ballina slowly started to come into the game after this, in the main thanks to the likes of James Hanley, Michael Breen and Eoghan Power, and played some good football but struggled when they got into the final third and would hit three wides in a row all from scoreable positions. However, they would finally get on the scoresheet in the fourteenth minute from Steven O’Brien, after a Rovers kick-out went wrong. Ballina, levelled four minutes later from a free by Eoghan Power.

Rovers retook the lead in the 21st minute with a Stephen O’Dwyer effort from play. That would be their last score of the half as Ballina took over and scored the last four points, firstly a free from O’Brien which was followed by an inspirational Sam Loughran effort from play from all of 50 metres. The impressive Ben King, who worked tirelessly, added the next score with a free from near the side-line. King added another and his second in injury time this time from play to leave Ballina 0-6 to 0-3 up at the break.

Ballina were certainly out of the blocks a lot quicker in the second half, and had two points on the board in the opening two minutes, both from the boot of the Steven O’Brien who was becoming an ever-increasing influence in his first football game of the club championship after returning from injury. His first point came after he caught a great mark close to goal, and his second was a great effort from 45 metres out.

Galtee Rovers responded with a score of their own a minute later from a Stephen O’Dwyer effort from play which Ballina keeper Jack Brady had to tip over the bar, to leave just four in it. However, that would be as good as it got for the Rovers as the game would effectively be taking away from them within the next two minutes, as Ballina would score two goals, to put them ten points up.

The first goal came from some quick-thinking after Steven O’Brien had won a free close to goal, he played a quick one-two with David Grace, with O’Brien finishing emphatically from close range.

The second goal was scored by David Grace as a long ball broke in front of goal and he got there before the outrushing keeper and punched to the back of the net. A double blow for Galtee Rovers for which they would never recover from, despite them getting the next two scores, the first from O’Dwyer from play, which was followed by a free from Shane Egan, to leave it 2-8 to 0-6 after 40 minutes.

Their cause wasn’t helped two minutes later when substitute Tony Egan was black carded for what appeared to be dissent after he was called back after taking a free too quickly.

Galtee Rovers made it three in a row in the 45th minute with another Egan free, but Ballina would get the next two scores to keep Rovers at arms distance, the first from James Hanley, after a lovely team move. This was followed up by another effort from Steven O’Brien from play.

Ballina outscored Rovers three points to two in the closing stages, to run out comfortable winners, with the final say in the game rather fittingly going to Steven O’Brien with a point with the last kick of the game.

Player of the Match: Steven O’Brien (Ballina)

Ballina: Jack Brady (6); Paddy O’Donovan (6), Josh Egan (7), Terry O’Halloran (6); Conor Power (6), James Hanley (0-1, 8), Sam Loughran (0-1, 7); Conor Maguire (7), Michael Breen (7); Ben King (0-2, 1f) 8), Stephen O’Brien (1-6, 0-2f) 9), Jack O’Mahoney (6); Eoghan Power (0-1f, 7), David Grace (1-0, 6), Tom Lee (6).

Subs: Matthew Power (6) for E Power (38), Eoghan Dalton (6) for O’Mahoney (40), Finn Looney (6) for C Power (50), Cathal O’Donnell (0-1, 7) for Grace (52), Jerry O’Brien (NR) for King (56).

Galtee Rovers: Niall Daly (6); Sean Gubbins (6), Conor O’Sullivan (6), Darren McGrath (7); Eric Grogan (6), Daire Egan (0-2, 1 ‘45) 7), Shane Power (6); David Harold Barry (6), Kevin Power (6); Stephen Moloney (6), Sean Daly (0-1, 7), Eoin Halpin (6); Stephen O’Dwyer (0-2, 8), Shane Egan (0-4, 3f) 8), Tony O’Brien (6).

Subs: Tony Egan (6) for Grogan (51); Cian O’Dwyer (6) for O’Brien (51); Eamonn O’Connell (6) for K Power (56), Jim Quirke (NR) for Daly (56).

Referee: Jonathan Cullen (Loughmore/Castleiney).