Munster defeat doesn't take shine off successful Ballina campaign
By Thomas Conway
Complacency did not lose Ballina their Munster Club Intermediate Football semi-final on Sunday.
They would have recognised and respected the danger which Na Piarsaigh posed, despite the fact the Limerick county champions entered this fixture as quiet underdogs.
Ultimately, Ballina’s defeat was a consequence of ineffectual attacking and perhaps even slight rustiness. Never mind the penalty shoot-out. Once a game reaches that kind of dramatic climax, winning effectively becomes a lottery.
Ballina lost this game in the first-half of normal time and the second period of extra-time. They failed to harness their advantage, failed to clinically execute at crucial moments. Their overall display was not emblematic of their true selves. Ballina are unequivocally a better football side than the performance which they produced in Kilmallock. Deep down, they will know that, and this defeat will hurt all the more because of it.
Speaking in the aftermath of the game, manager Kevin Byrne expressed disappointment in his side’s overall display. The Ballina boss felt his team underperformed, and while he lamented the mistakes made, he was keen to draw attention to their opponents.
Na Piarsaigh’s display was far from flawless, but the Ballina boss felt the Limerick champions were tactically astute and superbly organised. They will enter the Munster Final as outright underdogs, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t have the capability to trouble Rathmore of Kerry.
“We have to give credit to Na Piarsaigh. They didn’t win an intermediate championship in Limerick by being a bad team,” he said.
“They came with a gameplan, they were well prepared, they never gave up at any stage - even in extra-time when they were two points down. They kept coming back at us consistently. So, we have to give credit to Na Piarsaigh and wish them well in the Munster Final against Rathmore.”
Despite last Sunday’s defeat, Byrne’s appraisal of Ballina’s 2022 season remains hugely positive. And how couldn’t it be. The North Tipp side captured a second successive county title, creating history by becoming a senior football club and thus achieving the objective which both the management and the players had devised at the beginning of the year.
“With regard to our own year as a whole, yes, Sunday was a disappointing day, but our number one objective at the start of the year was to become a senior football team, and we achieved that,” he said.
“We probably achieved it quicker than we thought we would when we started this whole project almost three years ago. So, we’re delighted to have won the intermediate championship.
“On reflection, the year was a success, and that is down to the players. They put a huge effort in, they left no stone unturned in terms of preparation. Everything which we asked them to do, they did.”
Ballina’s ambition knows no bounds. It is far too early to start forging predictions as to how 2023 will play out, but both Byrne and his players will almost certainly be eyeing Clonmel Commercials’ county championship crown and quietly hoping that they can contend for that title next season. The 2022 fairy-tale finally came to an end last Sunday in Kilmallock, but perhaps this year was just another chapter in a far broader story.