13 Aug 2022

Historic win for Ballinagar in League Final as long famine is ended

Historic win for Ballinagar as long famine is ended

Morgan Tynan about to receive the cup from County Board vice chairman James Murphy

THERE were great celebrations in Ballyfore on Friday evening as Ballinagar ended a long famine with a win over Rhode in the Division 4 Football League final.

Brosna Press Division 4 Football League Final

Ballinagar 3-10
Rhode 2-9

It was Ballinagar's first title since 1988 and only their third in their long history. They won the Junior Football Championship in 1988 while they won a Minor Football Championship in 1932 – they were resoundingly beaten by Belmont in that final but won on an objection as the winners had fielded a few “fairly hairy players”!

Ballinagar had believed that their foundation date was 1916 but they were playing much earlier than that. In fact they were beaten by Frankford in a senior football semi-final in 1892 but the GAA was on its knees at that time, not far from going out of existence with only a handful of clubs competing in both codes in Offaly. The final against Banagher was never played and the years prior to 1894 were subsequently declared null and void by the Offaly GAA County Board, which was only officially formed in 1893. The official Offaly championships only started in 1896, though there were proper, competitive championships played before that and they really should be on the record.

For years, Ballinagar came and went. The Killeigh parish was united under the St Mary's banner from 1942 to 1946 and they were out of existence from the late 1950s and most of the 1960s.

A small generally junior club, success has been very rare and while a fourth tier league, Division 4 would only be of consequential significance to most clubs, it was a very important milestone for Ballinagar.

Numbers were an issue for the club for years but this has changed in the past decade. Considerable house building took place in the village from the 1990s and a new generation of children grew up, to the extent that Ballinagar had the majority of players on the Na Fianna side that won the Minor Football Championship in 2019. Ballinagar's health is evidenced by the fact that they had a key player, Morgan Tynan on the Offaly side that won the All-Ireland U-20 Football Championship in 2021. Four players from Ballinagar, Tynan, Diarmuid Finneran, Geordi O'Meara and Adam Strong played for Offaly U-20 footballers this year and various others have cropped up on county underage squads in recent years.

It means that Ballinagar are among the favourites for the Junior Football Championship this year, though the presence of Kilcormac-Killoughey means that this grade is far from predictable and if K/K get their act together, they won't be beaten. Ballinagar also have a lot of numbers at the moment, fielding a second team this year and they are playing Ballycumber in the Division 5 Football League final tonight.

This was a significant step forward for Ballinagar and they had to do it the hard way against a good Rhode side, coming back from 2-8 to 1-8 down with just eight minutes left to pull it out of the fire.

It was a frantic, dramatic end to an entertaining closely game of football. Ballinagar stared defeat in the face and had they lost, they would have had absolutely no complaints but they showed real character to storm home. A crucial moment was a second yellow card for Rhode's Cian Murpy with sixteen minutes left. The impact that had on the game is shown by the fact that Ballinagar outscored them by 2-3 to 0-1 when they had the extra man.

It was played in poor conditions but both sides produced a decent standard of football with hard but fair hitting and good scores

Rhode played against the wind in the first half but started well with a Gavin Young goal giving them an early 1-1 to no score lead. Ballinagar settled then and got six points on the trot with Tynan getting two from play and Geordi O'Meara getting three.

Rhode responded with a second goal, finished by Shane Lowry and set up by Gavin Young. Ballinagar got their noses back in front with a crucial penalty goal from Morgan Tynan, awarded somewhat harshly for a foul on Geordi O'Meara. Ballinagar led by 1-8 to 2-3 at half time and had loads of work to do as they faced into the wind in the second half.

Rhode took complete control in the second half, controlling play and the ball. They were on top in almost every sector and five points on the trot had them ahead, 2-8 to 1-8 after just 37 minutes. It was looking very blue for Ballinagar at this stage but they settled down after the Rhode dismissal. Geordi O'Meara got their first second half point in the 52nd minute and they got a second penalty two minutes later – Morgan Tynan obliged once again, blasting to the net to give them the lead.

Harry Jones levelled for Rhode but just when extra time loomed, Ballinagar struck gold. Robbie Gallagher, an Offaly minor last year, gave them the lead from a mark that he did very well to win. And three minutes into injury time, Ray Daly sealed it with their third goal as Ballinagar got out of jail.


The Scorers

Ballinagar: Morgan Tynan 2-1 (2-0 Penalties), Geordi O'Meara 0-4 (0-2 Frees, 0-1 '45), Ray Daly 1-0, Ronan Crombie 0-2, Robbie Gallagher 0-2 (0-1 Mark).

Rhode: Shane Lowry 1-3 (0-1 Free, 0-1 (Mark), Gavin Young 1-1 (0-1 Free), Harry Jones 0-1, William Conlon 0-1, James Murphy 0-1, Stephen Hannon 0-1, Barry Coffey 0-1.

The Teams

Ballinagar: Ryan Kinahan; Brian Malone, Diarmuid Finneran, Eoin McGuinness; Ryan Dunne, Declan Crombie, Kevin Beirne; Jack Sheil, Morgan Tynan (Capt.); Geordi O'Meara, Ryan Strong, Ronan Crombie; Jacob Beatty, Adam Strong, Robbie Gallagher. Subs: Craig Strong for Ryan Strong (inj. 15 mins), Adam Joyce for Jack Sheil (33 mins), Ray Daly for Jacob Beatty (45 mins), David McElduff for Declan Crombie (inj. 57 mins).

Rhode: Phil O’Connell, Joe Spollen, Lorcan Reilly, Mossy Muldoon; Harry Jones, Garrett McNamee, Jack Kilmurray; Stephen Hannon, William Conlon; Barry Coffey, Mark Rigney, Cian Murphy; Shane Lowry, Gavin Young, Glenn O’Connell. Subs: James Murphy for Jack Kilmurray (inj. 21 mins), James Coffey for Mark Rigney (50 mins), Dan O’Brien for William Conlon (56 mins).

Referee: Mark Fallon (Clara).

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