Sunday February 17th – BALLINGARRY BOW OUT WITH HEADS HELD HIGH – By Frank Nelligan
FAI Youth Cup Round 4 (last 16) – Ballingarry 1 (M. Hayes 5) Mervue United 2 (L. Neravan 19, M. Deveney 97) (aet)
A gallant defeat was the lot of Ballingarry in the last 16 of the FAI Youths Cup on Sunday afternoon, beaten 2-1 in extra-time by Galway visitors, Mervue United. There was little between the teams in the first-half and so 1-1 was a fair score at half-time. It was Balllingarry who opened the scoring in the 5th minute, Mark Hayes heading past Patrick Moynihan from a cross by Garret Sparling. Mervue drew level in the 19th minute when Lewis Neravan’s header from Mark Melodin’s cross took a wicked defelction, totally wrongfooting goalkeeper Keith O’Kelly.
Mervue were by far the better team in the second-half, most of which was played in the Ballingarry half. Through well-organised and committed defending, Ballingarry managed to prevent Mervue from converting their superiority into scores, which meant that they were in with a chance themselves of scoring a winner against the run of play. They very nearly did just that in the 80th minute when Hayes was unlucky to see his curling effort from 16 yards come back off the post.
Mervue didn’t manage to maintain their high gear in extra-time but they did score the winner midway through the first period, substitute Mikey Deveney, the smallest player on the pitch, heading inside the right-hand post from a cross by another substitute, Ryan Gallagher.
Long before these Youths players were born there was an ITV show called Opportunity Knocks where host Hughie Green used a clapometer to get an indication from the audience as to their views on the popularity of the various contestants. There was no clapometer in Ballingarry last Sunday but the volume levels from the well-populated stand was a good indicator as to how this game went. The approving roars were fairly constant in the first-half as the home supporters had plenty to enthuse about. Ballingarry were matching the visitors for passing and movement in a high-tempo contest and they were immense in pressing as a team.
After Mervue’s equaliser, Ballingarry continued to show plenty of ambition as they sought to regain the lead. They came close midway through the half when Cian Kirwan fired across goal from a cross by Sparling and his effort was kept in by Hayes, who fired wide of the near post. In the 39th minute, a Kirwan free-kick was almost deflected into the net by a defender but, luckily for Mervue, it hit the side-netting instead.
The Ballingarry supporters had much less to get excited about in the second-half, though there was plenty to admire about the team’s defending. Centre-half Adam Long, who had headed off the line in the 16th minute, was impeccable in his positioning and timing of tackles, while, beside him, the aerial prowess of Luke Flynn proved crucial on a few occasions. The under-pressure back four needed help from their midfield and they certainly got plenty of that from Josh Quille, who made lots of vital tackles and challenges.
Manager Dean Clancy and his father John, who is his assistant, knew that as long as they could keep the tie level they had a player up front in Hayes who could prove the difference if a chance came his way. The Mervue defenders were also aware by now of the threat posed by Hayes and they closed him down in a pincer movement to snuff out the danger when he collected a Quille pass in the 77th minute, three minutes before his curler that deserved a goal but hit the post instead.
The Mervue management knew that it would take something special to break the Ballingarry resistance which is why they brought on two very good attacking players, Deveney and Gallagher, in the 55th minute. Deveney soon caught the eye for his dribbling ability, a not uncommon strength for a player who is close to the ground, and so it was somewhat surprising that it was with a header that he won it for Mervue in extra-time.
The Galway side are now through to the quarter-finals and could progress further as they are a good side, with creative central midfielders in Neravan and David Sheridan, strong runners in wide players Charlie Flipe and Tony Lupe and a clever number 10 in Calvin Tore.
Ballingarry’s FAI Youths odyssey has come to an end but they still have everything to play for on the domestic front. In the Cup competitions, they are through to the semi-finals of the Desmond Youths Cup and have yet to begin their Youths Division 1 League Cup campaign. They will be crowned League Champions if they win their last two league games. The more difficult of the two is undoubtedly the match at home to leaders Broadford United but succeeding in that challenge is definitely within their compass if they can maintain the intensity and quality that they produced in the first-half against Mervue and if they get the same level of enthusiastic support as was evident last Sunday.
Balllingarry: Keith O’Kelly, Kieran Storin, Ciaran Tagney, Adam Long, Luke Flynn, Cian Kirwan, Josh Quille, Garrett Sparling, Mike Molly, Mark Hayes, Dylan Singh. Subs: Andrew Meade for Singh, inj (17 mins), Michael Southgate for Kirwan (62 mins), Nessan Leahy for Molloy, inj (92 mins), Mark Sheehan, Darragh Casey, Brian Mulqueen.
Mervue United: Patrick Moynihan, Mark Melodis, Calpar Zetonski, Ethan Connolly, Matthew Ryan, Charlie Flipe, David Sheridan, Lewis Neravan, Tony Lupe, Calvin Tone, Campbell Idumudia. Subs: Mikey Deveney and Ryan Gallagher for Lupe and Idumudia (55 mins), Jack Rooney, Jordan Finnerty.
Referee: Pat O’Connor.
Ladies Premier – Abbeyfeale United 1 Ballingarry 1 (Coughlan)