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Winning Start in Championship

posted 19 May 2015, 08:54 by Jarlath McCann
Saturday 16th May 2015
T-MET Junior Football Championship 1st Round
 
Ballyhegan Davitts v St. Patrick's Cullyhanna IIs
 
The Athletic Grounds on a fine May evening played host to Ballyhegan's opening match in the Junior Championship for 2015. St. Pat's II's, familiar opponents over the past few seasons, provided the opposition for what was a hard fought game that the Davitts managed to hang on in to take the victory in dramatic circumstances.
The Cullyhanna men opened the scoring after 2 minutes but midfielder Mark Hughes hit back 4 minutes later, getting on the end of a quick free from Conal McKeever and firing over. St. Pat's took the lead again a minute later and threatened to extend it further only to be denied by Jonny McKeever in the Ballyhegan goal. This save spurred the team on and they were level again within the minute, this time through half forward Paul Nixon. Once more St. Pat's went into the lead, this time from a free kick on 15 minutes. The Davitts hit back immeadiately with good build up play from Thomas Reynolds and Conal McKeever resulting in half back Rory McKeever slotting between the posts. Jonny McKeever was called on once more and again denied Cullyhanna a goal. James McKeever was able to capitalise on this giving Ballyhegan the lead for the first time in the game, running through the defence from the right hand side and slotting over.
 
Half time: Ballyhegan 0-04 St. Patrick's IIs 0-03
 
The second half got underway with both sides keen to kick on from what they both would considered poor first half performances. It was St. Pat's got off to the better start, pointing from a short range free to level the game again but Ballyhegan would be much the happier side 10 minutes into the half as they responded to this score by hitting 2-02 in a 5 minute spell without reply. Conal McKeever hit both points - the first following good work from Paul Nixon and the second from a dead ball - before Paul Nixon found himself on the end of a James McKeever through-ball with just the keeper to beat, which he did putting it low to the corner. Two minutes later it was Jack Rafferty, who was covering every blade of grass on the pitch, that found himslef with a goal opportunity that he duly dispatched to open up a 8 point leat for the Davitts. Cullyhanna, to their credit, were far from done. The Davitts seemed to go to sleep and over the next 20 minutes, through a lot of errors from Ballyhegan and some decent play from St. Pat's they reeled off 6 unanswered points to leave 2 in it with less than 5 minutes to go. James McKeever got an important point for Ballyhegan on 57minutes to settle things a little but Cullyhanna hit back within the minute with a free kick. Piling the pressure on now, a goal mouth scramble resulted in the referee awarding a penalty to St. Pat's. With 60 minutes on the clock and 2 points down St. Pat's hoped to sneak victory with a late goal but Ballyhegan captain and goal keeper Jonny McKeever had other ideas, diving low to his right to save the penalty and for the third time on the night deny the Cullyhanna men a goal. 3 minutes of injury time were to be played. St. Pat's hit another point 2 minutes into that to leave the minimum between the sides but in the final seconds Conal McKeever got on the end of a long range free to punch over and seal the victory for the Davitts.
 
Full time: Ballyhegan 2-08 St. Patrick's IIs 0-12
 
A good victory in the end for the Davitts to see them progress to the next round to face Clonmore. Ballyhegan will be concerned with how they let Cullyhanna back into it in the second half and didn't push on to put them away sooner. Though the fantastic football they played in the opening stages of the second half and a captain's performance in nets proved to be just about enough in the end. A lot of hard work will need to be done in training and in the league matched over the summer if we are to pprogress further when we play Clonmore in August.
 
Ballyhegan team lined out as follows: Jonny McKeever (c), Roger McCormick (Shane McKeever 44), Mark McKeever, Shane McKeever, Tony Keegan (Joey Murphy 56), Rory McKeever 0-01, Mark Hughes 0-01, John Guy (Ronan Devlin 14), Paul Nixon 1-01, Thomas Reynolds, James McKeever 0-02, Daniel McKeever, Jack Rafferty 1-00, Conal McKeever 0-03 1f
Subs: James McKeever, Joe McKeever, Shane McKeever, Joey Murphy, Ronan Devlin, James McAtarsney, Stefan McNally, Shane Morgan, Tiernan Power, Michael Hamill, Patrick Marley, PJ McNally 
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