THE higher the Division, the finer the line separating success from failure but that line can feel like the widest gulf if you’re treading even inches over the wrong side.
Michael Wilson reports from Lisnagelvin
Sunday’s Division Two encounter highlighted the point. It brought together two teams who regularly travel close to the line but with hugely differing outcomes. One team brought experience and a durability that carries them through games even when they are under-performing. The other’s inability to turn to adequate possession into scores - coupled with a tendency to lose composure - proved fatal to hopes of taking anything from the game. The 14-point margin of victory will tell you which was which.
If this game had been played solely between the opposing 45m lines, you would have struggled to pick out which team was leading the Division and which fighting to establish itself in Intermediate football. Take a look at the action inside the respective 45m lines and it was all too obvious.
That’s the challenge for Trasna. Even shorn of some key performers, the Waterside men were well in this game for long periods and had enough opportunities to comfortably double their tally and put Ballymaguigan under some real pressure. That they didn’t owed everything to a nervous looking attack and the continued tendency to get caught up in decisions. While they debated, the South Derry men stormed on and the city side will have learn quickly that, at this level, the game doesn’t wait for post-mortems into every referee decision. Yes, they had just cause for concern with a number frees being easier won at one end than the other but it wasn’t those individual frees that cost Trasna. It was the five or six minute spells immediately after any contentious decision or a missed opportunity that did. Conceding a soft score is one thing. Allowing it to lead to another two or three - or worse still a goal - is another.
Ballymaguigan in contrast were an example in efficiency with Andrew McCartney’s timely return from England providing a superb return of 2-1. Pitted against, Trasna’s most impressive performer, Paul Quigley, the big Ballymaguigan midfielder was excellent. When he wasn’t scoring himself he was providing the ammunition for a full forward line of Gary Burke, Pauric Scullion and Johnny Cassidy that contributed 11 points between them. That was the difference.
Two bursts at the outset of each half had the game won for the visitors and meant Trasna were always playing catch-up. The City side had already registered four wides from very scorable positions before, almost inevitably, Ballymaguigan made them pay when Paddy Cassidy exchanged passes with Burke and the visitors were one up after seven minutes. That would be Cassidy’s last action as he succumbed to a groin problem but in substitute Stephen Crozier, who helped himself to 1-01, the south Derry men had a more than able deputy.
A Cathal Doyle point was quickly followed by the opening goal on 12 minutes as McCartney burst through a gaping hole in the Trasna defence to drill a superb high finish from 20 yards for 1-2 to no score. Burke’s first score of the day, from a free seconds later, meant Trasna had a mountain climb for the remaining three quarters.
Their ascent started almost immediately though, Quigley taking a pass from Conor Houston to score with an effortless shot from long range. Substitute Vinny Morrison, who had replaced hamstring victim Barry McKenna then fed Colin Murray for another good score as Paul Simpson’s men seemed to suddenly remember they could compete at this level. With the visitors now struggling to contain Trasna, the game could have been brought back to a single point when Houston fed Dee Starrett who charged clear through the middle but saw his fiercely struck shot rebound down off the underside of the crossbar and away.
Within seconds Ballymaguigan had stretched their lead at the other end, Johnny Cassidy scoring the first of his four frees after what looked a soft foul on McCartney. From potentially being a one-point game, there was five in it.
Morrison, who played well after being introduced, reduced the deficit but Ballymaguigan had regained their shape and Cassidy and Scullion added further scores to ensure there was always a margin of comfort even when Micheal McNaught and Kevin McKenna helped themselves to scores as the sides went in at 1-07 to 0-05.
What looked a blatant foul on Murray by three Ballymaguigan backs upon the restart proved the catalyst for Trasna to once again take their eye off the ball. Within seconds referee Peadar Lagan had blown for a free at the other end as Damian Doherty was adjudged to have pulled back Scullion. In comparison to the Murray incident it looked ridiculously harsh but it wasn’t Cassidy’s subsequent free that put Trasna out of the game, it was the 2-02 Ballymaguigan tagged on within four minutes that proved terminal to home hopes.
With the city unsettled, McCartney once again charged through the wide open Lisnagelvin spaces with not a Trasna back in sight and his finish was as emphatic as it had been first half. That made it 2-08 to 0-05. Crozier pointed within seconds but before that minute had elapsed, the same player had the ball in the back of the Trasna net after being picked out by an astute Sean Brady pass. At 3-10 to 0-05 it was game over with still 20 minutes remaining.
Trasna regained their shape and once again and set about chipping away at the Ballymaguigan advantage but without ever threatening to get back into the game. At least three goal chances were spurned but the visitors always had enough in the tank and seemed able to go through the gears at will.
The city side’s frustrating habit of loosing concentration at key times never allowed them a foothold in the game and Ballymaguigan were far too experienced to pass up the gifts on offer.
Doire Trasna: Ciaran McGowan; Damian Doherty, Daryl McDermott, Gary Murray; Aaron Callaghan (0-1), Conor Houston (0-1, 1f), Daniel Nash; Paul Quigley (0-1), Micheal McNaught (0-2); Damien Starrett, Barry McKenna, Kevin McKenna (0-1); Sean McNaught, Enda Lindsay, Colin Murray (0-3). (Subs) Vincent Morrison (0-1) for B McKenna, 19mins; Nial Callan for D Nash, 36mins; Liam Fleming for D Starrett, 52mins.
Ballymaguigan: Gary Mulholland, Tomas Brady, Tony Walls, Patsy Bateson; Micky Spiers, Brendan Henry, James Cassidy; Andrew McCartney (2-1), Paul Doyle; Cathal Doyle (0-1), Sean Brady, Paddy Cassidy (0-1); Gary Burke (0-4, 1f), Pauric Scullion (0-3, 1f), Johnny Cassidy (0-4, 4f), (Subs) Stephen Crozier (1-1) for P Cassidy (inj), 10mins; David Cassidy for C Doyle, 45mins; Christopher Doyle for J Cassidy 52mins; Ciaran Bateson for G Burke, 58mins.
Referee: Peadar Lagan