Championship fare is all about winning, no matter the margin, no matter the manner in which it is achieved!
Without their mercurial midfielder Ciaran Herron Kevin Lynch’s struggled for much of this Quarter-final clash and trailed by three points at half time.
Indeed Ballinascreen looked the more likely side to progress to a semi final meeting with Swatragh but then Kevin Lynch’s have mastered the art of doing enough and no more to win championship games.
It was Sean McBride’s 17th minute goal which had ‘Screen in a position of strength from early on. Cathal Brunton’s ball towards Benny Herron broke in behind and Ciaran Mackle got caught the wrong side of McBride. The former Derry goal-poacher was never going to miss from 10m.
Ballinascreen had looked the more threatening side up to that point, with Herron, who scored the game’s opening point, showing well at full-forward. Kieran Conway’s diagonal ball to Aaron Kelly drew a free from Conal McCloskey after seven minutes to make it 0-02 to 0-01 to ‘Screen, and there were no further scores before McBride’s goal.
The gap had only been reduced from four to three in the 13 remaining minutes before half-time, but the balance had started to swing. Conor McSorley’s excellent performance on the edge of the square was keeping Patrick McCloskey out of the game, but the Lynch’s tightened up at the back after McBride’s goal.
Their half-back line and midfield started to dominate under puck outs and between the 18th and 25th minutes, they hit four unanswered points. Two of them were Kelly frees, but the standout score which levelled the game came from Kevin Hinphey. Charging down the right, he was met by Philip McGlade coming across to tackle. Hinphey just stopped dead as McGlade charged on past. Then he dropped the ball on to his hurl, 65m out and hit the best point of the day.
‘Screen, to their credit, picked themselves up and again Aaron Kelly was at the heart of it, winning a free for Sean McBride to score, then taking on Conal McCloskey down the left and firing over a superb point. McBride made it 1-05 to 0-05 in first half stoppage time.
Ithe Lynch’s fightback duly came five minutes into the second half, Patrick McCloskey got in front of Conor McSorley and fired his solitary score of the evening. A minute later, Paddy Kelly flashed over and reduce the gap to a point before Kevin Hinphey was fouled allowing Paul Sweeney to level the game.
The pendulum hadn’t swung completely though. Because Lynch’s couldn’t get that goal, they couldn’t relax and headed into the home straight level.
Sean McBride’s 65’ made it 1-07 to 0-10 just shy of 50 minutes in, and it was two half chances missed in the next couple of minutes that were to dictate Ballinascreen’s fate. They hit two wides from distance before Aaron Kelly almost got clear. He had enough room to get his shot in, but Brian Lagan was perfectly positioned. Scarcely a minute later, a long ball broke around the edge of the Lynch’s square but as Kieran Conway went to pull on it, Aaron McCloskey put his body down in front of the ball. Neither man made contact but the sliotar was cleared.
Up the other end, ‘Screen sub Dean Flanagan, who had a moment earlier made a superb hook to stop Kevin Farren scoring, overcooked a pass to Charles Gilmore. Kevin Hinphey picked it up and fired it over to give Kevin Lynch’s back their lead with five minutes left.
Two minutes later, off his right side, the same man put two between the sides. Ballinascreen won a 21m free to the right of the posts with a minute of normal time remaining and decided to take the point in the hope that they’d get another chance to rescue the game.
They didn’t. Lynch’s won a couple of line balls deep in Ballinascreen territory and they took up every second of the three added minutes. The final whistle brought little celebration from the black and white dugout and left those in maroon with that empty ‘what if’ feeling.
Kevin Lynch’s scorers: Kevin Hinphey (0-04), Paddy Kelly (0-03, 0-02frees), Paul Sweeney 0-02 frees, Fergal McGuigan, Eoighin Farren and Paddy McCloskey 0-01 each
Ballinascreen scorers: Sean McBride (1-04, 0-03f, 0-01 65’) Conal O’Kane free, Benny Heron and Aaron Kelly 0-01 each
Kevin Lynch’s: Brian Lagan; Donal Kelly, Aaron McCloskey, Ciaran Mackle; Eoighin Farren ,Liam Óg Hinphey, Conal McCloskey; Kevin Hinphey, Paddy Kelly; Mark Craig, Liam Craig, Fergal McGuigan; Paul Sweeney, Patrick McCloskey, Kevin Farren Subs: Niall Farren for Mackle, 40mins; Turlough Hendry for K Farren, 56mins.
Ballinascreen: Tarlagh Conway; Mark McGuigan, Conor McSorley, John McCloskey; Charles Gilmore, Cathal Brunton, Kieran Conway; Philip McGlade, Dean Groogan; Aaron Kelly, Emmett McKillion, Sean McGuigan; Conall O’Kane, Benny Heron , Sean McBride. (subs) Dean Flanagan for Mark McGuigan, 38mins; Eugene Hegarty (0-1) for Dean Groogan, 38mins; Mickey Bradley for Cathal Brunton, 49mins; Reamann Kennedy for Conal O’Kane, 59mins.
Referee: Tommy McIntyre (Antrim)