DERRY GAA: Steelstown hold off battling Ballerin
H&A Mechanical Services Division Two
Steelstown Brian Ogs 0-16, Ballerin 2-09
Clubs or counties thinking about appointing managers from ‘outside’ should take a look at Steelstown.
This time last year the Brian Ogs looked rudderless. Drifting toward the lower reaches of the second tier, the city club’s senior team had lost it’s way. Change was needed and that change took the form of club stalwarts, Paul O’Hea and Eamon Gibson. And the Brian Ogs haven’t looked back since
That’s not a slight on the previous manager, Gary Duffy. Rather it’s an endorsement of the understanding that O’Hea and Gibson possess from a life-time’s association with their club and everyone that surrounds it. Put simply, they get what it is to be Steelstown and the entire club has rallied around in a way it is difficult to replicate for an outsider. The results speak for themselves.
This latest victory - against an excellent Ballerin display - made it five wins from five and they sit proudly on top of Division Two with better than decent shot at a return to senior football next season.
The transformation is all down to O’Hea and Gibson who appear to have given the team back it’s identity.
And make no mistake, they were forced to dig deep against the Sarsfields who should have taken something from the game.
Billed as big underdogs, Ballerin’s pace and mobility caused Steelstown no end of problems with young half-back Shane Ferris superb as he constantly ferried possession from inside his own ‘45’ to the opposition danger area. His end product still needs work but his potential was plain to see.
Gary Keane was his usual lethal self, helping himself to 1-07 which included a ninth minute penalty, fired into the roof of the net after he had been upended by Shane O’Connor.
The visitors deservedly led 1-5 to 0-7 at half-time but were undone by 16 minutes without a score at the beginning of the second half, a period in which Brian Ogs hit seven points.
Ballerin fought back and even if Bobby Mullan’s 52nd minute goal had more than a hint of controversy after Darren McDaid was blatantly pushed over in the build up, had Willie McGilligan’s brilliant run from midfield finished with the point it deserved, the game would have been level with two minutes left.
Instead, the big No. 9 somehow skewed his kick after a marauding run from his own half and Steelstown took full advantage, thanks in main to the lethal free taking of Mark Foley.
A superb Foley ‘45’ was followed by a poor kick-out by Ronan Mullan which was sent back over the bar by Darren McDaid and that proved the cushion Steelstown needed in a tense final couple of minutes that saw tempers rise and one or two lucky to escape a red card.
The result was harsh on Ballerin after a superb spectacle but it illustrated further a tougher, more resilient Steelstown being moulded in the image of their manager. They dug in when they had to and were expansive when they could afford to be. Crucially showed they can win when not at their best.
Rory McKeever was excellent in the first half; O’Connor did a great job on Keane after Kevin Lindsay limped off and in Foley and Bradley, they have the scoring potential to hurt most teams. All this and there was no Neil Forester, Mickey McKinney only made a brief cameo on his way back from injury and Andy Moore didn’t feature at all.
O’Hea and Gibson have brought to buzz back to Pairc Bhrid and with it a healthy competition for places that they will need as the season progresses. They need to tighten up at the back still but it has been hugely promising start to 2017.
Just as Sunday was for Ballerin. The Sarsfields belied their underdogs status and set themselves a standard they should aim at every week. Expect them to surprise more than a few teams this year.
Steelstown Brian Ogs: Martin Dunne; Ryan McCloskey, Kevin Lindsay, Jamie Feeney; Emmet McDaid, Shane O’Connor Ciaran Flanagan; Darren McDaid (0-1), Sebastian Crudden; Gareth Logue (0-1), Rory McKeever (0-2), Oran Sweeney; Eoghan Bradley (0-4), Stephen McCauley (0-2), Mark Foley (0-6, 5f, 1 forty-five). (Subs) CJ Martin for K Lindsay (inj) 15mins; Emmet Deane for G Logue, 40mins; Michael McKinney for E Bradley, 56mins; Ryan Devine for R McKeever, 58mins.
Ballerin: Ronan Mullan; Shea Doherty, Anton Bradley, Shane Ferris; Stephen Mullan, Callum Bradley, Robert Mullan (1-0); Shane Mullan, Willie McGilligan, Mark Ferris, Paul Ferris, Dylan Mullan; Ryan Deighan (0-2, 2f), Gary Keane (1-7, 6f, 1 pen), Sean Ferris. (Subs) Shane McIntyre for P Ferris, 48mins; Oran Bradley for S Ferris, 49mins.
Referee: Mark O’Neill (Claudy).