Steelstown will be in the mix for Intermediate honours but, then again, we knew that before a ball was thrown-in on the 2015 season.
This ultimately comfortable 13-point victory over a weakened Ballerin revealed relatively little. Under new manager, Gary Duffy, the Brian Ogs remain a tough side to play against; defensively solid, quick to turn defence into attack courtesy of a plethora of willing runners but probably still short a marquee forward.
What the city men have added though is an increased physicality that perhaps they didn’t always have in the past. In Mickey McKinney and Neil Forester they possess two of the stand-out players in the division and you will go some distance to find a better intermediate full-back than Kevin Lindsay.
The panel looks to have more depth as well, something a lot of other teams are struggling with at present. They lost the influential Paul O’Hea after 11 minutes on Sunday but his replacement, Andy Moore, gave a hugely impressive cameo and helped himself to two points.
Up front Gareth Logue was a real handful, one that Ballerin could not tie down all afternoon, while target man Emmett Deane scored the goal. Yet it is in the scoring stakes, that doubts remain.
Thirteen minutes into the second half only four points separated the sides before a five minute blitz saw the home side hit 1-5 to kill off a Ballerin team that was there for the taking. That took the game from 0-7 to 0-3 to 1-12 to 0-3 in the blink of any eye and is exactly the sort of ruthless streak the new Steelstown manager needs to instil.
While the front men did everything asked of them on Sunday and will undoubtedly trouble defences this year, neither looks like being that natural forward who guarantees a scoring return whatever the opposition. The result is a greater emphasis on a scoring spread and so far the city side have managed that admirably with McKinney the main threat from deep.
Ballerin have similar problems. For long periods of this game, in difficult conditions, they matched the home team but minus Gary and Paul Keane and Jarlath Bradley, they lacked a cutting edge.
Eugene Mullan and Mark Ferris were excellent, particularly in the first half, but they faded as their team ran out of legs. The first half black card for Pascal McKay, after a clash with Lindsay, didn’t helped because it forced a reshuffle that brought Damien Cassidy back into midfield and cost them another scoring threat. Once they allowed Steelstown in front, their fate was sealed as the Brian Ogs were able to defend deep, turnover possession and hit them at pace on the break.
Ironically it was Ballerin first on the scoreboard thanks to a Cassidy point before the ‘Logue-McKinney axis’ kicked in. That combination contributed the home side’s first three scores with the forward peeling off Stephen Mullan brilliantly to come short and pick out the supporting McKinney who slotted over the bar three times in similar fashion. In between an Eugene Mullan free made it 0-3 to 0-2. Andy Moore signalled his intent soon after replacing O’Hea with a nice score before Mullan again made it a one point game.
With the game drifting into first half injury time, Forester ran half the length of the pitch to split the posts and leave it 0-5 to 0-3 at half-time but there was little indication of the second half onslaught to follow.
Six scoreless second half minutes included a decent goal chance for Eugene Mullan while at the other end Moore saw his fierce drive strike the cross bar but once McKinney got the scoreboard ticking over again it signalled the beginning of the end for Ballerin.
Substitute Rory Maguire should have hit the net when he fortuitously forced his way before shooting soccer-style straight at Roan Mullan. Logue and Moore both hit scores before the match was put to bed thanks to Deane’s emphatic 45th minute goal after the ball was worked in from the right hand side.
It left it simply a matter of how many. Maguire with two, including one courtesy of an assist from Marty Dunne’s mazy run out of nets, McKinney (2) and Donnelly rounded off the scoring and Steelstown will need to maintain that spread of scorers as the season goes on.