Down the years Steelstown have found Ballerin a hard nut to crack no matter what the form of either team and they missed the chance to go top of the table when hit by two late goals just when they looked like easing home.
They must have felt that they were mugged as they created most of the scoring chances but shot a hatful of wides.
The first half lasted nearly fifty minutes after Ballerin full forward Cathal Faulkner, the league’s joint top scorer, collided with the Steelstown goalie Martin Dunne. He was taken by ambulance to Coleraine hospital suiffering from a punctured lung and damaged ribs. To add to the misfortune the winners also lost centre half Gareth Mullan with a hamstring injury and centre half forward Paul Keane with a shin injury.
Steelstown had virtually camped in the Ballerin half for the opening 15 minutes but just managed one point from defender Kevin Lindsay before Ballerin broke away and as Cathal Faulkner bore down on goal he collided with Steelstown keeper Martin Dunne. The ball spun to Eugene Mullan who tapped the ball into the net.
When play resumed Ballerin keeper John McGinley made a fine save from Ryan Devine and, as the visitors continued to press, midfielder Darren McDaid showed his front men where the posts were with his second point.
Ballerin were dangerous on the break and a dazzling move saw sub Pascal McKay set up Eugene Mullan for a 1-1 to 0-2 lead. The Ballerin defence was excellent as they closed down the Steelstown attacking efforts but they could do little as Ryan Devine and Mark Brennan hoisted over long range points.
Ballerin restored their two point lead with a long range Ryan Deighan free and as the extended half came to a close Steelstown had a hint of fortune. Ballerin midfielder Pascal Hull made a high catch and as he came down he was accidentally caught by a flailing arm and spilled the ball. The alert Stephen Cleary who had been virtually anonymous until then snapped up the ball and burst through for an excellent finish to the net and Steelstown led by 1-4 to 1-3 at the break and had wind advantage in the second half.
After another few inaccurate efforts Steelstown opened up a two point gap 1-5 to 1-3. Ballerin hung in and after the busy Paul Ferris was fouled, Deighan sent over the difficult free. At the three quarter stage the Brian Ogs looked to be pulling away when Stephen Cleary set up Brennan from a short free and Cleary then punished a free on himself with a great score to put his side 1-7 to 1-4 in front.
Ballerin, showing great battling qualities, never gave up and where normally they fade in the second half, they played their best football. With nine minutes left Eugene Mullan beat his marker Mickey McKinney to a high ball and cut in for the perfect finish and the teams were level 2-4 to 1-7.
Three minutes later as Ballerin began to pour forward in numbers, Eugene Mullan was through on goal when he was pulled down by Tony Ling and from the penalty spot Paul Ferris sent the ball low past Martin Dunne and a stunned Steelstown were three points behind.
It got worse for the visitors as they fluffed a few more chances but the Ballerin defence was very hard to penetrate and sub Mark Foley missed a chance to cut back the deficit.
Pascal Hull and Ryan Deighan missed long range Ballerin chances as did Paddy Brennan for Steelstown. With a minute of normal time left Ballerin got the ‘insurance’ point, Robert Mullan and Ryan Deighan combined to send in the tall James Cassidy and with the possibility of a goal he took he safe option of a point.
In the remaining time Ballertin put up the shutters and Brian Deighan picked up a yellow card for stretching Ryan Devine’s jersey and from the resultant free Stephen Cleary had the last score of the game.
Ballerin scorers Eugene Mullan 2-1, Paul Ferris 1-0 penalty, Rya Deighan 0-2frees, Pascal McKay and James Cassidy 0-1 each.
Steelstown scorers Stephen Cleary 1-2, 0-2frees, Paddy Brennan 0-2, Mark Brennan, Kevin Lindsay, Ryan Devine and Darren McDaid 0-1 each.
Ballerin. John McGinley, John Bradley, Johnny Barry, Brian Deighan, Mark Ferris, Gareth Mullan, Robert Mullan, Willie McGilligan, Pascal Hull, James Cassidy, Paul Keane, Paul Ferris, Ryan Deighan, Cathal Faulkner, Eugene Mullan. Subs Pascal McKay for C. Faulkner, Stephen Mullan for J. Bradley, Shaun Mullan for P. Keane and Shane Ferris for P. Hull.
Steelstown. Martin Dunne, Rory O’Connor, Tony Ling, Mickey McKinney, Kevin Lindsay, Neil Forrester, Paul O’Hea, Stephen McCauley, Darren McDaid, Mark Brennan, James Jackson, Stephen Cleary, Conan Doherty, Ryan Devine, Paddy Brennan. Subs Gary Cunningham for J. Jackson and Mark Foley for M. Brennan.
Referee Tom O’Kane Castledaw son.
Foreglen put themselves back in the reckoning for a top four spot with a shock away win over joint leaders Craigbane in a very open and entertaining game. An early goal from John Duffy enabled the Foreglen side to be level at half time 1-4 to 0-7.
They started the second half in whirlwind style with points from Eugene O’Neill, Kevin O’Neill, Kevin O’Connor (2) and Cairan McFeely but a goal from Gavin Conwell put Craigbane back in contention. With Oisin Duffy marshalling the visitors defence well Craigbane found in difficult to get through and after the Conwell goal they could just muster another three points. Craigbane were minus a few players including the Moore brothers Lee and Ryan while Foreglen were also a bit short handed losing Martin Farrell with an early injury and had a few others including Niall McFeely unavailable.
Foreglen scorers; John Duffy 1-1, Cairan McFeely 0-4, Kevin O’Connor 0-5, Eugene O’Neill, Kevin O’Neill and Owen Duffy 0-01 each.
Craigbane scorers; Gavin Conwell 1-2, Adie McLaughlin 0-3, Jude McLaughlin and Blain Gormley 0-2 each and Cathal O’Kane 0-1.
This was the highest scoring game of the day and it was far from the foregone conclusion that was predicted as Limavady just on four points made Slaughtmanus work overtime for their four point win. Conor Forrest and Conor McGregor got a brace of goals each for the Roe men who are showing a great improvement from the start of the season.
Faughanvale led this excellent contest by 0-7 to 0-6 at half time but Swatragh made a telling switch for the second half. They moved a tired Michael Friel who had been in action at Croke Park to full forward and brought out county minor Conor McAtamney to midfield and the move worked a treat.
Faughanvale faded as Eugene O’Kane bagged two second half goals and the visitors were eight points clear when the ‘Vale got a late goal. This win now moves Swatragh into the top four and they are on a good run despite the absence of one of their top players Ruairi Convery.
Swatragh scorers; Eugene O’Kane 2-4, 0-1free, Thomas Og Gunning, Conor McAtamney and James Kearney 0-2 each, Sean McNicholl and Michael Friel 0-1 each.