Ballerin bounce back to defeat Doire Trasna and make Junior final
Premier Electrics Derry Junior Championship semi-final
Doire Trasna 1-08, Ballerin 2-13
Ballerin will meet Craigbane in the 2022 Premier Electrics Derry Junior Football final next Sunday after a superb second half display put pay to Doire Trasna's championship dreams.
The Pearses had recovered from a lightning quick Ballerin start which saw the Sarsfields 1-03 to 0-01 up only seven minutes in, going on to dominate the majority of the first half and eventually turn around with a slender, but deserved 1-06 to 1-05 advantage. The warning signs had been there however, notably in those opening seven minutes when Ballerin's blistering counter attacking pace caused the Waterside men all sorts of bother.
Led by marauding corner back Shane Ferris and with more than adequate support in the form of Paul Ferris, Mark Ferris and Kosta Papachristopolis – an excellent attacking focal point – the half-time introduction of Ballerin’s main marksman, Gary Keane, proved the final piece of the puzzle for Ballerin who outscored Pearses by 1-08 to 0-2 in the second half.
The critical score was Papachristopolis' goal (Ballerin’s second) nine minutes after the break. With the Waterside men 1-07 to 1-06 up, they lost possession midway inside the Ballerin half and with too many ahead of the ball. In a flash, Mark Ferris had raced into the empty Pearses half, drawing out the defensive cover which was caught in two minds and leaving Papachristopolis with the time and space to sidestep Pearses keeper Gavin Bradley and roll home for a two point lead.
After hitting the front Ballerin never looked back and, perfectly set up to counter, they weren't about to let the lead go for a second time in the game.
Yet, just as pivotal to that match defining score was an injury picked up five minutes earlier by Pearses defensive lynchpin, Tomas McCrossan, following a collision with Eugene Mullan. McCrossan tried to soldier on but would normally have been the man patrolling the space in front of the Trasna full back line, the same space Ballerin fully exploited in the final quarter of the game. McCrossan’s absence was keenly felt.
The relatively comfortable finale was in stark contrast to a tight and entertaining opening half which swung one ay then the other. The speed of Ballerin's start caught everyone by surprise and they were 1-01 to no score up inside three minutes as Papachristopolis' opening point was added to by a lovely Shane McIntyre goal after he took a Shane Ferris pass and finished in style.
That four point lead was increased to six by the seventh minute thanks to two points from Paul Ferris, one a free. The scoreline looked ominous but just when they had Pearses on the rack, Ballerin inexplicably stepped off and Pearses accepted the invitation to step into a position of control.
Keeping Ballerin scoreless for more than 23 minutes, James McQuillan's men took total control and were excellent as they hit 1-05 without reply with points from Caolan Doyle, Tom Casey (f), Tomas McCrossan, Colin Murray and Michael Philson. The icing on the Trasna cake though was Doyle's 21st minute goal which owed everything to Murray’s superb pass which picked out McCrossan. There was still plenty to do but McCrossan had the vision to find Doyle at the back post from where he punched home.
However, trailing 1-06 to 1-03, Ballerin crucially hit the final two points of the half, Papachristopolis ending the Sarsfields’ 23 barren minutes before Eugene Mullan ensured only the minimum would be separating the sides when they went into the break.
Keane's introduction provided Ballerin with a major boost but, initially at least, Pearses were coping well with it. Quigg and Paul Ferris swapped points upon the restart but following McCrossan's injury, Pearses lost their defensive solidity just as Ballerin stepped on the accelerator for the second time.
Papachristopolis' goal was the springboard and once in front, they picked off the Pearses with some breath-taking counters to ensure they had one foot in the well before the final whistle.
For Trasna, their season was over but they progress made under McQuillan was obvious, especially in their last three championship encounters. This wasn't their day but the challenge will be to build on the work done in 2022 and return stronger.
Ballerin will be underdogs next week against Craigbane but the message coming out of Celtic Park on Sunday was clear; underestimate them at your peril!
Doire Trasna scorers: Caolan Doyle (1-1), Eoghan Quigg (0-2, 1f), Tom Casey (0-1, 1f), Tomas Crossan (0-1), Michael Philson (0-1), Colin Murray (0-1, 1m),Caelan O'Connell (0-1),
Ballerin scorers: Shane McIntyre (1-0), Kosta Papachristopolis (1-3, 1f), Paul Ferris (0-5, 2f), Eugene Mullan (0-1), Bobby Mullan (0-1), Gary Keane (0-1, 1f), Shane Ferris (0-1), Ryan Doherty (0-1).
Doire Trasna: Gavin Bradley, David Officer, Mark Healy, Tomas McCrossan, Sean Fleming, Ciaran McGowan, Shane Lyttle, Pol Brown, Tom Casey, Michael Philson, Damian McGee, Caelan O'Connell, Colin Murray, Caolan Doyle, Eoghan Quigg, (Subs) Ethan Kelly T Crossan (inj), 49mins; Dylan Deery for T Casey, 50mins; Sean McNaught for Quigg, 59mins;
Ballerin: Ronan Mullan, Shane McIntyre, Sean Ferris, Paul Keane, Stephen Mullan, Callum Bradley, Anton Bradley, Liam Brown, Bobby Mullan, Sean Ferris, Paul Ferris, Kosta Papachristopolis, Mark Ferris, Dylan Mullan, Eugene Mullan (Subs) Gary Keane for D Mullan, HT; Jarlath Bradley for E Mullan, 44mins; Simon McGinley for Shane Ferris, 58mins; Ryan Doherty for K Papachristopolis, 59mins;
Referee: Gavin Hegarty