Craigbane hold off Ballerin fightback after red card to set up Desertmartin semi-final
Premier Electrics Derry Junior Championship Quarter-Final
Craigbane 1-09, Ballerin 1-08
Craigbane deservedly set up a Premier Electrics Junior Championship semi-final showdown against favourites and holders, Desertmartin, after holding off Ballerin by one point in a quarter-final they almost threw away.
The Lilywhites were the better team throughout and looked to be meandering comfortably to the last four until the needless second half dismissal of Lee Moore, who already had 1-03 to his name by that point. In his first Championship appearance of the season, Moore was simply too hot for Ballerin to handle and had helped his side to a commanding 1-08 to 0-03 lead by the 43rd minute.
At that stage the game looked a foregone conclusion until Craigbane's marquee forward, who had already picked up a first half booking for tussling with with Christopher McIntyre, foolishly kicked the ball right away under the nose of referee Mervyn McAleese who had no option but to produce a second yellow card and Moore was gone.
Even then, Ballerin looked to have little chance against a Craigbane side whose well structured, deep lying counter attack had the Sarsfields all at sea. But with the contest seemingly over, Ballerin abandoned the slow pedestrian build up which had played right into St. Joseph's hands and threw caution to the wind and it nearly kept them in the championship!
Without the threat of Moore to contend with, the Sarsfields outscored Craigbane 1-05 to 0-01 in the final quarter but Kosta Papachristopoulos' last minute fisted goal arrived too late to complete the unlikeliest of comebacks. Gary Keane did have one last effort from a difficult sideline ball two minutes into injury time but, in truth, had it drifted over rather than inches wide, it would have been incredibly harsh on a Craigbane team who were the better team throughout.
St. Joseph's tactics were spot on, lying deep and laying traps for an understrength Ballerin team who didn't help their cause by constantly giving the ball away in dangerous counter attacking positions. Brian Rainey was a very effective sweeper, using all his experience to mop up most loose balls but he had helped by plenty of team-mates in the massed ranks of white shirts inside their own '45'.
Not that Criagbane were defensive. Without the ball they were tight and compact but once in possession, the committed plenty forward and should really have been going on to win comfortably.
Few teams in the Junior ranks can boast a forward of Moore's ability and even short of match fitness, he has the talent to win a match almost single-handedly, especially with the space Ballerin often left in front of him. But if Moore was Ballerin's executioner, the best player on the pitch was John Kerlin. The big red haired midfielder completely dominated the middle third and popped up on numerous occasions to helped out his defence. He was both a shield for defence and a platform to attack from in a superb all round display.
The early exchanges were tight, suggesting there would be little between the sides but after Moore and Fergal Mortimer had swapped points with Paul Ferris and Gary Keane, both frees, Craigbane began to wheel away from a Ballerin side whose approach play lacked the pace to trouble the opposition. Two more from Moore and one from Jude Og Moore had Craigbane 0-5 to 0-3 up as Simon McGinley clinched his side's first from play on 24 minutes.
Niall Cartin's late point ensures it was double scores at the break and Conrad McGuigan's men were fully worth their 0-6 to 0-3 interval lead.
Any hope Ballerin had with the wind now at their backs seemed to have been extinguished within three minutes of the restart as Moore took a pass from Jude Og Moore before twisting one way, then the other to dance inside the Ballerin defence and flash a lovely goal past Ronan Mullan for a six point lead.
Six became eight thanks to points from Niall Feeney and Mortimer and there was only one winner until Moore's momentary lapse in judgement.
Conor McLaughlin grabbed Craigbane's sole point of the final quarter with 10 minutes remaining but how crucial it proved to be, ensuring his side's passage through to the last four. It was deserved but closer than it should have been.
Craigbane scorers: Lee Moore (1-3), Fergal Mortimer (0-2), Jude Og Moore (0-1), Niall Cartin (0-1), Niall Feeney (0-1), Conor McLaughlin (0-1),
Ballerin scorers: Kosta Papachristopoulos (1-0), Paul Ferris (0-4, 4f), Gary Keane (0-2, 2f), Simon McGinley (0-1), Liam Brown (0-1)
Craigbane: Paul Sharkey, Oisin O'Donnell, Rory Moore, Naoise O'Mianain, David Lowry, Adrian Devine, Conor McLaughlin, Jude Og Moore, John Kerlin, Niall Feeney, Christopher Lowry, Fergal Mortimer, Niall Cartin, Lee Moore, Brian Rainey. (Subs)Fintan Lynch for F Mortimer (inj), 60mins;
Ballerin: Ronan Mullan, Robert Mullan, Stephen Mullan, Christopher McIntyre, Sean Ferris, Calum Bradley, Sean Ferris, Liam Brown, Shane McInytre, Ryan Doherty, Paul Ferris, Mark Ferris, Eugene Mullan, Gary Keane, Simon McGinley. (Subs) Kosta Papachristopoulos for M Ferris (blood sub), 1mins - rev 9mins: Kosta Papachristopoulos for M Ferris (inj), 9mins; Lee Ferris for R Doherty, 50mins; Oran Canning C McIntyre, 55mins; Darren Robinson for L Brown (inj), 60mins.
Referee: Mervyn McAleese