Fergal Mortimer goal pivotal as Craigbane defeat Ballerin in Junior Championship

Premier Electric Junior Football Championship

Craigbane, pictured here before the 2020 Junior final which was played in June 2021, will carry the tag of Junior Championship favourites after an impressive start against Ballerin on Friday.
Craigbane, pictured here before the 2020 Junior final which was played in June 2021, will carry the tag of Junior Championship favourites after an impressive start against Ballerin on Friday.

Craigbane 1-11, Ballerin 1-6.

A goal by Fergal Mortimer at the start of the second half turned this Junior Championship opener on it’s head at Gerry Crossan Park on Friday night.

Played in lashing rain on a firm but slippery surface, the goal was a big setback for Ballerin who had defended well in the first half and looked to be there with every chance . On their second half performance Craigbane had the look of champions about them. With his team trailing 0-5 to 0-4 at half time, Mortimer got in behind the Ballerin defence to firmly dispatch the ball to the net in the 31st minute. He had been well shackled by the visiting defence in the first half but in the second he drifted out more to win possession and when he did his hands on the ball a score was virtually guaranteed.

In the end it was a comfortable enough victory for the home team as Ballerin’s goal came in the last minute when eight points separated the teams. Both sides picked up a few injuries with the worst looking being to the winners' defender, Rory Moore, who was helped off with a knee injury in the early stages of the game. His brother Lee missed the game through suspension while Ballerin full back Shane McIntyre was another casualty with a rib injury.

Craigbane’s direct football was much more effective in the difficult conditions. They used the flanks well while Ballerin tended to play more up the centre of the field and most of their solo runs came to nothing. Gary Keane made a surprise return for the visitors but looked a bit rusty although he did convert two excellent first half frees. Ballerin defended well in the first half but once Mortimer hit the net they seemed to be knocked out of their stride and made all kinds of basic errors. With the rain incessant and the clouds getting lower the floodlights were required for most of the second half.

Craigbane took a second minute lead through a Jude Og Moore free and it took a further six minutes for Ballerin to draw level through Eugene Mullan. Niall Cartin and Ryan Doherty converted at either end to leave the teams level after 15 minutes of intense football. They were still level coming up to the break until Mortimer put his team 0-4 to 0-3 in front. Gary Keane equalised from a difficult free and his brother Paul Keane then sent over a ’45 to leave the visitors 0-5 to 0-4 in front at the break.

Once again Craigbane proved themselves to be a good second half team with that early Mortimer goal setting them in motion. Liam Brown closed the gap with a 34th minute point but the signs were not good for the Sarsfields when Mortimer converted two quick frees for a 1-6 to 0-6 lead by the 40 th minute.

Ballerin were struggling in the middle third and when they did get the ball forward they were generally bottled up by a solid Craigbane defence. With the Lilywhites pushing up on the Ballerin kick-out and dominating all over the field, Niall Cartin and Conor McLaughlin opened up a five point lead as Ballerin persisted in soloing the ball into traffic and getting turned over.

Mortimer continued to lead the way for the home side, hitting a brace of points, one from a free. The promising Jacob McElhinney clinched the deal with a fine long range effort and while Ballerin put in a strong finish but their only reward was a well taken goal from sub Simon McGinley. They will no doubt wonder why their effort tailed off so badly in the second half.

Craigbane scorers: Fergal Mortimer 1-5 (3f), Niall Cartin 0-1, Jude Og Moore 0-1 (1f), David Lowry, Niall Cartin (0-1), Jacob McElhinney (0-1), Conor McLaughlin (0-1).

Ballerin scorers: Simon McGinley 1-0, Gary Keane 0-2 (2f), Paul Keane 0-1 (1 ’45), Liam Brown (0-1), Ryan Doherty (0-1).

Craigbane: Paul Sharkey, Oisin O’Donnell. Naoise O’Mianain, Declan Crossan, Conor McLaughlin, Rory Moore, Oisin McCloskey, Jacob McElhinney, David Lowry, Niall Feeney, Niall Cartin, Jude Og Moore, Evan McMemanin, Fergal Mortimer, Brian Rainey. (Subs) Cahir O’Kane, Christopher Lowry.

Ballerin: Ronan Mullan, Stephen Mullan, Shane McIntyre, Bobby Mullan, Mark Ferris, Sean Ferris, Callum Bradley, Liam Brown, Ryan Doherty, Paul Keane, Paul Ferris, Shane Ferris, Eugene Mullan, Oran Bradley, Gary Keane. (Subs) Leigh Ferris, Simon McGinley, Dylan Mullan, Oran Canning.

Referee: Mervyn McAleese (Drum)

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