Sharper Fuerty edge Relegation play-off

Roscommon Herald Intermediate Football C’ship Relegation Play-Off Fuerty 1-8 Ballinameen 0-7 Noble Ballinameen lost their cherished intermediate football championship status at their home venue last Sunday afternoon where a visiting Fuerty team consigned them to junior football for 2008. St. Attracta’s GAA pitch in Ballinameen was a long way from Ballina and the glory and glamour of Senior Connacht Finals on Sunday morning, but these two footballing fraternities went at it with as much gusto and endeavour as they fought to avoid relegation.    A team that boasts hugely-talented footballers like Sean Casey, Paul Kelly, Gary Hanley, and Pat Casey was soundly beaten by determined Fuerty, and Ballinameen will compete in County Roscommon’s lowest championship tier next year. A five-point deficit at half-time was insuperable, and Ballinameen’s huge efforts in the second half were in vain, as scores from Brian Keenan, Tomas Reddington, Mervyn Connaughton, and Tom Hickey sustained Fuerty’s lead in the second half. Fuerty fully deserved to win this match. They held the lead from the first minute until Kieran Madigan blew the last whistle of the Roscommon 2007 football championships shortly before two o’clock. Stout defending from an excellent and impenetrable full-back line, immense performances from centre-back Tom Bannon and midfielder Tom Reddington, and the tireless efforts of half-forwards captain Niall Connolly, Colin Connaughton, and Keenan secured victory for Fuerty.    December will be a month for sombre reflection in Ballinameen. The home team allowed Fuerty to control the match in the first half and too many wides in the opening period enabled the victors to establish a firm lead. Junior championship success next year is within their grasp, however, and it will be interesting to observe their response to this crushing relegation.   Fuerty’s response to survival will be equally revealing. Blessed with a brigade of young talent led by Gary Fallon, Johnny Blighe and the Bannon brothers – and bolstered by their generals Tom Reddington and Mervyn Connaughton – Fuerty can go in either one of two directions over the next few years. They can go the way of their predecessors, the 1991 Junior Champions, and flirt with relegation on an annual basis, or they can drive forward to establish themselves at the right end of the Intermediate grade and challenge for silverware.   2007 saw them pipped by the narrowest of margins by eventual champions St. Dominic’s. They were also unfortunate to lose out against Eire Og in what was surely the game of the 2007 intermediate championship.    But such performances often come at the higher level the year after a county title with the inevitable momentum and camaraderie that such a win generates. It is down to the fifty or so souls directly involved to determine which path the club follows in the coming years. The play: Gary Fallon gave Fuerty the lead with a point after 50 seconds. Following good work by Tomas Reddington the youthful Fallon emerged from a tussle for possession in the middle of the field and pointed from 30 metres.   Frees from Mervyn Connaughton and Tom Hickey extended Fuerty’s lead to three points by the fifteenth minute. Pauric McDermott finally opened Ballinameen’s account in the 16th minute but seconds later the game swung decisively in Fuerty’s favour when Mervyn Connaughton fisted a high pass from Reddington into the net.   Wing-forwards Brian Keenan and Padraig McDermott exchanged points just before the break, and Fuerty led by five points at half-time.   A rousing team-talk from the Ballinameen management at half-time radically altered the North Roscommon team’s style of play after the break. Dessie Carlos (2), Gary Hanley, and Sean Casey reduced the margin to two points by the 43 rd minute.   Tom Hickey had the perfect opportunity to put the game beyond the losers at this juncture but he was unsuccessful from the penalty spot in the 45 th minute. The penalty miss seemed to revive Fuerty however, as Hickey won a free which Connaughton converted, before Connaughton returned the favour by winning a free which Hickey swung over from out on the right wing with five minutes remaining. Reddington’s winning score two minutes from the end befitted his powerful display. Padraig McDermott’s last-minute point was academic.   Kieran Madigan executed his duties impressively last Sunday in Ballinameen. The Castlerea referee exerted his authority over the players with zealous whistle-blowing in the opening fifteen minutes but allowed the game to flow for the rest of the match.   Robbie Kilcommins, Johnny Blighe, Tomas Bannon, Colin Connaughton, Tom Reddington and Tommy Carr all played well for Fuerty on Sunday. Padraig McDermott and Pat Casey were Ballinameen’s strongest performers. Man of the match Eamon Bannon (Fuerty) Eamon Bannon was, by some distance, the outstanding player in this relegation match. The 17-year old Roscommon Community College student dominated his section of the pitch and came dashing out of defence with the ball on countless occasions.  Fuerty: Robbie Kilcommins; Eamon Bannon, Johny Blighe, Tommy Carr; David Delaney, Tom Bannon, Sean Melia; Tom Reddington (0-1), Gary Fallon (0-1); Brian Keenan (0-2), Niall Connolly, Colin Connaughton; Tom Hickey (0-2, frees), Alan Kelly, Mervyn Connaughton (1-2, 0-2 frees). Subs used: Shane McGeeney for Kelly (36 mins); Mark Keaveney for Melia (42 mins); Aodhan Quigley for Delaney (inj., 48 mins); Sean Melia for Fallon (inj., 55 mins). Ballinameen: Cathal Keaveney; Declan Finn, Paul Kelly, David Wynne; Pat Casey, Brian McGarry, Eoin Keaveney; Tomas Casey, Jason McDermott; Peter Keane, Sean Casey (0-1), Padraig McDermott (0-2); Dessie Carlos (0-3, frees), Gary Hanley (0-1), John Murtagh. Sub used: Joe Kearns for Murtagh (half-time). Referee: Kieran Madigan (St. Kevin’s).