‘I’ve never seen us collapse like that’ – Concannon
Connacht Junior Cup Final: Athenry FC 7 Ballinasloe Town 0
A brace from man of the match Conor Cannon helped Athenry on their way to a mauling of Ballinasloe Town in last Sunday’s Connacht Junior Cup final in Lecarrow.
There was a moment after the dust settled when a dejected Des Hope leaned against the temporary fence around the county pitch while Athenry celebrated.
That moment summed up the entire afternoon for those who witnessed the carnage in Lecarrow. Ballinasloe are rarely defeated, never mind by such a margin.
In fairness to Hope and Co., there was little to suggest that such a beating was coming. While the season hasn’t gone according to plan for the Town, it hasn’t been a total train wreck either.
Home and away defeats to champions-elect Castlerea Celtic have been difficult to take, but a congested fixture list and injury problems haven’t helped.
Defeat in a Connacht final, while heartbreaking, is not something to be ashamed about usually. The real worry for Ballinasloe Town is the manner in which they were beaten on Sunday; down to nine men and dismantled by an Athenry side which sensed fragility early on.
Ballinasloe Town manager, Enda Concannon, told People Sport: “I didn’t think they were seven goals better than us. We needed to score first and we had chances in the first half. The second half, well I’ve never seen us collapse like that.”
It was Ballinasloe who started brightest with a quick throw from Liam Lynch releasing Mark Duffy down the right. Duffy pulled it back for Lynch, who dragged his shot just wide.
It proved to be a false dawn and Athenry quickly took control. There had been danger signs early on; Corofin footballer, Alan O’Donovan, providing dangerous service from the left, with Dan Cunningham’s wand-like left foot causing bedlam from the right.
The first goal came from a Cunningham corner as Mark Forde got free and slotted home. Cathal Fahy doubled their lead with a well-taken header before half-time but not before Gary Delaney spanked the Ballinasloe crossbar with a fine effort.
Ballinasloe threatened at times, notably Shane Treacy with a cross-cum-shot which was tipped over by TJ Forde in the Athenry goal, but was given as a goal-kick. Ballinasloe made one change at the break, Jordan O’Leary on for Joby Kelly in what was an attacking move.
It was to be in vain however as Athenry took total control with Conor Cannon grabbing his first mid-way through the half. Then it got messy for Ballinasloe as the red mist descended on half-time substitute O’Leary.
Having been booked for a challenge moments before, the winger refused to heed the referee’s warning and was duly sent off for continued dissent. He left the pitch and with him went any hope of Ballinasloe redemption in the second half.
Athenry added four more through Cannon, Jamie O’Driscoll, Declan Cullen and Alan Harty. O’Driscoll’s was the pick of the bunch as he latched on to a loose ball 30 yards from goal and following a bit of keepy-uppy lobbed Aidan Fallon in the Ballinasloe goal.
There was time just before the end for Ballinasloe Town to be reduced to nine men as Darragh Concannon joined O’Leary in the bath for a second bookable offence.
All in all, a day to forget for Ballinasloe as an organised and incisive Athenry took full advantage of second-half indiscipline. Conor Cannon was man of the match while Paddy Quinn was also outstanding.
As for Ballinasloe Town, Enda Concannon said the team needs to bounce back ahead of this week’s cup semi-final against Ballymoe FC. “It’s our last chance to try and win something. We’ll see who’s up for it, who’s got the bottle. We’ll have a go at it, that’s all we can do and hope that we don’t end the season empty-handed.
“We’ve gone so many years winning things, when the going gets tough and you’re losing games that’s when you learn about guys. You learn more from losing than you do winning and we’ve to learn from the last two weeks. As a group we have to keep it together and try and turn it around.”
Ballinasloe Town: A Fallon; J Kelly, M Madden, D Hope, P Keighrey; D Nee, S Duffy M Duffy S Treacy; L Lynch, D Concannon. Subs used: J O’Leary for J Kelly (half-time), M Giumma for L Lynch (50 mins), L Tierney for M Duffy (73 mins).
Athenry FC: TJ Forde; D Cunningham, A Harty, D Cullen, P Quinn; G Delaney, A O’Donavan, J O’Driscoll, G Forde; C Cannon, C Fahy. Subs used: S Crowe for O’Donavan, A Connolly for D Cunningham (75 mins), D Murphy for TJ Forde (82 mins).