(courtesy of www.anglocelt.ie)
A goal in the dying seconds at the end of extra-time saw Drumlane capture this year’s U13 Roinn C Championship title at the expense of Ballinagh in a dramatic and high-quality final at Kingpan/Breffni Park last week.
In what was one of the most absorbing and exciting underage deciders of recent years, Ballinagh looked destined to get their hands on the silverware only for Drumlane dynamo Ryan Connolly to pop up and rifle home the match-winning goal just seconds from the final whistle.
In hindsight, Connolly’s application of the coup-de-gras might well have been foretold as the pattern of the game all through suggested that the issue would indeed go to the wire and decided in the most dramatic of fashion.
The tone of the final was set within the opening 100 seconds when Ryan Dunne’s goal for Ballinagh was swiftly followed by Philip King’s major for the winners.
From there to mother-and-father of climaxes materialised, the action was of the non-stop, heart-pounding variety with punch being followed by counter-punch with almost monotonous regularity.
An Eoin Kelleher goal in the 12th minute helped Ballinagh carve out a 2-3 to 1-1 lead at that juncture and only a fine save by Fionan Janovic in the Drumlane goal from a Niall Robinson effort prevented the Saffrons from stretching their lead to eight points by the advent of the second quarter.
Moments later at the other end, only a terrific block by Philip Bogue kept a shot from Ryan Connolly ending in the Ballinagh net.
With Connolly, Killian McKiernan and Ciaran Seagrave combining sweetly, Drumlane pushed forward with intent in a bid to eat into Ballinagh’s lead. However the town team stood firm and went in at the break, 2-4 to 1-5 ahead but within four minutes of the restart, the Hoops had sneaked into the lead, 1-8 to 2-4, with top scorer Connolly bagging a brace of points.
The physically-stronger Ballinagh side get a real boost though just three minutes after Aaron Dourneen had hit the bar when the same player flicked the ball to the Drumlane net after Eoghan Kelleher’s inviting shot at goal.
Drumlane never lost sight of their objective though and although shorn the services of the injured Francis Lunney, powered forward with great ingenuity and endeavour as they sought to gain parity.
However the green and whites were made to work overtime in that regard and, in one stance, were denied by a brillant overhead catch by the backpeddling Conor Devine. Then in the 44th minute a great save by Fionan Janovic prevented Ryan Dunne from goaling after some great approach play by Ballinagh.
Brilliant goal-saving heroics were performed in the next couple of minutes by Colin McCabe and Drumlane defender Seamus King.
On the three-quarter mark, Drumlane’s Ryan Connolly goaled to put his side into a 2-10 to 3-6 lead, albeit a precarious one.
Narrow-misses, inspirational defending, high catches and great blocking pock-marked the exchanges as the final quarter gathered pace.
Drumlane looked set to clinch the spoils in normal time, especially after young Connolly knocked over two late points but then Ryan Dunne goaled in added-on time to level matters at 4-7 to 2-13.
Twenty-minutes of extra-time produced yet more high-octane fare as both teams pushed out the boat to nab the spoils.
A point blank save by Colin McCabe denied Ciaran Keaney a goal for Drumlane after Eoin Kelleher rifled home his second goal six minutes into the first half of extra-time to give Ballinagh a 5-8 to 2-13 lead at the end of the first half of extra-time.
Three minutes into the second half of extra-time James Dolan cracked his shot off the Ballinagh bar and then in the 9th minute the Keaney toe-poked the ball to the Ballinagh net to cut the Saffrons’ lead to a single point, 5-9 to 3-14.
As legs understandably tired and the respective defences showed ruthless efficiency at clearing their lines, stalemate beckoned once more at the death.
However on the stroke of the 10th minute, a quick-free by Drumlane’s Philip King was latched onto by his team-mate Ryan Connolly and with great aplomb, the Sons of O’Connell playmaker netted to break Ballinagh hearts and leave Drumlane cock-a-hoop and Roinn C champions for 2008.
A classic climax to a classic encounter.
Drumlane – Fionan Janovic; Donal Monaghan, Declan Burns, Seamus King, Declan Lunney, Ciaran Seagrave, Cian Monaghan, James Dolan, Killian McKiernan (0-1), Philip King (1-1), Luke Longair, Ryan Connolly (2-12), Ciaran Keaney (1-0). Sub used; Cian Maguire.
Ballinagh – Colin McCabe; Gary Tyler, Oisin Gaynor, Conor Devine, Ciaran Wharton, Philip Bogue, Niall Robinson, Eamon McEvoy (0-3), Eoghan Kelleher (2-0), Ronan Reilly (0-1), Conor McDermott (0-2), Aaron Dourneen (1-0), Ryan Dunne (2-2). Subs used; Aaron Reilly, Sean Keating (0-1).