Ballela overcome former county champs



It was a night when the pupil out shone the teacher, young Shannon McNeill out-doing the former Down Senior, Ulster and Down champion Karen Gribben.

While it is acknowledged that Clonduff were without the Carr sisters and Paula Gribben, this was a team riddled with current county stars and from the main part of the current senior team who had knocked out current Down senior Champions Ballycran.

In addition, while spells within the match were outstanding, Ballela collectively they were not at their best. This meant the taste of this victory was even sweeter.

It was clear from the opening exchanges that Clonduff could not handle the physical nature and sheer determination of this young Ballela side, Aoibhen O’Neill (1-1) was instrumental in the first 20 minutes adding a well taken goal. Up front the superb partnership of Orla (1-1) and Ciara Magee (3-4) is enough to waken any defence in the county and they whizzed their way through the Clonduff backs at ease. It was no surprise when Clonduff pulled back their best player Orla Maginn to mark Oria Magee but even she could do nothing to stop this young star finding the net.

Catherine O’Hare was having the game of the season, keeping the young Clonduff county forward at bay on every occasion while older sister Mary (0-1) and Ciara Mc Cusker were on hand to master the midfield over Ursula Quinn and Leann Quinn.

An injury to the Clonduff half back forced Ballela to sacrifice Josie, whose early contribution was evident.

This upset the Ballela flow and Clonduff registered four points of their own. In addition, the injury that has been hammering young Cushia McNeill forced a change in the Ballela back line with the returning Kirsty Kearns taking her place.

Up front, Sinead McAvoy (0-1) hit a great point on the volley to put Ballela four points up at half-time.

In the second half, Alanah Magee got the upper hand of full-forward Orla Gribben holding her scoreless and Anita Burns shone in the heart of the defence with her long free taking and clearances. Lisa Devlin’s high fielding and reading of the game was as impressive as ever and the hard work and determination of Ciara McCusker was critical in the closing stages.

A few high balls into the Ballela square somehow found their way into the Ballela net and left the latter stages in the balance, but maestro Ciara Magee made no mistake when one on one with experienced keeper Kitty Fegan to secure a well earned win.

It was good to see Louise Mackin back on the side lines. Her quiet word in the ears of the players at any break in play spurred them on. All at the club also wish Lisa McCusker a speedy recovery.

While manager Bernard was happy with taking the points, he acknowledged that it will take an excellent collective display to reach a second final in two years when they face Mayobridge in the semi-final of the Intermediate Championship.