This first round U-21 Championship game was played in blustery conditions at Breaffy on Saturday afternoon February 26th at 3.30. Both sides fielded at full strength in a keenly fought encounter hampered somewhat by the sticky underfoot conditions. The wind however favoured neither team as it blew across the field for the entire game. The prize on offer was a quarter-final spot against Ballinrobe.
Breaffy started the brighter with several early attacks yielding two points from Matthew Conroy, a fine one from play on the left wing and a well taken free from about 40 metres. The initiative then fell to Ballina who had established superiority at midfield and launched move after move against Breaffy defence. Liam Brady, far and away the best Ballina player on view sent a 45 metre kick wide before he pointed two excellent frees, one from each wing about 40 metres out. This brought Ballina level and the lead came from Brian Quennan when he fielded a misguided attempt from Brady and slottrd it over the Breaffy bar. The loss of the lead spurred on the Breaffy team as they held Ballina scoreless to the end of the half. Martin Mc'Nicholas scored from play before sending a free wide. Jonathan Lavelle added a splendid goal after Martin Mc'Nicholas won posession far out and laid off to Colm Lyons. He drew the cover and laid it off to the in running Lavelle who gave goalie David Clarke no chance in the Ballina goal. Breaffy added another score when Mc'Nicholas again pointed with a fine effort from far out on the right wing. The game could effectively be finished if Colm Lyon's point on the run had been a foot lower as he cut the Ballina defence in two. The final score of the half was a marvellous individual effort from Martin Mc'Nicholas who won a hopball about 50 metres out and proceeded towards goal to take his point from about 25 metres and give his team a six point half time lead; Breaffy 1-6, Ballina 0-3
Ballina however were not about to fold quite so easily and started the second half in determined fashion. Ian Knight shot wide before Brendan Quennan again pointed. Liam Brady followed this with a goal when he chipped goalie Frank Scully to score in the far corner. He followed this with another point from a well taken free. The Breaffy defence responded well and shifted the play upfield even though their lead was back to a point. Thiaran Coghill took a deflected ball about 30 metres out with only goalie Clarke to beat. The bobbly pitch and the attentions of Brian Clarke however conspired against him and his shot was narrowly wide. Matrin Mc'Nicholas pointed soon after with a sweet effort off the ground out on the right wing. Liam Brady put pressure on the Breaffy defence when his 45 dropped short and to the right of the Breaffy goal. He then added three points without reply in Ballina's best spell. He first collected a short free and shot powerfully over the bar, then scored from play before taking the score of the game with a free from near the corner flag out on the left. This was Ballina's last score as Breaffy again were spurred on by a one point deficit. Keith Hopkins was now dominant at midfield after being moved from full-forward and won valuable possession on several occasions. Martin Mc'Nicholas took a short free to Colm Lyons who pointed well. Lyons was fouled soon after and Matthew Conroy pointed well from out on the left wing. Following two Breaffy wides Matthew took his fourth point and the final score of the game with a good effort from play. The game ended Breaffy 1-10 Ballina 1-8.
Breaffy: Frank Scully, Aiden Murray, David Sheridan, Derek Walshe, Noel Cusack, Barry Jordan, Patrick Thomas, Colm Lyons, Liam Cosgrave, Thiaran Coghill, Martin Mc'Nicholas, Matthew Conroy, Declan Gannon, Keith Hopkins, Jonathan Lavelle.
Ballina Stephenites : David Clarke, Brendan O'Grady, Gearoid Leonard, Declan Caffrey, Enda Devenney, Mark Barrett, Colm Leonard, Ronan Mc'Garrity, Eanna Casey, Conor Mc'Donagh, Liam Brady, Ian Knight, Brian Quennan, Sean Campbell, Aiden O'Hora.
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