Wednesday, 01 September 2010 09:43
A late long distance goal from Ballina Town midfielder Tom O'Connor secured Ballina Town their second Westaro Cup in a row against a dogged Manulla side at Milebush Park.
Michael Duffy's goal on the stroke of half time had Town in control for most of the second half but Dessie Campbell stunned the champions with a screamer of an equaliser with just 14 minutes to go.
Thanks to that wonder strike, the Westaro final appeared to be heading for extra time – just like all the other divisional finals at Milebush this summer.
But O'Connor had other ideas, his shot from 25 yards drilled low and hard and finding the bottom corner of the Manulla net off the fingertips of goalkeeper James Jennings.
It was a cruel way for Manulla to lose the game but they could have few complaints overall because once Campbell's equaliser went in, it was Ballina who put in the extra effort going in search of a winner.
There was little in it from the start. While Town were shading the game in terms of possession, their only real chance in the opening exchanges came courtesy of Brendan Lavelle, whose shot in the 13th minute was saved smartly by Jennings.
Manulla came much closer to scoring with their first meaningful opportunity just after the quarter-hour mark. Thomas Walsh found James Cunningham unmarked in the Ballina penalty area and the striker's shot had Town 'keeper Kieran O'Malley beaten, but alas the post prevented the ball from meeting the net.
In the 19th minute Michael Duffy took Tom O'Connor's pass in his stride and broke clear in the left channel only to uncharacteristically direct a shot wide of the far post. O'Connor played in Lavelle soon after but, under pressure from Cillian McGlade, the striker's shot was weak and Jennings gathered.
There were chances for Manulla on the break and in one such movement, Roger Clarke won possession for the ball ahead of a wandering Kieran O'Malley but had no one only Ballina defender Malachy McCarron waiting for the ball in the centre.
Philip Devers lobbed over the bar and Tom O'Connor had a shot blocked from six yards as Ballina pressed, and then Duffy was denied twice by Jennings in the Manulla goal. The second save was particularly impressive as he parried away a stinging drive by the Ballina dangerman.
Duffy, however, had the final say in the final minute of the first half, swivelling and shooting to the net from eight yards out as Derek Tansey's long throw-in from the left wasn't dealt with.
Manulla brought on Declan Tonra for the second half and his physical presence unnerved the Town defence somewhat. Tonra had the first chance of the half, a diving header that looked impressive but lacked power or direction, and Kieran O'Malley had it covered in any event.
O'Malley saved a Gary Durkan shot with his feet after quarter of an hour in the second half, while at the other end it took a superb intervention from the impressive Manulla right back David Gallagher to deny Brendan Lavelle the chance to double Ballina's lead.
Then, with 14 minutes to go, came Campbell's excellent equaliser. It was simple enough; Jennings launched the ball high and long to the edge of the Ballina penalty area, the clearance trickled out only a few yards, and Campbell shot first time to the top right-hand corner of O'Malley's goal.
Town displayed their mettle by reacting positively to the setback. Duffy and Ross Kenny went for goal with long-range shots that were slightly off target to the right, but just when it seemed like extra time would be required to find a winner, Tom O'Connor showed his colleagues how it should be done by angling his long-distance drive just inside the right-hand post for a deserved winner.
Ballina Town 2
Manulla: J. Jennings, D. Gallagher, C. McGlade, T. Walsh, B. Cuffe, R. Clarke, S. Fadden, C. McDonnell, D. Campbell, J. Cunningham, G. Durkan.
Subs used: D. Tonra, D. Coleman, G. Heneghan.
Ballina Town: K. O'Malley, D. Helly, B. Giblin, D. Tansey, M. McCarron, D. O'Connor, R. Kenny, T. O'Connor, B. Lavelle, P. Devers, M. Duffy.
Subs used: J. Mountney, D. Gorman.
Ref: M. Regan (Claremorris).
●Star rating: David Gallagher...on the losing side but a winning performance.