Tuesday, 28 September 2010 13:16
Ballina Town etched a glorious chapter in the club's history at Pete Murray Memorial Park on Sunday by retaining the Mayo Super League title for the first time. An efficiently engineered victory over spirited Swinford in their closing game of an 18-match series ensured the side's memorable success with three points to spare over second-placed Westport United. A hat trick by defender Dwayne Helly marked the highpoint of the encounter while prolific striker Benny Lavelle celebrated his 21st birthday with his 11th goal of the competition.
But what particularly pleased Town manager Brendan Kenny was the fact his charges had successfully defending their crown by registering 11 consecutive wins.
"I don't believe it has ever been done before and we are very proud of such a record. Our only defeat (against Castlebar Celtic on May 22) occurred following a 19-match unbeaten run.
"Nobody can take away from us the fact we have been the outstanding team in Mayo over the past two years and we don't intend to stop there."
With Ballina requiring all three points against Swinford to be certain of lifting the league championship crown for only the third time, they eased the pressure on themselves with two early goals.
Playing in an uncustomary red strip, they took the lead after eight minutes when Lavelle turned Michael Duffy's diagonal ball from the left past Swinford goalkeeper Neil McNicholas.
Earlier, sweetly struck long-range efforts by Ross Kenny and Tom O'Connor had only marginally missed the target.
Swinford responded positively. Nigel Sweeney caused anxiety in the Ballina penalty area with a solid headed attempt which screamed inches wide. Then Niall Feeney directed a decent effort over Kenneth O'Malley's crossbar.
But Ballina re-established control of proceedings after a quarter of an hour when the unmarked Helly directed Philip Devers' angled cross into the net at the far post.
Town were now pulling the Swinford rearguard asunder with the intensity of their attacking play, but Duffy and Lavelle failed to exploit feasible opportunities.
O'Malley had to be sharp to deny Trevor McDonnell at the other end after the Swinford marksman sprung the Ballina offside trap.
There was another worrying moment for O'Malley before half time when the towering Barry McShea utilised his strength to create a half-chance out of nothing.
All hopes of a Swinford comeback were extinguished, however, when Helly struck his second goal in the 62nd minute.
Ross Kenny's delivery from a corner kick was inviting and Helly stooped to nod the ball past a beaten McNicholas.
Swinford did hit the back of the Town net with 10 minutes remaining but it was disallowed as Peter Quinn was deemed to be in an offside position before the ball was played to him.
Helly completed his first Super League hat trick from the penalty spot in the closing moments. It had been awarded for a trip on the busy Ross Kenny, the proud manager's son.
Job done for Ballina Town and the players fittingly changed into their traditional blue and white jerseys for the presentation ceremony.
And, as captain Derek Tansey remarked in his acceptance speech, there is no reason why a third consecutive title cannot be achieved in 2011.
Ballina Town 4
Ballina Town: K. O'Malley, D. Helly, B. Giblin, D. Tansey, S. Kelly, D. O'Connor, T. O'Connor, R. Kenny, B. Lavelle, P. Devers, M. Duffy.
Subs used: D. Gorman, J. Mountney, E. Kenny.
Swinford: N. McNicholas, N. Feeney, P. Quinn, T. Kavanagh, N. Sweeney, D. Brennan, P. Noone, G. Carter, B. McShea, T. McDonnell, C. Reddington.
Subs used: R. Quinn, M. Gallagher, K. Regan.
Ref: T. Cosgrove (Claremorris).
●Star rating: Dwayne Helly...first ever Super League hat trick for the consistent defender.
Pictured is Derek Tansey being presented with the Kelly Cup by Tom Kelly and Padraig McHale of the Mayo League. Photo: Michael McLaughlin.