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Kingscourt 0-15  Ballinagh 1-10 (AET)

A forceful finish allied to some wonderful marksmanship worked the oracle for Kingscourt Stars last weekend as they guaranteed senior championship football for themselves in 2010. While the encounter wasn’t a do-or-die contest as such, both teams demonstrated in no uncertain terms their unwillingness to avail of the safety net that bolstered their honest efforts.

As a consequence, the decent-sized crowd was treated to a feisty, fluid game which was only decided after extra-time. This game had everything; a super goal, long range points, well-worked moves, defensive howlers, posts to the rescue, penalty claims, hard hitting, a sendingh off, injury time equalisers, last minute winners, screaming “wags”, out of control grandparents, heck perhaps even divine inspiration!

The Stars may have upset the books in driving the Saffrons further into the mire of their relegation fight but, in truth, the Dudley Farrell-trained crew deserved to scoop the spoils. Ballinagh had seemed on the cusp of safeguarding their senior status for at least another year when leading by 1-8 to 0-6 after 42 minutes. However Kingscourt finished the game much the stronger with their fitness, zest for winning ‘dirty’ ball and pin-point accuracy at the death propelling Ballinagh into the loser’s camp.

In perfect playing conditions, the tone of the game was established from early on with play being very much of the tit-for-tat variety. The sides were level four times inside the opening 20 minutes with six different players getting on the scoresheet. In sharing eight points with ten minutes left to play in the opening half, the teams seemed utterly determined not to allow their opponents seize the initiative for anything other than fleeting minutes.

The first bit of daylight emerged by the 25th minute when David Finnegan and Niall McDermott (a great long-range effort) made it 0-6 to 0-4 in favour of Ballinagh.  Seven minutes later, Ballinagh got a huge leg-up when Padraig O’Reilly made one of his trademark, lung-bursting forays up the field. The county ace pumped a long ball upfield, which Colin Gumley collected after slipping his marker and with sweet aplomb the livewire corner-forward planted the ball firmly in the net.

Better was to come for Ballinagh in the opening minutes of the second half as they sought to embellish their 1-7 to 0-5 interval lead. David Finnegan reflected the gung-ho nature of Ballinagh’s second quarter efforts by launching over a point from far out to make it a six point game. Kingscourt refused to roll over and die though and, crucially, they chiselled out the next two scores with Sean Og Gargan and Mark McKeon nicking a point apiece.

Ballinagh continued to operate off the front foot though and when Kevin Smith rifled over a point to make it 1-9 to 0-7, the Fat Lady could be heard clearing her throat. However Kingscourt had other ideas and taking a leaf from the club’s book from another decade, the Stars rallied superbly.

Five unanswered points were to follow from the blues and whites in a real tour de force which had Ballinagh rocking on their heels and in desperate need of a lifeline.  Three points from Barry Reilly – and their superior fitness – proved central to Kingscourt’s Lazarus-like act and then a wonder point in the 63rd minute from an extremely acute angle by Colm Smith succeeded in levelling the scores, 0-12 to 1-9, at the death.

As tired legs prevailed, the first half of extra-time saw just one point being scored, that from Niall McDermott which ended a barren 28 minutes spell for the Saffrons.  The second half of extra-time was all about Kingscourt with a lovely point from Neil McCabe kick-starting Kingscourt’s march to the winner’s enclosure.

Ballinagh worked their socks off to delay the inevitable but classy, composed points from Barry Reilly in the final two minutes served to leave no question as to who would be celebrating at the long whistle.

A super performance by the lads and credit to all involved both on and off the field for refusing to give up and fight to the very end.  That’s the championship finsihed and Senior status retained.  Superb opening and closing performances bookended two disappointing perofrmances in between, however given that both Killygarry have now reach the County Semi-Finals, our narrow defeats to them are encouraging performances.  Hopefully, promotion in the league will be wrapped up shortly (Well it is three and a half months since we played a league match, we’re in Division Two for those that may have forgotten!) and then objectives for the year will have been reached.

Kingscourt Stars;

Ronan Tinnelly; Paddy Farrelly, Tommy Wakely, Shane Gray; Philip Tinnelly, Alan Clarke, Keith McCabe; Brendan Corcoran, Colm Smith (0-1); Thomas Malone (0-2), Sean Og Gargan (0-1), Barry Tully; Anthony Corcoran, Barry Reilly (0-6, 2f), Mark McKeon (0-4, 1f)

Subs; Neil McCabe (0-1) for B Corcoran; Gavin Sheenan for C Smith; Ryan McCormack (0-1)  for B Tully; B Tully for Sean Og; Darryl Martin for A Corcoran.

 Ballinagh;

Darragh McCarthy; Killian McBride, Patrick Carroll, Enda Brady; Damien McInerney, Padraig O’Reilly, Niall O’Reilly; Alan Durkin, Anthony Gaynor; Paul Urbanski, David Finnegan (0-2), Kevin Smith (0-3, one free); Colin Gumley (1-1), Nevin McKiernan, Niall McDermott (0-3).

Subs; Michael Ward for D McInerney; Thomas Moore for A Durkin; Adrian Maguire; Declan Beard.

* Body of Report printed courtesy of Kevin Carney