Carlow IFC Group 1 Round 3
Move over John 3.16, (rule) 6.21 is the new kid in town!
Now, no guarantee of passage to the knockout stages of each championship would be complete without a stressful 60-plus minutes of the game itself and then see where you were stood afterwards. Ballinabranna knew avoiding defeat would see them through, while Kilbride knew a win and their near neighbors Kildavin/Clonegal winning would see them qualify; that and potential 3-way ties at the top and at the bottom. Enough already; on to the game itself!
Stephen Carroll got the Kilbride men off the mark from a mark in the 1st attack of the game, complimented in the 3rd minute by the evergreen Stephen Curry's point, who was a serious handful for the hour. Speaking of evergreen, both Joe Waters and Bobby Daly Snr were the plus ones marshalling their respective D's; a testament in the searing heat to both who I'm fairly sure are the owners of birth certs from the 1970s!
Ballinabranna welcomed back James Kehoe and Robert Sansom, the latter claimed a mark and obliged to half the deficit on 8 mins. The lively Rian Farrell on 10 mins neatly pointing in response, only for Andy Mulleeney to keep his score-a-game ratio up (though his participation in the quarter-final has to be in doubt as he left the field early in the 2nd period through injury, and that's saying something, anyone that knows Andy).
Kealan Brennan and Mark Fitzgerald, when given quick ball, were causing problems for the Kilbride rearguard, both pointing either side of Darragh Foley's first of the night on 12 mins and Farrell's second for Kilbride. Fitzgerald's score, in particular, cutting in off the sideline to make it 0-5 to 0-4, a highlight of the half.
The first placed ball score of the game took till minute 22; Sansom getting a pair, the second on 26 mins (both after advantage was given and brought back), bookending Fitzgerald's second arriving on 27 min for 0-7 to 0-5. Foley concluded the half's scoring from Farrell's offload to leave all to play for, and with Kildavin on top in the Training Centre, a win might see Kilbride through.
James Kehoe with a fly kick that sailed over Gray's crossbar on 32 mins was a rare sight as the next 20 mins had plenty to talk about but not necessarily on the scoreboard. Throw in a possible foul on Ceilum Darcy for a potential penalty, what seemed a straight red card for Sean Foley (already on a yellow), a pair of Darragh Foley points, one each from play and a free to level proceedings once more but only a temporary reprieve as James Kehoe, who was now getting on a lot of ball, fouled soon after for Sansom to make it 0-9 to 0-8 before the score of the game from Curry arrived, closer to the tunnel than the goal, the posts were split in two, 58 mins on the clock, Kilbride back on level terms, 9 points apiece.
With Robert Sansom at 14, you've a serious target; one such ball resulting in a foul between the 14 and 21, quickly taken with a 3-pointer possibly on the cards for a split second. It took a neat finish from Paddy Meaney to get the lead back again for Ballinabranna at 0-10 to 0-9 on 59 mins; a goal now, and it was curtains for whoever, and by God, it almost arrived. A breaking ball with bodies all around the edge of the square saw Stephen Curry dive fists first in with a retreating netminder Davy Byrne getting back with urgency of someone trying to avoid the pot spilling all over the cooker, so to speak!
The potential turning point averted, Kehoe made it a 2-point game soon after. Foley replying from a free, but still, Kilbride needed to go green; a lobbed-in free claimed for a split second by Darragh. Ballinabranna with plenty of cover back mopped it up, and with that, John Hickey called a halt to proceedings. Ballinabranna just about deserved winners; a quarter-final with an impressive Grange awaits while Kilbride will try to retain their Intermediate status against Naomh Eoin; men only need apply!
Footnote: Ballinabranna have retired the no 4 jersey for 2023 in memory of the late Padraic Carter.
Ballinabranna: Davy Byrne, Evan Tunstead, Lar Dermody, Bobby Daly Snr, Andy Mulleeney (0-1), Jimmy Cahill, Cormac O 'Hara, Colin Byrne, Patrick Meaney (0-1), James Kehoe (0-2), Gary Dunne, Ceilum Darcy, Kealan Brennan (0-1), Robert Sansom (0-4, 0-1m, 0-3f), Mark Fitzgerald (0-2).
Subs - Liam Ryan, Brian Cox, Cathal Owens, Bobby Daly Jnr.
Kilbride: Tomas Gray, Michael Brown, Tom Donald, John O' Neill, Griffin Kennedy, Michael O 'Brien, Sean Foley, Darragh Foley (0-5, 0-2f), Mark Curry, Rian Farrell (0-2), Joe Waters, Pierce Dean, Mitch Kelly, Stephen Curry (0-2), Stephen Carroll (0-1m).
Subs - Brendan Butler, Lochlan McGagh.
Referee - John Hickey