Last year’s beaten Intermediate finalists Ballymore have high hopes of going one better this season but their title hopes suffered an early blow as they were held to a draw by Legan Sarsfields in a dreadful Round 1 clash at Devine Park , Mostrim on Saturday evening last.
But in truth, Ballymore will probably look back on the result with some relief after conceding two goals in the space of five first half minutes.
Going into the game as the favourites to capture the 2011 Intermediate title, Ballymore were sluggish throughout as Legan dominated the early exchanges.
Able to call on the influence of county senior star Bernard McElvaney, Joe Brady’s charges never really got going in what can only be described as atrocious playing conditions at a windswept Devine Park.
McElvaney did however, break the deadlock after seven minutes, picking up a quickly taken free from Francis Murphy to shoot stylishly over the bar from 30 yards.
But if Ballymore’s loyal set of supporters thought that might be a precursor for the remaining 60 odd minutes, Legan Sarsfields had other ideas as the south Longford side found the back of the net a couple of minutes later.
After picking up a loose ball 50 yards from goal, Shane Cox turned to release the onrushing Barry Tierney who made no mistake from close range.
Buoyed by their first real foray into Ballymore territory, Legan doubled their advantage soon after. This time, the opening came via a more direct route as James Nulty lofted in a high ball. Despite being under intense pressure, Shane Cox managed to pluck the ball from the air and under duress from a couple of Ballymore defenders, the Legan forward fell to the ground.
As the small crowd looked on, referee Aidan Dowler had no hesitation in awarding a penalty. Following a brief exchange as to who should take the spot kick, the onus of responsibility fell on the shoulders of half back Noel O’Neill and he smashed the ball past the helpless Ballymore keeper Paddy Boyce.
In what was a drab end to the first half, Ballymore only managed the one response, from a Bernard McElvaney free to leave the score 2-0 to 0-2 at the break.
If the opening half hour was poor stuff, the second half showed little by way of improvement. Following a fiery half-time team talk from their manager, Gowna clubman Joe Brady, Ballymore perhaps not surprisingly started the better.
A free from Damien Monaghan reduced the deficit to three while Monaghan did likewise in the 41st minute to leave just two between the sides.
Legan, for their part, appeared to struggle as the game wore on and failed to register a single score in the second half.
Shane Cox had undoubtedly their best chance from a free, but his 25 yard attempt somehow drifted wide of the posts.
In the end, it was Ballymore who eventually levelled matters courtesy of scores from another Damien Monaghan free and Eoin Donohoe to claim a point in the round-robin league stages of the championship.
BALLYMORE: Paddy Boyce; John Kavanagh, Philip Dawson, Martin Gallagher; Vinny Walker, Sean Brady, Francis Murphy; Donal McElvaney, Bernard McElvaney (0-2, one free); Padraig Kavanagh, John Murphy, John Gorman; Eoin Donohoe (0-1), Damien Monaghan (0-3, all frees), Noel Boyle.
Subs:- Seamus McNerney for J Murphy (8 mins); Cathal Monaghan for S McNerney (46 mins); Padraig McNerney for N Boyle (46 mins).
LEGAN SARSFIELDS: Paddy Carthy; Joseph Keogh, Kevin Quaine, Declan O’Neill; John Leonard, Gerry Nugent, Noel O’Neill (1-0, penalty); Niall Flood, Cormac Hanlon; Barry Tierney (1-0), Shane Cox, John Slowey; James Nulty, Paddy O’Neill, Ciaran Murphy.
Subs:- Conor Moran for J Nulty (38 mins); Kevin Moran for C Murphy (38 mins); Brendan Quaine for J Slowey (52 mins).
Referee: Aidan Dowler (Moydow).