John Nevin on the ball for Ballymahon in breaking away from Colmcille opponent Paul McKeon. Action from the Senior Football Championship Group 3 game at Allen Park. Photo: Declan Gilmore
Colmcille overcame the brave challenge of Ballymahon in an entertaining Senior Football Championship encounter played on Saturday evening last in perfect conditions at Allen Park, Newtownforbes.
Colmcille . . . 2-13 Ballymahon . . . 2-11
Both sides will feature in the latter stages of the championship though as Ballymahon outdone Fr Manning Gaels on scoring difference to consolidate their place in the last eight.
Colmcille as expected topped the group and were already through before this clash and manager Stephen Coy was allowed to rest some of his major players for this tie. This suited both sides of course as Ballymahon could play their game without dealing with the likes of Barry McKeon and Declan Farrell.
Colm Flynn kicked 9 of Ballymahon's 11 points and the first of his 8 frees opened the scoring in the 4th minute. Cathal Reilly then registered a fine score to open Colmcille's account moments later.
Former Longford defender Declan Reilly, now plying his trade in the full forward line, showed his class with a goal in the 8th minute. His first shot bounced off the crossbar but on the second time of asking he showed great composure to finish the ball to the net.
A free from Rory Hawkins and two cracking points from the half back line pair of Ciaran McKeon and Martin Mulligan added to Ballymahon's misery and it looked like the floodgates would open.
But Ballymahon kept plugging away at the scoreline to keep within touching distance at all times and then
Joe Kelly provided the buzz once again like he has been doing all year.
In the closing stages of the first half, Kelly scored a terrific goal with an absolutely stunning effort from distance. He picked up the ball in midfield before beating numerous defenders and his early strike kicked with the outside of his boot rocketed to the top corner of the net to the complete surprise of Colmcille keeper Mark Kiernan. The Ballymahon centre-half-forward saluted the crowd in celebration and the Colmcille support must have been wondering how the half-time score read 1-7 apiece.
Colmcille had a blistering start to the second half with 1-3 on the trot. Ruairi Harkin kicked his third point while a brace from Cathal Reilly and a goal from the experienced Noel Farrell put a considerable gap between the sides.
You must wonder what Liam Keenan does to instill belief into the Ballymahon side but again they showed great resilience to kick 1-3 in succession with Kyle Fitzmaurice scoring the goal to ensure a very exciting finish.
In the end though Colmcille could spring the likes of Barry McKeon from the bench and his two points clinched the victory and confirmed their place at the top of Group 3.
Liam Keenan has rejuvenated this Ballymahon side since he arrived and with Colm Flynn's deadly placed ball accuracy and the lightning fast Joe Kelly on board they will be quietly confident of beating Mostrim in the quarter-final.
Colmcille face Abbeylara next and if they overcome that challenge they will fancy themselves to reach the decider. The north Longford side will need the McKeons, Farrells and Declan Reilly firing on all cylinders if they are to overcome the challenge but they will have no fear going into the quarter-final.
COLMCILLE: Mark Kiernan; Niall Farley, Enda Macken, Gerry Mulligan; Ciaran McKeon (0-1), Martin Mulligan (0-1), Vinnie Hourican; Fergal Sheridan, Paul McKeon; Alan McKeon, Rory Hawkins (0-2, one free), Noel Farrell (1-0); Ruairi Harkin (0-3), Cathal Reilly (0-3), Declan Reilly (1-0).
Subs:- Ciaran Brady for N Farley (19 mins); Cormac Hughes for R Hawkins (half-time); Darren Mulligan (0-1) for C Brady (50 mins); Barry McKeon (0-2, one free) for F Sheridan (50 mins).
BALLYMAHON: Jack Fox; James Daly, TJ McArdle, Mark McCormack; Gareth Murtagh, Matthew Daly, Sean McMullen; Thomas Mulvihill, John Nevin (0-1); Eddie Noonan (0-1), Joe Kelly (1-0), Pedro Byrne; Kyle Fitzmaurice (1-0), Colm Flynn (0-9, eight frees), Rós Claffey.
Referee: Patrick Maguire (St Mary's Granard).