Our senior team played their penultimate game in the Drumlin Credit Union senior football league when they entertained Ballybay at Pairc Naomh Mhuire on Saturday 19th October and fully deserved a share of the spoils after trailing by 0-7 to 3-5 entering the final twenty minutes. As the score-line suggests the game was end to end as both teams played a free-flowing and exciting brand of football where no quarter was asked or given. The lads showed spirit in abundance and I know clichés are often and easily used, but for grit, determination and a never say die attitude the lads once again called upon all their resilience and courage to produce a gutsy fight-back in a tension-filled finish, where I imagine the nerves of both sets of supporters were put through the shredder during the closing stages, as the game ended in a draw Rockcorry 0-15 Ballybay 3-6 and ultimately I think it was a fair result as neither team deserved to lose this highly entertaining encounter.
While the rain stayed away for the duration of the game it was played in heavy and slippery conditions and two minutes after the throw-in centre-half back Noel Carroll surged forward and opened the scoring with a quality point. Ballybay kicked wide a minute later and Mark McGuirk had a wonderful opportunity to extend our lead when he broke through the Ballybay rear-guard but his shot at the target shaved the post and drifted wide. Moments later Lorcan Smyth had a scoring chance but he opted to flick the ball through to Fergal McGeough but it was intercepted and Ballybay broke down the field at pace and registered their first point to draw the sides level. Anthony Tate kicked wide on the 10th minute before Ballybay took the lead two minutes later with a fine point. However, this was quickly cancelled out when Paul McKeown, who worked tirelessly throughout, finished in style to draw the sides level again with 0-2 apiece.
At this juncture we dominated possession and notched over four points without reply. Mark McGuirk converted a free-kick, on the 15th minute, following a foul on Fergal McGeough and a couple of minutes later Mark Daly curled over a peach of a point from a tight angle after a patient build-up that included Paul McKeown, Lorcan Smyth, Mark McGuirk & Fergal McGeough. Colin Quinn, wearing the number seven jersey, applied a delightful finish on the 21st minute when he lobbed over a neat score following a good-move that involved Martin Carroll and Keelan Clerkin. Three minutes later the hard-working Martin Carroll earned himself a free-kick and Mark Daly delivered a measured pass into the evergreen Anthony Tate who off-loaded to Keelan Clerkin and with quick-hands he flicked onwards to Mark McGuirk who astutely fed the ball inside to Paul McKeown and he added to our tally with a superb score to give us a 0-6 to 0-2 advantage after twenty-five minutes.
Ballybay are a quality side and responded in true fashion and the remaining minutes of the half they upped the tempo and totally changed the game around into their favour scoring 2-1. They raised their first green flag on the 27th minute with a fine effort and they quickly fired over a point to level the game. In the last few seconds of the first half a Ballybay free-kick dropped short into the square and in a passage of play that resembled pin-ball, that lasted for a few seconds, the ball was eventually poked into the net which was an unlucky blow and left Ballybay ahead on the scoreboard by 0-6 to 2-3 at the interval.
When play resumed Ballybay extended their lead scoring on the 3rd minute but we replied almost instantly when Lorcan Smyth curled over a marvellous free-kick after Mark McGuirk was brought down. On the 6th minute, Paul McKeown weaved his magic by wrong footing his marker and unleashed a cracking shot from twenty metres and was extremely unfortunate to see it hit the crossbar and although he showed the quickest reactions and collected the rebound his effort at the target drifted to the right and wide. Ballybay then increased their lead to double scores with a neat point on the 8th minute and twenty seconds later they capitalised on a poor kick-out and bagged their third goal to lead by seven points 0-7 to 3-5.
This initially took the wind out of our sails and while Ballybay controlled possession for the next ten minutes they didn’t register any further scores during that spell due to resolute defending and impressive tackling. Gradually, we found our rhythm and started to get on top of the game, in all areas, and finished the match the strongest. The energetic Mark McGuirk ignited our comeback on the 18th minute when he lofted over a free-kick after he was fouled and a minute later when Garry Calvert was hauled down very close to the large parallelogram and initially we all thought, and shouted “penalty” but the referee signalled a free-kick and Mark McGuirk calmly tapped over from close-range to leave the score Rockcorry 0-9 Ballybay 3-5. At this stage it seemed a case of where there is Garry Calvert there is hope and the quicksilver attacker landed a delightful point on the 20th minute when he showed great strength and waltzed around his opponent like a ballet dancer and as he bore down on goals he chipped over the bar for an exquisite score. Shortly afterwards the active Garry Calvert was making his presence felt and was involved in the action again and when he was brought down Lorcan Smyth stepped up and scored a real gem of a free-kick to reduce the arrears to three points.
Damien Matthews has shored up our defence for many a year and his experience was called upon and needed on the 25th minute when he displayed some powerful defending and broke down a promising Ballybay attack. It instigated a swift counter-attack and when he off-loaded to Martin Carroll he delivered a diagonal pin-point pass to his younger brother Noel who made one of his trademark solo-runs and when he was hauled down Lorcan Smyth once again showed his accuracy and pointed with aplomb. As the clock ticked away we continued to stamp our authority on proceedings and Mark McGuirk tapped over another free-kick on the 26th minute and the ensuing kick-out was won by Martin Carroll who glided a lovely pass through to Conor McGeough and the young defender finished brilliantly with a superb point to draw the sides level Rockcorry 0-14 Ballybay 3-5. Two minutes later we had a great goal chance when Noel Carroll burst forward but sadly his low trajectory shot fizzed over the crossbar rather than under to nudge us in front going into the final couple of minutes. The closing stages were tense and dramatic and had both sets of supporters biting their nails in an exciting finish and when Ballybay intercepted a pass they showed composure under pressure to level the encounter and the game ended Rockcorry 0-15 Ballybay 3-6.
To view a selection of action photographs please click the link below to visit our Flickr page.
Team & Scorers: Stephen Lynch, Damien Matthews, Niall McKeown, Conor McGeough 0-1, Keelan Clerkin, Noel Carroll 0-2, Colin Quinn 0-1, Martin Carroll, Mark Daly 0-1, Paul McKeown 0-2, Lorcan Smyth 0-3f, Garry Calvert 0-1, Mark McGuirk 0-4f, Fergal McGeough and Anthony Tate. Subs: Keith Daly for Niall McKeown (injured).