Ballinacourty footballers back on top

Ballinacourty\'s Manager Pakie Hurney and his son Gary (Man of the Match) celebrate  victory. photo: Michael Kiely

Ballinacourty's Manager Pakie Hurney and his son Gary (Man of the Match) celebrate victory. photo: Michael Kiely

Ballinacourty . . . 3-4; Ardmore . . . 1-7

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In a County Senior Football Final of many twists and turns, Ballinacourty eventually gained the upper-hand to claim their fourth premier championship title at Fraher Field Dungarvan on Sunday afternoon last, and first since 1971, when coincidently they also accounted for the same opposition, this time on a final score line of 3-4 to 1-7. Conceding two early goals, Ardmore came back in style to lead by the minimum margin at the break, and while the issue wasn’t finally settled until the winners third goal five minutes from the end of normal time, the over all consensus of opinion unreservedly agreed that the honours at the finish, rested firmly and squarely where they belong.

Scenes of tremendous jubilation greeted the last blast of the referees whistle, as young and old alike converged on the field to salute the new champions, and while there was a certain of disappointment in the Ardmore camp, they sporting stayed around to see Ballinacourty take the Conway Cup for the fourth time in their history, and indeed played their part in contributing handsomely to a most sporting encounter.

Greater Finals there may have been at this level, yet for sheer undiluted tension and excitement, it would be difficult to surpass this 2007 version, which was packed with all sorts of everything, and finished in a frenzy of almost unprecedented dimensions as Ardmore came close to pulling the game out of the fire, during a late surge of pressure on the new champions lines. In the end of course Ballinacourty emerged worthy winners and will now go forward to represent Waterford in the Munster Football Club Championship semi final against Kerry standard bearers Kilcummin, who beat Clare champions Lizzycasey in the opening round last Sunday.

Two goal start

With the clerk of the weather in benevolent mood after threatening rain in the early part of the day, quite a large crowd made tracks for Fraher Field, Dungarvan last Sunday for eagerly awaited concluding game of the Lawlor’s Hotel sponsored Senior Football Championship, and few if any had bargained for the sensational start about to unfold soon after the start. All the pre-match trimmings took place with the Thomas Francis Meagher Fife and Drum Band so much part and parcel of the G.A.A. scene in the Decies, leading the teams in parade before hand.

The game itself started on a blistering pace, with chances of scores falling to both sides in the early minutes. The best opportunity of all falling to Ballinacourty in the 4th minute, when a Mark Fives delivery from a free on the right, saw a blistering shot by John Phelan come back off the crossbar, and was scrambled to safety. But the Ardmore citadel finally fell after eight minutes play, when an uncharacteristic mistake by Wayne Hennessy who had been tracking opponents all over the field, allowed the ball to slip from grasp, and the ball fell invitingly to Patrick Hurney who was fouled inside the restricted area, Mark Ferncombe took the resultant penalty, only to see his shot come back off the butt of the upright, but his luck held out as he duly hammered the breaking ball to the Ardmore net. There seemed to be a little confusion about the legitimacy of the score in question, some arguing that intervention by the woodwork, didn’t entitle the free-taker to touch the ball again before it was played by another – whether this held true or not became superfluous, as the green flag was hoisted and the score stood.

The score at the time was no more than Ballinacourty deserved – they had been laying siege on the Ardmore lines for a while and might have a couple of points at least before hand.

There was more misfortune to follow for the men from St. Declan’s territory four minutes later, when still very much on the offensive, Ballinacourty were awarded a 25 metre free, and when Declan Five’s delivery went unimpeded all the way through a rake of players to the back in the net, the home side found themselves two goals to the good and coasting. Inexplicably the winners weren’t to register again for the remainder of the opening half – instead it was Ardmore who not only called the shots, but really threw down the gauntlet to the opposition, and bit by bit, a game which at one stage looked might it turn into a runaway win for ‘Courty, became very much alive.

Such was the winners early dominance that Ardmore’s first of two initial period wides, didn’t come until the 17th minute, and it took them two more minutes, before their team captain Alan North succeeded in opening their account with a point. That score sparked off more than a mini-revival – now it was St. Declan’s men’s turn to produce the sort of football, their recent semi final defeat of Stradbally fully illustrated. A mere sixty seconds after their opening score they had another point from the very effective Clinton Hennessy, and when Billy Harty had point number three from a free in the 25th minute, there was only three points between the sides. Even that margin was wiped out four minutes later, when a four man movement originating in defence saw James O’Donnell clinically finish past Stephen Enright in the Ballinacourty goal to bring about parity for the first time – and it even got better for Ardmore, when in the second minute of added on time, Clinton Hennessy pointed a free from a difficult angle, leaving his side 1-4 to 2-0 to the good at the break.

Level again

It took Ballinacourty just three minutes after the recess, to get back on level terms again. Both sides had again scorned early scoring chances, before Gary Hurney who was to emerge as the man of the match, brought about equality for the second time from a free in the 33rd minute. Undaunted and showing commendable courage in the process, Ardmore came back to edge back in front again – midfielder Gary North pointing from the middle of the field two minutes later. Still with their defence providing a heroic second half performance, Ballinacourty quickly regained the lead and the initiative, as Mark Fives obliged from a placed position in the 37th minute, to be followed by another point from Patrick Hurney a minute later, as set up by his brother Gary, he saw his pile driver of a shot from close range rattle the cross bar, before going over for a point.

The pendulum was now beginning to drift back more positively in the winner’s direction. Another terrific shot by Patrick Hurney in the 42nd minute struck the upright and bounced wide, and his brother Gary subsequently missed the target, before substitute Mark Gorman with his first touch of the ball obliged with another Ballinacourty point in the 50th minute. Shortly afterwards Ardmore were thrown something of a life-line, when the outstanding Michael Supple surging out of defence pointed in the 54th minute to leave just the minimum between the sides. All in vain however as a minute later came the game’s defining moment, and one likely to be recalled for many a long day. All four Hurney brothers – Laurence, John and Gary created the movement resulting in a cracking third and final goal from younger brother Patrick

Surely now there was no way back for Ardmore, but it is to their ever lasting credit, that they simply refused to accept the seemingly inevitable – they launched a series of late attacks, had to be content with a final point from Billy Harty, and with a slice of luck might have snatched a late goal, but each time man of the match Gary Hurney was repeatedly seen back in defence, gaining spectacular and timely possession, and keeping the Ballinacourty men firmly and most assuredly on the road to a deserved 3-4 to 1-7 victory.

Stars a plenty

Long acknowledged as one of the outstanding footballers in the county, Gary Hurney certainly came up with a five star contribution to Ballinacourty 4th County title success story at Fraher Field last Sunday – admirably supported by his brothers – team captain John, Laurence, and Patrick, they along with Shane Briggs, Sean O’Hare, John Phelan and Mark Ferncombe, proved the chief architects of their team’s win, and will prove worthy opposition for Kerry’s Kilcummin in next Sunday week’s Munster Club semi final.

Few teams would have come back after receiving two hammer blows in the form of those early winners goals, but an exception could be made in the case of Ardmore, who manfully and courageously came storming back into contention to go in front by half time, and proved a little unfortunate not to be a little closer at the finish. They likewise had their outstanding performers – most notably perhaps – Michael Supple, Niall and Richie Hennessy and Declan Prendergast in defence, Gary North and Seamus Prendergast played their hearts out in the middle .while Clinton Hennessy and James O’Donnell stood out best in attack.

Scorers

Ballinacourty: Patrick Hurney and Mark Fives 1-1 each. Mark Ferncombe 1-0, Gary Hurney and Mark Gorman 0-1 each.

Ardmore: James O’Donnell 1-0, Billy Harty, Clinton Hennessey 0-2 each, Alan North, Gary North, Michael Supple 0-1 each.

Teams

Ballinacourty: Stephen Enright, Joey Mullan, John Kindergan, Gavan Breen, Shane Briggs, John Hurney, Richie Foley, Sean O’Hehir, Patrick Lynch, Mark Fives, Laurence Hurney, John Phelan, Gary Hurney, Patrick Hurney, Mark Ferncombe. Subs – Mark Gorman for M. Ferncombe.

Ardmore: Conor Hurley, Austin Flavin, Michael Supple, Conor McNamara, Niall Hennessey, Declan Prendergast, Richie Hennessey, Gary North, Seamus Prendergast, James O’Donnell, Alan North, Wayne Hennessey, Johnny Hennessey, Billy Harty, Clinton Hennessey. Sub – Cathal Hennessey for C. McNamara.

Referee – John Michael Kelly (Shamrocks).

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