ALL good things come to those who wait and that was certainly the case for Ahascragh/Fohenagh who, having lost county intermediate hurling finals in 2012 and 2014, finally secured the Mick Sylver Cup at the third time of asking with victory over Ballinderreen at Kenny Park, Athenry on Sunday.
By far the better team, the victors had led by 0-10 to 0-4 at half-time but still it took goals from Galway forward Cathal Mannion, a penalty, and Eoghain Delaney, a fortunate effort, on 42 and 56 minutes respectively to break the challenge of a plucky Ballinderreen.
From the outset, you got the sense that Ahascragh/Fohenagh were not going to let another opportunity slip and once Willie Dilleen’s outfit took the lead on seven minutes, after both sides had traded scores in the opening exchanges, they never really looked back.
In all, Ahascragh/Fohenagh had eight different scorers on the day, with Delaney and Mannion finishing with 1-3 apiece, while Ballinderreen, for their part, had just three players who found the target.
It was never going to be enough and this lack of cutting edge, creativity and rhythm, which had seen Ballinderreen dispense of the likes of Kilconieron, Rahoon/Newcastle and Kinvara earlier in the championship, was to cost them dearly.
Consequently, Ballinderreen just couldn’t conjure up the scores to produce a match-winning tally against a Ahascragh/Fohenagh side that flooded their defence with bodies to great effect any time Ballinderreen threatened.
In addition, Ahascragh/Fohenagh had also the experience of playing in those previous finals and this definitely stood to them as they looked totally at ease in their county final surroundings. They did not have to play the occasion as Ballinderreen did.
As contests go, though, this was by no means a classic. For one, a great deal of possession was turned over cheaply by both sides while, secondly, the standard of shooting, especially from placed balls, was not what you would have expected from two teams vying to go senior next year.
While the swirling wind around Kenny Park may have contributed to the probloem, the free-taking, at times, was an abomination. For Ahascragh/Fohenagh, Stephen Smyth and Cathal Mannion had some bad misses while Ballinderreen, in the second half, spurned relatively easy chances from placed balls through Kevin Lane and Shane Coen.
Those were to prove costly for Ballinderreen as they came at a time when they could have given themselves a lifeline. Already, Lane had converted a free on 32 minutes to reduce the gap to five but over the ensuing minutes he, along with Coen, missed chances from frees which, had they been converted, may have planted a seed of doubt in their opponents.
Full coverage in this week’s Connacht Tribune