Brave Ballinasloe fall short in quest for Connacht glory

Easkey 1-18

Ballinasloe 2-12

Ivan Smyth in Bekan

BALLINASLOE’S quest to secure the Connacht Junior Club hurling title came up just short as Easkey from Sligo retained their crown in Bekan on Saturday.

The defeat sees Ballinasloe’s campaign come to a close but after amassing 10 championship wins this year, they can certainly hold their heads high following this brave effort. However, it wasn’t enough against a more experienced Easkey outfit which got the job done in a game which was a far cry from last year’s final, which the Sligo outfit won against Ballygar by 0-5 to 0-4 in monsoon-like conditions.

In truth, Easkey possessed the greater attacking threat and ought to not have allowed Ballinasloe a route back into this final. The Sligo side, who are managed by Ballygar’s Brian Healy, registered eight wides in the second half as their inaccuracies allowed Ballinasloe to chip away at their deficit.

Despite being on the backfoot for most of the final period, a Cathal O’Hanlon free levelled the game at 2-11 to 1-14 after 54 minutes. Crucially, Easkey struck over four scores without reply before Jack Dillon pointed for Ballinasloe midway through the four minutes of injury time.

This left a goal separating them as Derek Frehill’s side laid siege to the opposition goal late on. O’Hanlon’s 20m free was saved on the line by Easkey ‘keeper Jimmy Gordon. As Ballinasloe prepared to take the resulting ‘65, Finnian Cawley illegally interfered with the sliotar which led to a free on the 45m line. This allowed O’Hanlon to fire in a more menacing delivery as his free deceived everyone only to hit the butt of the post.

From the rebound, Easkey did just enough to repel the danger amidst a deluge of bodies. That was the final chance as from Gordon’s puckout, referee James Judge brought an end to the contest and Ballinasloe’s dreams of a Connacht title.

Pictured: Ballinasloe’s Craig Keighery on the attack against Gavin Connolly of Easkey during Saturday’s Connacht Club Junior Hurling Final in Bekan. Photo: David Cunniffe.

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