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Reds perform well in 1st Div 1 Hurling game before late goals

09 April 2010

Down Senior Hurling League Division 1; Newry Shamrocks v. Ballyvarley The inability to put the ball in the net was to prove Ballyvarley’s undoing as they made their debut in the Down Senior Hurling League Division 1. With a much re-jigged line-up from last years successful title winning team, Ballyvarley performed well in this opening fixture at Pairc Esler and in the end it was Newry Shamrocks ability to get the vital goals that snatched the vital points from the Reds eager grasp. Ballyvarley began in great form and with Paul O’Neill and Cathal McGrath pulling the strings they matched a strong Shamrocks side stride for stride and score for score in an absorbing opening half. The teams were level on seven occasions in a free-scoring game and it was obvious that it would take a major score to separate the sides. However the Reds defence were sound with Cathal O’Neill, Niall Higgins and Colm O’Neill in charge in the centre and even Patrick Mackin, in his unaccustomed defensive role, was delivering some telling clearances fom the back. Ciaran Connolly was back to form in midfield and a slick handpass from the free-roving Jamie Murray placed him for a great point and an early lead. Cathal McGrath and Eunan McConville were the hub of the attack and points apiece from these key players gave the Reds the lead midway through the half. A great run and point from defender David Lavery was another high point of a good half for Ballyvarley and four great long-range frees from Paul O’Neill kept the sides neck and neck until the half time whistle. As for Shamrocks it was the point-taking ability of Ciaran Courtney, Martin Cribben and Ronan and Paul Sheehan that earned them a share of the spoils at half time. Half time: Newry Shamrocks 0-8 Ballyvarley 0-8 It all went wrong for Ballyvarley in the opening minutes of the second half. The Red’s defence failed to cut out an incisive sideline free which found its way to Shamrock’s danger-man Eoin Magennis and he made the most of a difficult opportunity to drive the ball to the back of the net. Two further points from the in-form Paul Sheehan and another from Martin Cribben opened up a six point gap that the Reds were never to recover from. Ballyvarley continued to play well outfield and were always pushing forward but they failed to take advantage of their opportunities in front of goal and once more it was left to midfielder Paul O’Neill to provide the scoring threat and three long-range pointed frees from deep inside his own half reduced the deficit to just a goal. However Paul Sheehan was to prove the scourge of Ballyvarley and he brought his tally to seven on the night with two more great running points from play. A further point from Martin Cribben added to the Reds misery but two further points from Paul O’Neill brought Ballyvarley within striking distance again and it was all to play for as the game entered the final phase. The Shamrocks goalmouth saw much of the action but the Reds could not apply the finishing touch and in the closing minutes it was the finishing ability of the home strikers that was to give the final score-line that unflattering look. Martin Cribben deftly rounded his man and sped through the Reds defence for the killer goal and Paul Sheehan added salt to the wounds when he outstripped his opponent to fire in a great shot that magnificently saved by Cathal O’Neill but the rebound fell to the inrushing Martin Carr who made no mistake in finishing to the net. So a good performance from the Reds was little consolation as they were left to mull over the problem of finding a goal-scoring threat up front Final Score: Newry Shamrocks 3-14 Ballyvarley 0-13 Cathal O’Neill; Steven Daly, Niall Higgins, Jamie Murray; Patrick Mackin, Colm O’Neill, David Lavery(0-1); Paul O’Neill(0-9), Ciaran Connolly(0-1); Stuart Cartmill, Cathal McGrath(0-1), Colin O’Neill; Niall Savage, Eunan McConville(0-1), Tony Hegarty. Subs: Leigh McConville, Martin Connolly, James McConville, Michael McAllister, Shane McAreavey, Peter McConville