Magheracloone  2-10    Ballybay  0-08

A sharper, hungrier Magheracloone deservedly won the senior football league title in this tough, hard-hitting contest that was played in somewhat wintry and greasy conditions in Inniskeen on Sunday last. In taking the senior football title they also denied Ballybay the completion of the senior double but there could be no questioning who were the superior side on the day as Ballybay were outplayed, outfoxed and outgunned in practically every position.

Magheracloone were never headed in the entire contest with the best that Ballybay could achieve was being level on three occasions in a low scoring first half with Magheracloone then striking decisively in the early minutes of the second half, hitting 1-3 without reply to open a six points gap that Ballybay never looked like closing.

Conditions on the day made life difficult for ball handling and footwork although at times the type of football that Ballybay played was not suited to the prevailing conditions while Magheracloone’s more direct game paid a better dividend.

Magheracloone’s victory was fashioned out of midfield dominance where Gavin Doogan and Paul Farnan excelled, and tight marking in defence that afforded Ballybay very little space or time on the ball. In attack Tomas Freeman was top scorer with nine points, eight from frees, and Paul Jones rammed in two second-half goals that helped Magheracloone consolidate.

The start of the game was delayed to accommodate the queues at the turnstiles but when things did get under way it was Magheracloone who drew first blood when Tomas Freeman pointed a free for a foul on Paul Jones in the opening minute. Paul Finlay equalised for Ballybay three minutes later from a free following a foul on Brian Mc Cabe and that more or less set the tone for a low scoring first half with all of Magheracloone’s points coming from frees and Ballybay registering two from open play in the opening 30 minutes.

Another Tomas Freeman free in the sixth minute restored Magheracloone to the lead with Gavin Doogan then taking off a great catch to get the ball in to Damien Freeman who was fouled and his brother obliged again to put Magheracloone two in front after eight minutes. Hugh Malone reduced the deficit to the minimum in the 10th minute following good work by Mark Mc Ardle, Tommy O’Neill and Fergal Mc Ardle and they did have Magheracloone under pressure for the next couple of minutes but James Ward stood tall at the heart of the defence and Michael Jones got in a great tackle on Shane Mc Guinness to break up another promising Ballybay attack.

At the other end though Magheracloone were wide of the target twice in quick succession before Paul Finlay brought the sides level in the 18th minute with a point from a free following a foul on Christopher Mc Guinness.

Magheracloone continued to exert pressure that saw Ballybay concede two further frees, both of which were converted by Tomas Freeman to put them two points ahead entering the final 10 minutes of the first half.

In that 10 minutes both sides missed chances but crucially Ballybay registered two points one by Shane Mc Quillan in the 27th minute with an excellent finish and the other just on the half-hour when Paul Finlay converted a free following a foul on Christopher Mc Guinness to send the sides in level at the break.

Half-time    Ballybay 0-5        Magheracloone  0-5

Magheracloone got off to a great start to the second-half hitting 1-3 without reply between the fourth and eleventh minutes to give them a six points cushion at that stage, the three points all from the boot of Tomas Freeman, two from frees, and the goal excellently finished by Paul Jones following good work by Damien Freeman, Peter Tuite and Tomas Freeman.

Ballybay rallied and in a quick counter attack Shane Mc Guinness came on a strong run before parting to Fergal Mc Ardle but James Ward got in a great block with Paul Finlay converting the resultant ’45 to bring the margin down to five. Magheracloone were in no mood to relent and they drove forward again for points by Gavin Doogan in the 14thminute and another Tomas Freeman free in the 16th minute to open a seven points gap.

Six minutes later the game as a contest was killed off completely when Paul Farnan and Keith Gilsenan conspired to draw the Ballybay defence before releasing the ball over the top for Paul Jones to run on to and he gave Sean Gorman no chance for a ten points lead with eight minutes of normal time remaining.

Christopher Mc Guinness pulled back a point for Ballybay in the 26th minute and Hugh Malone reduced the deficit further with two minutes of normal time remaining but the game as a contest was over quite some time before that.

Magheracloone: Shane Duffy, David Freeman, Peter Ward, Michael Jones, Chris Burns, James Ward, Peter Tuite, Gavin Doogan 0-1, Paul Farnan, Keith Gilsenan, Paudie Finnegan, Michael Metzger, Damien Freeman, Paul Jones 2-0, Tomas Freeman 0-9 (8f). Subs: Noel Tuite for M. Metzger, Paudie Kirk for P. Jones, Killian Rudden for K. Gilsenan.

Ballybay: Sean Gorman, Fergal Smyth, Drew Wylie, Ryan Wylie, Mark Mc Ardle, Brian Mc Cabe, Brent Wylie, Shane Mc Quillan 0-1, Tommy o’ Neill, Thomas Kerr, Shane Mc Guinness, Fergal Mc Ardle, Hugh Malone 0-2, Christopher Mc Guinness 0-1, Paul Finlay 0-4(3f,’45). Subs: Colin Malone for T. Kerr, Cillian Mc Aviney for F. Mc Ardle.

Referee: Sean Gilsenan (Donaghmoyne).