Ballyvarley Senior Hurlers Are Crowned Division II Champions

November 8, 2018

With the prize of their first senior league title since 1974 dangling tantalisingly in front of them, this was a game Ballyvarley were never going to lose and their determination was clear as they began this game in dominant mood. An opening point from Clonduff’s ace free-taker, John Murphy, didn’t break Ballyvarley’s confident stride as they took control from the early stages and James McDermott soloed through on the left wing to fire over a superb opening point. A long delivery from Colm O’Neill was added to by Martin O’Neill but when the goalkeeper parried the shot, Martin followed up to push the ball over the line for the opening goal of the game. It was all Ballyvarley at this point but somehow Clonduff stood firm in the onslaught and it took a free from Paul O’Neill to edge the Reds further in front. In the ninth minute David McGovern pounced on another rebound in the square to hammer home goal number two and Ballyvarley looked to be coasting to the league title.
However tragedy struck and a leg injury to Clonduff’s Paul Bloomfield resulted in a forty minute break until an ambulance arrived and it was looking unlikely that the game would be finished in the vanishing light. Both sides agreed to reduce the game to twenty minutes each way and on the restart Ballyvarley struggled to rekindle their early momentum and it was Clonduff who enjoyed a period of domination. Two Clonduff points marked a period when Ballyvarley seemed to be suffering from an attack of the jitters but three points from Paul O’Neill( two frees) got them back on track and at the interval they led by eight points.
   Half time:  Clonduff 0-3  Ballyvarley 2-5
The second half produced some very competitive fair and the Reds had to raise their game to rise to Clonduff’s spirited challenge. After a series of misses by the over-anxious Reds forwards, Cathal McGrath soloed through to tap over the opening point of the half. Two Clonduff points reminded the visitors that that this game was still in the melting pot but then came the clinching score that wrapped up the points and settled the Reds jangling nerves.
James McGrath collected the ball thirty yards out and burst his way through the packed Clonduff rearguard to blast the ball into the roof of the net for the vital third goal. The pressure lifted and it was all Ballyvarley now and further points from Paul O’Neill, James McDermott and Martin O’Neill eased the Reds into an unassailable thirteen point lead. All credit to Clonduff, they never gave up, and in the gathering gloom they scored two great points from play to complete the scoring. On the final whistle the pitch invasion began and Ballyvarley celebrated their first League title in thirty five years.
   Final Score:   Clonduff  0-7  Ballyvarley  3-9
Gerry Coughlin presented the SHL Div 2 Trophy to Ballyvarley captain David Lavery and, on congratulating the team and its mentors, he reminded everyone present “that it was not just about winning tonight, Ballyvarley have had a magnificent season and this trophy represents the teams outstanding performances throughout a long league campaign”. David, in his turn, thanked the players and mentors for all their commitment, all the training and all the great performances that had brought this elusive trophy at long last to Ballyvarley.
The Reds are now due to play in the Semi-final of the Betsy Gray Cup against Warrenpoint this Saturday. Venue and time to be confirmed.
Ballyvarley Team:
Cathal O’Neill; Stephen Daly, Niall Higgins, John O’Neill; Sean Kennedy, Colm O’Neill, David Lavery(capt); Paul O’Neill (0-5), Thomas Lennon; Cathal McGrath(0-1), James McGrath(1-0), Martin O’Neill(1-1); Conor McClorey, David McGovern(1-0), James McDermott(0-2)
Subs: Colin O’Neill, Conor Grew, James McConville, Jamie Murray, Stuart Cartmill, Kieran Maguire, Martin Connolly, Sean O’Neill, Gavin McGreevey, Niall Savage