Below Par Reds Exit Junior Hurling Championship

November 8, 2018

Ballyvarley had done the double over Castlewellan in the league, home and away, but the championship is different. The intensity and physicality goes up a notch for it and Ballyvarley did not raise their game accordingly. On Wednesday night Ballyvarley had one of those days when nothing went right, a poor first half where Castlewellan dominated condemning them to a six point defeat.
From the start Castlewellan were out in front of their men giving the Ballyvarley half-back line in particular, a torrid time. Their pace and strength saw Cormac McCabe field a high ball and notch the ‘Town men their first score of the game. Paul Jennings added a second soon after with a great run from midfield. Ballyvarley’s full-back line held firm with some good last ditch challenges from Thomas Lennon, John O’Neill and the strong Niall Higgins.
The challenge facing the Reds became increasingly daunting when a high ball into the Reds box was pulled on first time to the net as Ballyvarley struggled to get up to pace with the game. Another point left six points between the sides and Ballyvarley had all to do.
Ballyvarley at this stage were struggling in all the major areas of the field, slow and lethargic and second to every ball with their touch letting them down.
 Slowly Ballyvarley’s half-forward line started to show with James McGrath winning ball around the seventy yard line and setting up some sporadic attacks. Indeed from perhaps their first chance of the game the Reds goaled. James McGrath won the ball on the fifty and laid it off to Paul O’Neill to break through and drill the sliotar to the net. Two points a piece were exchanged by the sides after this before another Castlewellan goal. The Reds defence misjudged a high ball that left an unmarked Ray Cunningham to solo in and goal.
This seemed to finally wake the Reds up with Eunan McConville quickly replying for Ballyvarley, soloing in from the left and lifting the net. Despite some ball around the Castlewellan goal Ballyvarley found scores hard to come by and despite another O’Neill pointed free Castlewellan replied with two more to take a well deserved five point lead in at half-time.

HALF-TIME: Ballyvarley 2-3  Castlewellan 2-8

            All over the field Ballyvarley had not played to their full potential and the Reds went out after the restart to raise their game and try to claw their way back. The early exchanges were hard and physical as time and again Castlewellan won most of the fifty fifty ball. Ballyvarley’s forwards were working hard upfront but found time and space at a premium. Despite a good deal of possession it was Castlewellan who got the first score of the half, a goal after a goalmouth melee and this effectively killed the game.
Ballyvarley replied with three more pointed frees from Paul O’Neill but they needed goals. David McGovern and James McGrath went close but Castlewellan also lookd dangerous at the other end of the field as Ray Cunningham seemed to have a hand in a lot of their scores as they added four more points without reply, with some good direct running as they took on and beat their men.
The Reds pushed men forward at every opportunity with Castlewellan’s keeper making some excellent full stretch saves before James McGrath burst through from the left and send a cross field drive thundering to the opposite corner of the net. A pointed free from McGrath soon after left six in it as Ballyvarley lobbed balls into the box seeking more goals. Unfortunately there were to be no more scores as Castlewellan walked in to the Junior Hurling Championship final with a convincing win.
FULL-TIME: Ballyvarley 3-7 Castlewellan 3-13
The game was won and lost in the first period with Castlewellan’s tireless, direct running causing Ballyvarley untold problems. The goals were the killer blows. Ballyvarley know they did not play the way they can with a disappointing team display but they were not let by a determined young Castlewellan side. Ballyvarley must learn from this game and quickly as they still have a league decider against Clonduff in the coming weeks. Some success can still return to the Scarva Road venue.
Ballyvarley’s keeper Cathal O’Neill excelled throughout the game with some excellent saves while John O’Neill and Niall Higgins played well in defence. James McDermott played hard in the middle while upfront James McGrath made his presence felt with Paul O’Neill with the rest of the forwards giving their all but scores were found hard to come by.
Ballyvarley’s next match is this Wednesday in the Preliminary Round of the League Cup. They face a fast improving Carryduff at 6.45pm in Ballela.

Ballyvarley Team
Cathal O’Neill, Thomas Lennon, Niall Higgins, John O’Neill, Sean Kennedy, Colm O’Neill, David Lavery, James McDermott, Conor McClorey, Martin O’Neill, James McGrath (1-1), Eunan McConville (1-0), David McGovern, Paul O’Neill (1-6), Stephen Daly. Subs Used: Conor Grew for Stephen Daly,  Sean O’Neill for Eunan McConville. Subs: Jamie Murray, Niall Savage, James McConville, Martin Connolly, Stuart Cartmill, Colin O’Neill, Shane McAreavey.