Commanding performance from Reds at Castlewellan

November 8, 2018

Ballyvarley senior hurlers moved up to second in the league with a commanding performance against a Strong Castlewellan side. In a pulsating hard hitting game the Reds displayed a hunger for the sliotar not matched by their opponents as they ran out with a six point winning margin.
Paul O’Neill set the tone for the game shrugging off illness to go on a mazy solo before flicking over the bar from 21 yards out. Castlewellan were out for revenge for the defeat they suffered at the hands of the Reds early in the season with their pace causing Ballyvarley problems early on geting a point and then trading two further ones with Paul O’Neill who was accurate from place balls.

On 18 minutes Castlewellan went ahead with a drive from an acute angle on the right but after that Ballyvarley took over.
Ballyvarley tightened up at the back with Sean Kennedy, Colm O’Neill and David Lavery cleaning up in the half-back positions and Thomas Lennon attacking the ball at left corner back. But it was in the forward line that the main difference occurred. The Reds never gave the Castlewellan backs a minutes peace with some aggressive pulling and hounding with the home side having to work extremely hard to clear the ball out the field. David McGovern was a prime example of this winning and breaking alot of high ball in the home teams box and creating scoring opportunities.

O’Neill kept increasing the Ballyvarley lead from frees with two long range 70s before winning a ball in the box and flicking over from close in. Ballyvarley went for goals with John O’Neill and James McGrath going close before Paul O’Neill put a first time pull agonisingly over the bar. Yet the vital goal came finally in the 26th minute when Colin O’Neill flicked an airborne ball first time into the right corner of the net.

Not to be outdone the home side goaled straight away but Ballyvarley shrugged off this set back with two further quickfire points. This gave Ballyvarley a four point lead at the break with the wind at their backs in the second period.

HALF-TIME: Castlewellan 1-5 Ballyvarley 1-9

On the restart Ballyvarley reasserted their control of the game with Ciaran Connolly and Conor McClorey excellent around the middle of the field. They won alot of breaking ball and worked tirelessly throughout as they linked play from defence to attack.

The score of the game and the one that allowed the Reds some breathing space, came five minutes into the second period.  aJames McGrath won a high ball, turned his marker and made a 30 yard run before lifting the net. That drove Ballyvarley on with Conor Grew getting a good point soon after under tremendous pressure.

The two teams eagerly contested every ball yet the Reds appeared to have the better of their opponents all over the field, and no more so than in defence. The pressure built on the Reds yet players like David Lavery, Thomas Lennon and some timely interceptions from Niall Higgins at full back kept the Castlewellan forwards at bay. Time and again Castlewellan had to rely on the free taking of Paul Jennings to whittle away at the Reds lead with three unanswered points. The contest may have been different if Cathal O’Neill had not pulled off two point balank saves for the visitors but with Stephen Daly exerting his physical pressure at corner back and Colin and John O’Neill coupled with the ball winning of James McGrath and Paul O’Neill upfront Ballyvarley had that edge over Castlewellan.

The Reds continued to run at the Castlewellan defence and when Ciaran Connolly played a lovely diagonal cross field ball into the Castlewellan box, David McGovern at full stretch made a wonderful wristy flick that hit the post before the defence scrambled it away. A wonderful move. Both teams traded points-a-piece from frees before James McGrath burst out to field the ball turn and point from all of 45 yards with an excellent display of power and precision.

By this stage Castlewellan needed goals but with Niall Higgins out muscling his opponent at full back, and David Lavery and Thomas Lennon snuffing out attack upon attack with some bitty challenges the Reds withstood the flurry of raids upon their goal.

When Paul O’Neill pointed a free in the 28 minute the match was effectively over, yet Castlewellan made the Reds fight every inch of the way for this hard won yet deserved six point victory.

FULL-TIME: Castlewellan 1-10 Ballyvarley 2-13

This was a true team performance with no one shirking responsibility, tackling hard and quick from number 1 to 15. This hard work and backing each other up was the foundation this win was built on.
There were leaders all over the field with Cathal O’Neill producing vital saves, David Lavery and Sean Kennedy excellent at half-back, James McGrath and Paul O’Neill in impressive form upfront, while Ciaran Connolly and Conor McClorey gave a tireless display of selfless running and ball winning throughout the sixty minutes.

Next up for the Reds is a home tie against Portaferry on Wednesday 17th June. Throw in at 7.30pm.

Ballyvarley Team
Cathal O’Neill, Stephen Daly, Niall Higgins, Thomas Lennon, Sean Kennedy, Colm O’Neill, David Lavery, Ciaran Connolly, Conor McClorey, James McGrath (1-1), Conor Grew (0-1), John O’Neill, Paul O’Neill (0-11), David McGovern, Colin O’Neill (1-0). Subs: James McConville, Jamie Murray, Stuart Cartmill, Gavin McGreevy, Martin Connolly, Shane McAreavey, Eunan McConville.