Out and out bel­ter

Coolkenno and Bal­ly­manus serve up a su­per opener

Wicklow People (West Edition) - - SPORT - BREN­DAN LAWRENCE at Balt­in­glass

AS much as it might sound like a cliché, there is noth­ing like the white heat of cham­pi­onship. Noth­ing! Throw in a beau­ti­ful evening, a car­pet-like sur­face, a vo­cal and pas­sion­ate crowd and that light feel­ing that can only be found on a sum­mer’s evening and you have all the in­gre­di­ents for a cracker. And Coolkenno and Bal­ly­manus de­liv­ered just that and more last Satur­day evening in Balt­in­glass when the Darcy Sands In­ter­me­di­ate Foot­ball Cham­pi­onship kicked off in style with this Group 1 bel­ter.

Right from the first at­tack you knew this was one of those days when all at­ten­tion was go­ing to be fully fo­cused on the bat­tle. The de­cent crowd, play­ers and of­fi­cials were locked to­gether in these 60-odd min­utes of pure GAA war­fare and un­til that shrill blast at the death there was no es­cape for any of us. We were all in­vested, lost to the cause.

The In­ter­me­di­ate foot­ball cham­pi­onship is al­ways one to be re­lied on for en­ter­tain­ment and for tough bat­tles. Some will say it’s the hard­est to win, and this year’s ad­ven­ture is go­ing to be a hel­lish struggle for what­ever squad emerges vic­to­ri­ous at the end.

With clashes to fol­low against An­nacurra, Laragh, Kil­macanogue and Bal­li­na­cor, both Coolkenno and Bal­ly­manus knew that a win on day one would be a huge boost for their cause, and both duly set about seek­ing just that when Ciaran Fleming lobbed the ball in the air for the start of this ea­gerly an­tic­i­pated joust. Gone were the long win­ter nights, gone was the idle chat­ter, gone was the hop­ing and wondering. The mo­ment had ar­rived. We were off.

Like any cracker, this one pro­duced oo­dles of talk­ing points, and turn­ing points, and side shows. There were pas­sion­ate ex­changes in the stand, heated de­bates, sore words on the side­line, big scores, big misses, a send­ing off and calls for more. Be­fore the game had even started a GAA official com­plained that a team official was not wear­ing a bib and he re­ceived a swift and de­bil­i­tat­ing re­ply that left him with no op­tion but to seek refuge in the shade. It’s far from bibs we were reared!

The game starts off at a fran­tic pace. A Paddy Dal­ton ball in is won by Conor Walker out in front of his man, turns and bang, put it up!

Mark Kenny sends a heat-seeker to Padraig Byrne in at full-for­ward, bang, put it up again!

We are look­ing at two clas­sic full-for­wards. Coolkenno’s Don Jack­man, a cham­pi­onship gen­eral, bat­tle hard­ened, leg strapped, those seek­ing eyes scour­ing the land­scape be­fore him like those of a dom­i­nant lion on the Serengeti. He’s look­ing for ball and these hyena defenders bet­ter watch out for his bite.

At the other end, Padraig Byrne, a young chal­lenger, teak tough, fast, in­tel­li­gent.

Bal­ly­manus are try­ing a very in­ter­est­ing tac­tic. Billy Byrne’s men are miss­ing a few through in­jury. They’ve pulled Paddy Byrne (Moyne) back as a deep sweeper in front of his full-back line who are charged with mind­ing Jack­man, Conor Walker and Pau­ric Cole­man. Your first instinct is to la­ment the loss of Paddy Byrne’s at­tack­ing prow­ess at the other end but when all is said and done you ap­pre­ci­ate the move be­cause you’re watch­ing a foot­balling brain at­tempt­ing to make an im­pact on a big game out the field.

Coolkenno will leave Donal Doyle as their free man at the back.

Don Jack­man swings over a free af­ter be­ing fouled by Dar­ragh Byrne and Paddy Dal­ton will go wide be­fore we be­hold the game’s big­gest talk­ing and turn­ing point in the sixth minute.

There’s a tan­gle in front of the stand be­tween Paddy Byrne (Gap) and Pau­ric Cole­man. Lines­man Judy Keogh (on the stand side­line) or ref­eree Ciaran Fleming haven’t wit­nessed it. The crowd are bay­ing for blood. Fleming goes to speak to lines­man Gar­reth Whe­lan on the far side. The ref­eree re­turns, calls for Byrne and shows him a red card. This is a mas­sive mo­ment in the game.

Sea­mus Coogan is drafted back to look af­ter Cole­man in Byrne’s ab­sence but Bal­ly­manus are now re­ally up against it.

In a mat­ter of min­utes, they fall 0-4 to 0-1 behind af­ter points from Jack­man (free) and the lively Ea­monn Ros­siter. But they rally. Roan Lynch starts the re­cov­ery be­fore we get an­other big talk­ing point in the 14th minute when Padraig Byrne looks to be pulled back in the square af­ter a long Mark Kenny ball but the Balt­in­glass official waves the calls away and on we go.

Dar­ragh Byrne wins a bat­tle with Jack­man at the other end and Jack­man gets him­self a yellow card. Padraig Byrne points at the other end. This is thirsty work, even in the stand.

Mark Kenny is look­ing re­ally threat­en­ing out the field. He launches an­other bomb to Padraig Byrne who ex­changes with Kevin Byrne and ri­fles over to level the match at 0-4 apiece af­ter 16 min­utes.

Back come Coolkenno, teak tough Coolkenno. Conor Walker re­turns them to the lead. Ea­monn Ros­siter wins the break from Bren­dan Doyle’s kick-out, the ball is worked to Eoghan Dolan who lobs in a ball on top of Don Jack­man who punches for the net but is re­pelled by a fine save off the line by Doyle.

Coolkenno’s tails are up. Bob Keogh and Pau­ric Cole­man push them out to 0-7 to 0-4 ahead but an­other long ball to Padraig Byrne sees him tor­ment the Coolkenno de­fence and win a penalty for a foul by full-back James Gre­gan. Byrne has the beating of this full­back line ev­ery sin­gle time the ball goes any­where near him.

The Bal­ly­manus full-for­ward steps up to take it but pulls it inches wide of the left up­right. An­other huge mo­ment in this game.

It looks as though that missed penalty might be the un­do­ing of the Bal­ly­manus challenge, that their con­fi­dence might not re­cover, and they slip out to 0-11 to 0-4 behind af­ter points from Eoghan Dolan, Jack­amn (free), Pau­ric Cole­man and Conor Walker af­ter a pe­riod of ut­ter dom­i­na­tion for Stephen Cushe’s side.

But wait. Re­mem­ber Padraig Byrne, and the way he might frighten the life out of a full-back line? Paddy Byrne, to Roan Lynch, to Padraig Byrne, rip­per of a goal and we have a match on our hands with 31 gone in the first half.

Back come Bal­ly­manus but a wide from Lynch brings the first half to a close. Coolkenno will shoot to­wards the score­board end for the sec­ond half.

Within three min­utes of the start of the sec­ond half, Bal­ly­manus are within a point of Coolkenno. And they’ve made a sig­nif­i­cant al­ter­ation to their at­tack by bring­ing Padraig Byrne out and leav­ing Colm Coogan and Kevin Byrne in­side with a half-for­ward line of Roan Lynch at cen­tre for­ward and Padraig Byrne and Kieran Whe­lan along­side. Paddy Byrne (Moyne) is now at cen­tre back.

Roan Lynch, and two absolute stun­ners off Mark Kenny’s right and left foot leave them trail­ing by one at 0-11 to 1-7.

Coolkenno at­tack af­ter turn­ing over Bal­ly­manus ball. Keith Far­rell finds Eoghan Dolan, long to Jack­man, gathers, steps back around Dar­ragh Byrne and places it sub­limely be­yond Bren­dan Doyle in the Bal­ly­manus goal to ab­so­lutely sicken the Bil­lies’ challenge.

Now things start to get tense. Ea­monn Ros­siter points af­ter Padraig Byrne was pe­nalised for pick­ing the ball up but it didn’t look as though the ball was on the ground from the van­tage point in the stand. Small mar­gins.

Paddy Byrne swings over a free just be­fore Craig Far­rar comes in for Kieran Whe­lan. Sea­mus Coogan fouls Ea­monn Ros­siter and Conor Walker dis­patches the free be­tween the sticks, 1-13 plays 1-8.

A foul by James Gre­gan on Kevin Byrne gives Paddy Byrne an­other chance and he obliges while Coolkenno prove waste­ful with a wide ei­ther side as Paul Kehoe comes in for the in­jured Donal Doyle who put in a se­ri­ous shift for his team.

Paddy Byrne gets it back to a three-point game with 18 gone but Pau­ric Cole­man extends Coolkenno’s lead af­ter su­per work from Ea­monn Ros­siter. Back come Bal­ly­manus with a wicked score from Roan Lynch off his right boot with 21 gone.

Bal­ly­manus at­tack. Cathal Ros­siter looks to slide in on Roan Lynch in what ap­pears to be a very dan­ger­ous tackle and he picks up a yellow card while the crowd scream for a different shade. Brian Ros­siter en­ters the fray in place of his brother who is wisely re­moved with seven to go.

Padraig Byrne from a 45 is replied to by a beau­ti­ful score from Pau­ric Cole­man, but back come Bal­ly­manus with a point from Paddy Byrne (free) af­ter a jer­sey pull on Roan Lynch.

Time is short now and Bal­ly­manus are des­per­ately seek­ing any­thing and could have had a goal but for the hero­ics of Damien Ger­aghty from the boot of Kevin Byrne.

Mark Kenny re­duces the deficit to one af­ter watch­ing a 45 dropped in on the Coolkenno goal be plucked from the sky by the shovel-like hands of Don Jack­man.

Eoghan Dolan pushed Coolkenno two ahead in the 66th minute of this bat­tle and the Bil­lies needed a goal but all they got was a point from Padraig Byrne and that was that.

A draw would have been a very sat­is­fy­ing re­sult for ev­ery­one, but it was Coolkenno who get their cham­pi­onship cam­paign off to a won­der­ful start.

The send­ing off was mon­u­men­tal for the Bil­lies. They have a few weeks to re­cover and re­group. Plenty of turns on this road to come.

This was an epic bat­tle. Scor­ers – Coolkenno: Don Jack­man 1-3 (2f), Pau­ric Cole­man 0-5, Conor Walker 0-3, Eoghan Dolan 0-2, Ea­monn Ros­siter 0-2, Robert Keogh 0-1.

Bal­ly­manus: Padraig Byrne 1-5 (1 45), Paddy Byrne (Moyne) 0-4 (4f), Roan Lynch 0-3, Mark Kenny 0-3.

COOLKENNO: Damien Ger­aghty; Donal Doyle, James Gre­gan, Philip Tim­mons; Keith Far­rell, Cathal Ros­siter, Paddy Dal­ton; Jim Cushe, Conor Doyle; Robert Keogh, Eoghan Dolan, Ea­monn Ros­siter; Pau­ric Cole­man, Don Jack­man, Conor Walker. Subs: Paul Keogh for D Doyle (43, inj), Brian Ros­siter for C Ros­siter (53), Colin Murphy for J Cushe (61, inj).

BAL­LY­MANUS: Bren­dan Doyle; Ai­dan Byrne, Dar­ragh Byrne, Paddy Byrne; Shane Whe­lan, Kieran Whe­lan, Sea­mus Coogan; Dar­ragh O’Ke­effe, Bren­dan Whe­lan; Colm Coogan, Mark Kenny, Kevin Byrne; Roan Lynch, Padraig Byrne, Paddy Byrne (Moyne). Subs: Craig Far­rar for K Whe­lan (39), Paul Mur­ray for C Coogan (57).

REF­EREE: Ciaran Fleming (Balt­in­glass)

Close call! Coolkenno goal­keeper Damien Gerathy comes un­der pres­sure from Padraig Byr­neof Bal­ly­manus.

Coolkenno’s Conor Walker looks to es­cape from Ai­dan Byrne.

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