- Result: Galwegians Firsts 20 - Ballina 12
- Venue: Crowley Park on Sat Sep 10th 2022
- Competition: Connacht Senior League
Galwegians snatched victory from the jaws of defeat when two late scores deep into stoppage time saw them deny last year’s arch-rivals Ballina at a sun-drenched Crowley Park on Saturday.
While the Connacht Senior League title was out of their grasp following last week’s defeat away to League leaders Sligo, the Blues started with the intent of finishing their campaign in style. And they got off to the perfect start with a first minute try. A line break by flanker Jack Winters set them on their way, with good link-up play by out-half Patrick Nash who fed full-back Darragh Kennedy. The talented Clifden native and product of the Galwegians underage system had plenty work to do, but his pace and strength saw him outwit the Ballina defence to score an excellent try near the left corner. Kennedy added on a perfect conversion, and the hosts were looking good as they were taking the game to their opponents.
However the visitors dug deep and after withstanding a further bout of early home pressure, they soon settled into their stride and started to dominate proceedings. Although they never seriously threatened the Wegians try-line, penalty opportunities were soon coming their way. By the half-hour mark they had reduced the gap to a solitary point courtesy of two successful kicks at goal by Ben Masterson.
Wegians did think they had stretched their lead in the 33rd minute when a driving maul crossed the line near the left. However an intervention by the touch-judge resulted not only in a disallowed try, but also a yellow card for lock Michael Loughlin for an infringement which was spotted in the build-up. Shortly afterwards another Blues forward, no. 8 Niall Murray was also binned in what seemed a very harsh call for deliberate knock-on. This gave the visitors impetus with a two-man advantage, and they laid siege to the line at the end of a first-half which astonishingly had no less than ten minutes of stoppage time. However some poor decision-making by the Mayomen and some dogged disciplined Galwegian defence held them out, leaving it 7-6 at the break.
When they regained their full complement of players after the restart, the Blues soon pushed the lead out to four points when Kennedy landed a penalty near-in, only for it to be rapidly cancelled out by a third successfully penalty from Masterson. The game became very stop-start, with more touch-judge interventions and lengthy consultations with the referee leading to sin-binnings for each side. The visitors were able to capitalise on the binning of Wegians winger Karl Waterman on 66 minutes when Masterson landed the resultant penalty near the 22, which gave them the lead for the first time.
The Blues had to up the ante, but they did not help their own cause when the recently introduced substitute lock Aaron McCloskey become the fourth Blue to see yellow in the 71st minute. The visitors were holding sway as Wegians were struggling to gain any real momentum. The game was well into stoppage time when yet another touch-judge flag saw the referee this time penalise the visitors. This allowed Kennedy launch a huge line-kick to bring play near the 22. Sub hooker Conor Joyce found his man at the line-out at the right time, and a forward surge led to a penalty near the right touchline 15 metres out. Following consultation with captain on the day Christy Reilly, Kennedy backed himself to go for goal, and showed nerves of steel to split the posts and nudge his side ahead 13-12.
Although we were now into the 92nd minute, there was still time for one last act of drama. The Mayomen recovered possession and when trying to force things in attack, Waterman atoned for his earlier yellow card by making a judicious intercept and run in from halfway to dot down near the posts.
It was harsh on the visitors who probably felt they had done enough to earn the points. While it was far from vintage from Wegians, they were rewarded for showing self-belief and digging deep to snatch victory. And so this completes their Connacht Senior League campaign with a thoroughly satisfactory three wins from four, which will see them take either second or third place in the final standings. Their AIL Division 2B campaign then kicks off on October 1st away to old rivals Dungannon.