Valley Rovers 1-9
JOE KENNEFICK REPORTS
VALLEY Rovers completed the first leg of what they hope will be an historic U21 football double when their second team came from behind to defeat Ballymartle in the South East U21 B football championship final.
A thrilled Valley Rovers manager Barry Casey said afterwards: ‘Ballymartle really put it up to us and we’re just delighted to come out on the right side.
‘Ballymartle are a fine football team and we knew we wouldn’t have it all our own way.
‘We’ve had a few injuries with the A team so those players have been available to us for the B campaign, which has helped to strengthen us.
‘It’s excellent to have two U21 teams and to win the B is brilliant. We met at Christmas and started this and chapter one is over now.’
Played in perfect conditions in Minane Bridge last Sunday, Valley Rovers dominated possession for long periods but crucially were trailing on the scoreboard until the final ten minutes.
Having fallen behind to a Shane Cummins goal in the second minute, Valleys trailed until the 52nd minute when Barry O’Driscoll was on hand to finish to the net after good combination play from Derek Canty and Eoin O’Reilly.
But Ballymartle weren’t finished and in a dramatic finale wing forward Ciarán Allen had a goal chance but his effort went over the bar and Valleys breathed a huge sigh of relief.
Ballymartle got off to a perfect start when Shane Cummins goaled after two minutes. Valley Rovers were sluggish and two further points from Cummins had Ballymartle 1-2 in front after seven minutes.
Gradually, Valley Rovers gained a foothold in the match with David Ryan and Joe Lynch prominent. O’Driscoll opened their account when he kicked a point in the 16th minute and he repeated the feat in the 21st minute before Joe Bernard kicked their third point to leave the score 1-2 to 0-3 after 25 minutes.
Ballymartle, with Liam Corry dominating their half-back line, kept taking the game to their more fancied rivals and were rewarded when Rikard Cahalane kicked a good point to extend their lead but they were thankful to goalkeeper Ciarán Healy, who kept out three goal chances as Valleys upped the pressure.
The half finished with Valley’s marquee forward Eoin O’Reilly kicking two points to leave the half-time score 1-3 to 0-5 in favour of Ballymartle.
O’Reilly, who was starting to show his class, reduced the deficit in the 39th minute but Cillian McCarthy again increased Ballymartle’s advantage when he pointed a free in the 41st minute.
Joe Bernard and O’Reilly had points for Valleys but Ballymartle, through Ian Butler and McCarthy, responded each time to leave them 1-6 to 0-8 in front after 49 minutes.
But just when it looked like Ballymartle might hold out, Valleys pressure paid off when O’Driscoll was played in on goal and while Healy got a hand to his shot he couldn’t keep it out and Valleys were on their way to the title.
Valley Rovers: B O’Driscoll 1-2 (2f), E O’Reilly 0-5 (3f), J Bernard 0-2.
Ballymartle: S Cummins 1-3 (2f), C McCarthy 0-2 (2f), R Cahalane, I Butler, C Allen 0-1 each.
Valley Rovers: C O’Donovan; B Casey, B O’Leary; D Ryan, D Lordan, D Healy; J Lynch, D Canty; B O’Driscoll, E O’Reilly, T Casey; S O’Shea, J Bernard.
Subs used: A O’Callaghan for B Casey (44), C Murphy for J Lynch (bc, 54).
Ballymartle: C Healy; J D O’Callaghan, J Butler; D Whitnell, L Corry, M Sheehan; J Ryan, C McCarthy; S Cummins, R Cahalane, C Allen; P Geary, I Butler.
Sub used: D O’Sullivan for D Whitnell (33, inj).
Referee: Ian Thomas (Carrigaline).