Ballyshannon made three changes from last week’s victory in Cavan and it paid off with a great win away to Portadown on Saturday.
Anthony Coughlin, Eoin Halliday and Ray Gallagher all came into the team. This meant it was a much more experienced ‘Shannon side that went looking for back to back victories on the road.
From the start it was clear that the away side were the better footballing team. However this was a dogged Portadown team with a huge pack and winning primary possession took a massive effort. In the early exchanges ‘Shannon found it hard to get any set play moves going. But when they did the ball found its way out to Mark Rooney. Rooney skipped past the two would be tackles to score in the corner.
Anthony Boyle was unlucky to see his conversion come of the post. Shannon were up and running now. After a number of phases winger Damien Cleary got the ball and after making good ground played a switch pass with centre Boyle. Boyle was brought down with a high tackle. He dusted himself down to kick the resulting penalty.
At 8-0 Shannon should have pushed on. However they eased up and Portadown ceased on this. From a scrum inside the Shannon ‘22 they worked the blindside to power over the line. The conversion was missed. This should have been a wake up call but ‘Shannon were finding it harder to get out of their own half. On a rare foray up the field ‘Shannon won a penalty. However Boyle was off target and his miss looked to prove costly.
Back came Portadown and after a line out they got a maul going. Once again they worked the blindside to score again. This time the conversion was successful. This left the half-time score 12-8 to the home side.
Just before the break the Portadown prop was sent to the sin bin for an off the ball altercation and ‘Shannon set about making the extra man count. In a move involving the majority of the pack Brian Killalea threw a great round the back pass and the ball was moved out to lock Anthony Coughlin. ‘Waddle’ was not to be stopped. With three tacklers hanging of him he powered over for a great team try. Boyle added the conversion. Shannon sensed victory. After a great cross field run by Cleary, Mark Rooney threw a lovely miss pass to the other winger Richard Gillespie, who powered over in the corner. Boyle added the extras again.
With Portadown back to the full complement, space and chances were harder to come by. With 10 minutes left Shannon were awarded a penalty. Boyle added another three points which looked to be enough for victory. However for the last 10 Portadown threw everything at the ‘Shannon defence. Time after time they were kept at bay. However with a lot of tired bodies out there the home side managed to break through for a try. With the conversion added it left just 6 in it. But time was nearly up so possession from the restart would be crucial. Portadown won it and set about trying to score the try they needed. However with them unable to kick to touch they were never going to breach the ‘Shannon defence from inside their own half. From a ruck the ball popped out to Anthony Boyle who duly kicked to touch to end the game.
No more than the week before this was a great result and a massive effort from the whole squad. The back three of Cleary, Keown and Gillespie were exceptional. Up front Darren Gillespie proved a great go to man in the line-out and Anthony Coughlin was as usual a torture for Portadown in both attack and defence. But the man of the match went to Brian Killalea. Big Bee was a colossus. Hit after hit was made and also some much needed vital yards. This win puts Shannon back to the top of the league. With no game next week they will hope to consolidate this with a home game against Cookstown in two weeks time. Team: Alan Prendergast, Stephen Loughlin, Enda Wymbs, Anthony Coughlin, Brian Killalea, Gary Gilmartin, Darren Gillespie, James O’Donnell, Eoin Halliday, Ray Gallagher, Damien Cleary, Mark Rooney, Anthony Boyle, Richard Gillespie, Dara Keown. Subs; Ray Mc Gowan , Christopher Fenton, Charlie Walker and John Gallagher.
Ballyshannon RFC Minis in Sligo
The Ballyshannon minis travelled to Sligo It for a blitz hosted by Sligo Rugby Club on Saturday last. A large number of players travelled and the club was well represented in the under 12’s, 10,s and 8s.
The players were accompanied by coaches Martin O’Halloran, Katrina Dolan and Simon Foster, Martin McGlynn, Richard O’Loughlin, Joanne Murphy, Malachy Dolan, Ken Monaghan and were well supported by parents and families.
Players should great enthusiasm and played well in all games. There was a noticeable improvement in the quality of play when compared to the blitz that Ballyshannon attended last year at the Sligo It complex.
The club wishes to thank Sligo RFC for the invitation to the blitz and for the courtesy displayed to the Ballyshannon squad.