Alan Farrell on the attack for Ballylinan, pursued by Sean Downey, Crettyard Gaels. Pic: Denis Byrne.
Ballylinan opened their Laois SFC campaign with a hard-fought win over Crettyard Gaels in O'Moore Park on Thursday night.
Crettyard Gaels 1-10
The game started at a decent pace, with Patrick Brennan pointing for Crettyard Gaels inside of a minute. The Ballylinan response was swift, as Gary Walsh won a free and duly slotted it over the bar.
Patrick Brennan soon had Crettyard Gaels back in front though, as he landed a good score into the breeze from 30 yards out. After an exciting start, the scoring slowed a little after that, and we had to wait five minutes for an equaliser.
It was worth waiting for, as Gary Walsh won the ball quickly for a shot off on the turn, and it sailed between the posts.
Walsh, who was the main threat early on, then won another free and popped that over the bar. The Crettyard Gaels response was probably the score of the half, as Cormac Murphy picked up the ball way out on the left wing and sprinted beyond a couple of tacklers before pointing.
Crettyard Gaels were then unlucky not to raise a green flag when a Murphy shot hung up on the breeze, and Patrick O'Reilly beat Aidan Walsh to the dropping only to see it hit the post and go wide.
Ballylinan started to take control after that, and a run of five points without reply saw them take a stranglehold on proceedings. Walsh and Cieran Farrell were central two it, and Walsh hit two and Farrell landed three from play as they went 0-8 to 0-3 in front.
Crettyard Gaels needed to narrow the gap before the break and to their credit they did, as Evan O'Carroll and Cristóir Maher pointed to narrow the gap to three at the interval.
The opening stages of the second half were closely fought, as neither side could get the upper hand. First Jamie Farrell and Evan O'Carroll traded points, and then it was Cieran Farrell and O'Carroll to hit the target, with three points still the gap.
O'Carroll then got his side within two thanks to a long-range free, but two quick-fire points from Gary Walsh, one a free, saw Ballylinan go four ahead.
It stayed that way until the final five minutes, when Crettyard sprung to life with two points in a little over a minute. Evan O'Carroll got the first from a free, and Patrick O'Reilly blasted the other over from just outside the penalty area, making it a two point game.
Crettyard Gaels needed to push on then, but in the final minute of normal time, Ballylinan got the clinching score. Gary Walsh won possession on the right wing and rounded a couple of markers before hammering a shot into the roof of the net off his left foot.
There was still time for late drama, as Cormac Murphy had a goal chance moments later for Crettyard Gaels, only to see Aidan Walsh pull off a brilliant save. Then, three minutes into added time Evan O'Carroll was fouled for a penalty, and Cormac Murphy slotted home to get his side back within two.
Crettyard Gaels needed another goal to get something from the game, but Ballylinan managed to hold them at bay and secure the win.
Scorers: Gary Walsh 1-7 (0-4 frees), Cieran Farrell 0-4, Jamie Farrell 0-1.
Team: Aidan Walsh; Eric Kenna, Cathal Leonard, Kevin Byrne; Gary 'Soldier' Walsh, Richie Ryan, Robbie Donoher; Jamie Farrell, Padraig McEvoy; Alan Farrell, Seamus Lacey, James Redmond; Cieran Farrell, Gary Walsh, Liam Kealy. Subs: Dermot Leonard for Ryan (39 mins, BC), Podge Walsh for Kealy (48 mins)
Scorers: Evan O'Carroll 0-5 (0-2 frees), Cormac Murphy 1-1 (1-0 pen), Patrick Brennan 0-2, Cristóir Maher, Patrick O'Reilly 0-1 each.
Team: Jeff Moran; Paddy Gorman, Pierce Nash, Sean O'Shea; Shaun O'Reilly, Niall Purcell, Sean Downey; Patrick O'Reilly, Evan O'Carroll; Cha Dwyer, Cristóir Maher, Seamus Dowling; Patrick Brennan, Cormac Murphy, Ciaran Hosey. Subs: Michael Nash for Dowling (half time), Philip Brennan for P Nash (50 mins, inj)
Referee: Brendan McCann (Portarlington)