Creggs – 5
Ballinasloe – 7
A measure of how far Creggs have progressed under the guidance of head coach Pat Cunningham is that when these teams met in the Cawley Cup at the start of the season they were hammered 64 – 0. On Sunday Ballinasloe were first to acknowledge their good fortune in progressing to the Semi-Finals, the game decided literally by the kick of a ball.
It was apparent from a very early stage that this time around Creggs meant business. Destroyed in the set pieces in their previous encounter, on Sunday Creggs were markedly superior in the scrum and more than held their own in the line-out.
In the loose exchanges the much vaunted visitors back row particularly no. 8 John Hayes and tight side Kieran Coughlan showed why they are so highly regarded but they still gave second best to the Creggs back row with no. 8 Kevin Brandon and his flankers Peter Lohan and Alan Brandon in rampant form throughout.
Cunningham’s work was most evident in a well orchestrated defence where but for a crucial lapse after 15 minutes the Ballinasloe threat was snuffed out aggressively and the home line was rarely threatened.
Unfortunately for Creggs their one defensive lapse allowed right wing Robert Wakefield in for an easy try on the quarter hour and the conversion from his out-half Kealin O’Neill ultimately decided the match. Creggs continued to take the game to their opponents with prop Aidan Leech and second row Mike Blighe very much to the fore but wrong options at critical moments nullified this good work. Ger Heneghan was short with a couple of long range penalties but Creggs were finally rewarded for their efforts when Alan Brandon crossed in the corner just before half-time.
The second half was a relentless but fascinating war of attrition with neither side able to add to their tally. Creggs lost Blighe to a curious yellow card at a stage when they were very much in the ascendancy. In the last few minutes Ballinasloe were down to 10 with replacement back row Johnny Parsons sent to the bin but they somehow held their line and their discipline with Creggs only awarded one long range shot at goal which failed to deliver and Ballinasloe survived a few more heart stopping moments to hold out grimly to the final whistle. This was a disappointing outcome for Creggs, they performed heroically in an absorbing old fashioned Cup match of intense physicality but they must now regroup for the second half of the League, returning to action in Ballinrobe on Sunday, kick-off 2.30 pm.
Creggs : K Gavin, G Heneghan, M Holland, T Callaghan, L Meehan, B Cleary, C Duignan, T Fleming, S O Higgins, A Leech, B Donoghue, M Blighe, A Brandon, P Lohan, K Brandon.
Replacements : E Farrell, A Glennon