Ballyhaise were at their enigmatic best last Saturday, bursting into a 0-4 to 0-0 lead only to take their feet off the gas before coming again in turbo-charged style to engineer enough clear water to see them through. In making it a hat-trick of division two championship wins at under 21 level, Ballyhaise led for the entire hour and had the look of winners from a long way out.
Laragh made their opponents fight all the way though and but for a penalty save (56th min) by Darragh Prior, Ballyhaise might not have succeeded in landing their third U21 division two title in four years.
It must be said though that at that juncture, Ballyhaise were sitting pretty on the back of a 1-10 to 0-8 lead and had shown themselves to be well able to counter Laragh's best shots in equal measure.
Earlier, the winners-elect looked a class apart as they flew out of the blocks to leave their opponents in danger of being cut adrift.
Man-of-the-match Kevin Tierney led the charge with his opening point of the game after little more than 90 seconds the first of four, without reply, from the green and golds inside the opening 12 minutes.
Tierney's class shone throughout but if he was his team's general, he had several lieutenants dotted around the field in support.
Indeed, this was a game which was much more about the collective than the individual with 13 players getting on the scoresheet and just as many others playing out of their skins to the delight of the big and vocal crowd.
Ultimately, Ballyhaise's burst of scores in the opening quarter and in the third quarter were decisive.
The winners' quartet of points early on left Laragh expending a lot of energy and effort in their game of catch-up thereafter.
To their eternal credit, Laragh managed to get to within one point (0-4 to 0-5) of their opponents by half-time with a fine long-range point from Declan Brady bookending their impressive retort to Ballyhaise's confident start to the game.
Ballyhaise might have nicked a goal as early as the fifth minute but talisman Tierney lost possession at the most inopportune moment and his rushed volley sailed harmlessly wide of the Laragh goal.
Laragh were forced to work off the backfoot for large tracts of the match but that didn't deter them.Indeed, their counter-attacks were arguably more threatening and incisive than that which Ballyhaise managed.
Too often though, the Stradone-based men over-cooked their foray forward and the momentum and window of opportunity was slaughtered on the altar of a pass too many or poor handling just when the whites of Darragh Prior's eyes came into view. Ballyhaise were as lethargic in the second quarter as they were good in the opening quarter and Laragh had enough nous and determination to get right back in the game with the spine of their team especially forceful and inspirational in reeling in the early leaders.
All the time though, it seemed like not if but when Ballyhaise were going to find the net. With Christopher Reilly's precision passing to the fore and his Ballyhaise team-mate Adam Boyle's mobility and foraging a serious fillip, the Laragh lads had scarcely a moment of peace.
As things panned out, ten opening second half minutes left Laragh with a mountainous if not hopeless task of taking the title.
Tierney (free), Pauric Moore, Tierney again (classy, outside-of-the-foot effort) and, most crucially, a goal from David Duggan (an overhead fisted effort past the advancing Hand) left Laragh lanquishing on the ropes.
Trailing by 0-4 to 1-9, Laragh could have easily have folded their tent and gone for quieter, warmer climes but, bravely, they battled on.
Pauric Moore almost made Laragh's comeback aspirations a still-birh in the 48th minute when he crashed his shot off the butt of the post but from there to the finish, Laragh pushed forward with menace.
Colm McKenna powered his way through to flash the ball over, instead of under, the bar and then Cian O'Rourke pointed before Paddy Rudden saw his spot-kick saved by the lively Prior.Laragh continued to force the issue but while Ballyhaise bent under the pressure they refused to break.
Ballyhaise: D Prior; N Conaty, M Brennan, F McConnell; F Moore (0-1), D McGoldrick, S Briody; J McCabe, A Boyle; S McKiernan, K Tierney (0-5), Christopher Reilly (0-2); D Duggan (1-0), R Brennan, N Rooney (0-1).
Subs used: P Moore (0-1) for R Brennan; R Brennan for J McCabe; J Conaty for D Duggan.
Laragh Utd: C Hand; D McKenna, C McKenna (0-1), E Tierney; Seamus O'Rourke, Shane O'Rourke, L Brady; S Cooney, D Brady (0-1); C Donohoe, A Cooney (0-1), C O'Rourke (0-1); R Power (0-2), P Rudden (0-2), C Smith (0-1).
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