Dynamic Davitts Shatter Stephenites (1981 Senior League Final – Match Report)
A constructive and extremely hard working Davitts etched a unique piece of history into the annals of the GAA when they annexed the county senior league title with authority and ease against Ballina Stephenites in a hard fought but thoroughly entertaining final in bitter conditions at Knockmore on Sunday.
For Davitts it was the completion of a unique double, having won the intermediate championship earlier in the year and the accomplishment of this double feat in the one year is a tribute to the hard work and dedication of the team which showed tremendous dash and verve to outwit and outplay a disappointing Stephenites team.
For Ballina it was a bitter blow for two years in succession to be beaten in the league final. The winners were strong in the vital areas with their defence extremely strong.
It was pressure that Ballina were unable to bare and with the Davitts full forward Finbar Conroy playing a roving role, the yawning gaps in the Ballina rearguard were fully exploited by the interval with the winners tallying 2-5 and affording the luxury of nine wides with the aid of a stiff breeze.
Ballina had managed four points in that first half but their contributions with the breeze in the second half was to be halved and they never proved a threat. Conroy was undoubtedly the biggest thorn in the losers defence and his personal contribution of 1-4 played a major part in achieving victory. His goal was particularly devastating coming four minutes before the interval and it was mainly responsible for removing any glimmer of hope for Ballina.
Conroy’s was the second of two devastating goals in the first half. The first came from Martin Kearns in the 7th minute after a superbly engineered move which started with Pat Butler at the back. Seamus Butler, Finbar Conroy and Michael J. McLoughlin had a hand in it before Kearns streaked through a wide gap to give the Ballina keeper no chance from close range.
It wiped out Ballina’s 4th minute lead which was a point from Eamon Hennigan and that two point gap remained after ten minutes with Brian Mulloy and Norman McCarthy swapping two excellent points from play.
Conroy was on hand again to take advantage of a bad Ballina kick out to extend the lead to four points and the same player was in the right place to crack home that second goal after Norman McCarthy’s first effort was blocked by a defender.
Ballina were perhaps lucky not to concede a third goal before the interval only to be saved by the mud, but Martin Kearns managed a point from the scramble and two points from P.J. Kavanagh for Ballina left his side in deep trouble at the break, trailing 0-4 to 2-5. Dessie Barrett gave Ballina some hope of pulling back that seven point deficit four minutes into the second half when he pointed from play, but Ballina were not to score again until seconds before the sound of the final whistle.
The losers had chances of scores, particularly from close-in frees in the last ten minutes, but it was felt that points were not worth going for and the Davitts defence was in no form for giving away soft goals form frees.
Ballina’s best chance of a goal fell to Eamon Hennigan and had he taken a few more steps his dangerous shot along the ground might not have been so narrowly wide. Martin Connolly from a free and Finbar Conroy from play put the winners eight points clear entering the final ten minutes. Connolly was again on target from a free in the 49th minute and the days takings were wrapped up by Frank McGrath with a superb point six minutes from the end.
The winners had some excellent players in defence where Cyril Hyland had a fine game between the posts. Eddie McLoughlin shoed immense strength and ability in the true fashion of a full back while Laurence Daly and Jimmy Kearns worked extremely hard. Pat Butler, Martin Connolly and Sean Connolly were most impressive in a half back line which caused Ballina a lot of problems, while Ger Kirrane and Tommy Griffin held the reins for long periods at midfield. Seamus Butler could be described as a defender’s nightmare with the tigerish attacking; Finbar Conroy and Martin Kearns could be fitted into the same category showing some superb flashes of intelligent, attacking football. They had good support from Norman McCarthy, Frank McGrath and Michael J. McLoughlin.
Gerry Leonard, Tom Gilvarry and Tommie Lyons tried hard for Ballina in defence. P.J. Kavanagh did an awful amount of work while Brian Molloy and Peter Heffernan tried best.
Davitts: C. Hyland, J. Kearns, E. McLoughlin, L. Daly, P. Butler, M. Connolly (0-2), S. Connolly, T. Griffin, G. Kirrane, S. Butler, N. McCarthy (0-1), F. McGrath (0-1), M. Kearns (1-1), F. Conroy (1-4), M. Kearns. Subs: B. Kearns (for McGrath).
Ballina: P. Glynn, T. Rafter, H. Gilvarry, P. Gilvarry, T. Knight, G. Leonard, T. Lyons, P.J. Kavanagh (0-2), B. Molloy (0-1), E. Hennigan (0-1), T. Gilvarry, B. Williams (0-1), D. Barrett (0-1), P. Bolton, P. Heffernan. Subs: L. Brennan (for Knight), J. Browne (for Lyons inj.).