Encounters between these sides are often eventful and this match last Sunday proved to be no different.
It was a fine dry day in Pope John Paul II Park. There was just a hint of sunshine and a light breeze favoured the visitors in the opening period.
This was to be the only advantage Ballinteer enjoyed in the first half as our lads struggled to reach the fast pace set by the home side. Nh Fionnbarra were well schooled and moved the ball at speed with well-drilled handpasses finding support runners from the backline linking to their forwards. They landed a series of unanswered points and soon opened up a 5 point lead. If the spectators observed a few rushed attempts from Johns to get onto scoreboard there was no panic evident on the sideline as Eddie called the changes and moved strike runners into position in midfield. The Ballinteer boys responded well and were unlucky not to be rewarded with a goal when Kevin palmed a high ball to Luke whose shot went just over the bar from close range.
There was still a significant margin between the sides at half-time but words of encouragement from the coaching team found their mark engendering a fierce determination. After the interval a growing sense of self-belief and no small measures of fitness and ability soon had the tide running in the opposite direction.
Iarlaith, Robert and Cian caused all sorts of trouble to the ‘barrs backs who seemed to have no response but to drag the attacking players to the ground, each transgression being punished by calmly taken frees.
If the referee had penalised Ballinteer for the lightest of touches from a hand on the back of an opposition player in the first half he was also fair and applied the laws consistently. Ballinteer were able to narrow the deficit and claw their way back into the game as a result. There was a tangible sense of panic in the ranks of blue when the ‘barrs number 5 was sent to the sideline for a second yellow card offence in as many minutes.
Ballinteer were winning kickouts and storming back into the danger area for Nh Fionnbarra only for another free to be awarded and another point to be added to the BSJ total. The referee shed welcome light on the matter – “all square” – after a run of points had come so quickly that confusion arose on the sideline. This quickly turned to joy as Ballinteer took the lead for the first time in the game with only a couple of minutes to go. Thoughts of an unlikely win may have proved a distraction as ‘barrs were able to secure their kickout and moved the ball quickly downfield in a manner not seen for quite some time. Groans and shouts of joy from the tangerine and blue clad supporters, respectively, as the inevitable free was awarded in front of the Ballinteer posts and the sides were level.
Once again Ballinteer secured their kickout and interchanged brilliantly through midfield. Then with Iarlaith’s leg drawn back to deliver the scoring strike the referee’s whistle sounded one long blast and two shorter ones to signal the end of an extraordinary contest. The match ended 13 points each.