GAA Football

No mental block for Ballybay on semi-finals insists Drew Wylie

Drew Wylie insists there is no mental baggage over semi-finals for Ballybay. Picture by Seamus Loughran

EIGHT points up three minutes into stoppage time, it was all but certain that Ballybay’s semi-final hoodoo was at its end on Sunday.

Since they bridged a 25-year gap to lift the Mick Duffy Cup in 2012, they’ve endured two semi-final defeats to Scotstown (2013 and 2016) and one to Clontibret (2014), as well as losing to the O’Neills after two replays in 2015, after which they were so drained that they unexpectedly slipped out to Castleblayney.

Getting over a big hurdle has eluded them but with a 0-14 to 0-6 lead after 63 minutes against the reigning champions at the weekend, Mickey Donnelly’s side looked to have finally mastered it.

But in the space of 210 seconds, it was ripped away from them. Michael McCarville hits the net, An Bhoth’s first score of the second half. Two quickfire points and then from a Rory Beggan 45, Francis Caulfield gets up to punch home a sensational equalising goal.

In all his years, Ballybay and Monaghan full-back Drew Wylie can’t recall having been involved in a game like it.

“There was a last minute goal from Latton a few years ago, they hit 1-1 and that went against us, but nothing as extreme as the eight points.

“You just don’t know what’s coming for you next in this game. We took our eye off the ball a wee bit and didn’t see the game out, which is disappointing on our behalf.”

So now they have to try and clamber over it again on Saturday afternoon, when Pat McEnaney takes charge of the replay in Clontibret, with the winners to face Magheracloone in the final.

Wylie insists there is no mental block over the Pearses’ semi-final record.

“I don’t think that had ever been mentioned in the dressing room, whatever number of semi-finals it had been.

“Every team in a semi-final wants to get to a county final and see what happens after that. Trying to get to that final is the hard thing and every year, that’s what we’ve set out to try and do.

“I suppose it comes a stage where you say enough’s enough, but it doesn’t always turn out like that. You don’t know what will happen in those 60 minutes – you could be the best-prepared team in the country and fall flat on the day.

“There’s frustration every year you don’t win it. Maybe it shows the competitiveness within Monaghan football. Scotstown have won the last two, Clontibret before that and then ourselves.

“There’s that want every year to win the county championship. If it doesn’t happen it’s another year of frustration.”

Of course the Ballybay team has changed over the last five years but the core remains. The Wylie brothers – Drew, Ryan and Brent – were, along with the evergreen Paul Finlay, among the nine from Sunday’s game that started the 2012 final win over Clontibret.

Wylie, who works for ESB and a bit on the family farm when the notion strikes, was pitted against Darren Hughes and says it was all good, clean family fun between the two of them.

“He hangs in full-forward for a while then goes away off and takes me for a run. There’s not much talk between us, but there’s a bit of craic.

“We go out to play a bit of football and get on with it. At the end of it all we both want the same thing.”

They won’t both get the same thing though. It’ll either be a big step towards fulfilling their potential for Mickey Donnelly’s side, or one towards three-in-a-row for Kieran Donnelly’s men.

Wylie admits the first few hours after the drawn game were tough but that the mindset was very quickly adjusted.

“We met back up together and we’re back raring to go. It’s disappointing enough straight after the game and it takes you a couple of hours to get your head around it, but once word came through the match was this Saturday at 3pm, the heads turned straight away towards getting back at it and trying to put a few wrongs right.

“It’s another massive game. It’ll be a different Scotstown team that will come on Saturday, no doubt, and we have to be ready for that.”

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