GAA Football

Ross McGarry hits 1-11 as Warrenpoint brush Ballyholland aside to progress to Down SFC decider

Ross McGarry was in superb form for Warrenpoint in last night's Down SFC semi-final
Andy Watters

Morgan Fuels Down Senior Football Championship semi-final: Ballyholland Harps 0-4 Cumann Phedair Naofa 2-15

From Andy Watters at Pairc Esler

ROSS McGarry finished with 1-11 as Warrenpoint’s Cumann Phedair Naofa progressed to their first Down Senior final since 1978 with an emphatic 17-point win over Ballyholland at Pairc Esler last night.

The seasiders completely dominated a totally one-sided affair and now await the winners of tonight’s semi-final between Kilcoo and Burren in the decider.

Looking like a team on a mission from the throw-in, they had already missed two chances before Ruairi McCormack was taken down by Chris Brady and McGarry kicked the first of a steady stream of scores.

Ballyholland tried to counter but they lacked composure and were unable to settle and find their way into the game. Warrenpoint defenders swarmed round the ball, snapped into tackles and turned runners over and Ballyholland quickly found themselves hemmed in their own half.

Donagh McAleenan doubled Warrenpoint’s lead from distance and McGarry beat Niall McQuillan to fire over their third point just seconds later.

Aaron Magee added another – far too easily – before veteran Ronan Sexton set up Barry McAteer for Ballyholland’s first effort. It drifted wide and it was only temporary relief because the ’Point cut their defence to shreds in their next attack.

Ryan Mallon made headway up the left wing and handpassed to McCormack who slotted the ball into the roof of the net making it 1-4 to no score after 11 minutes and leaving Ballyholland in grave danger of an embarrassing defeat.

McGarry added three more points (two from frees) and with Ballyholland’s main attacking threat Seamus Loughran well-shackled by Cormac McCartan the Harps couldn’t find a way back into the game.

Loughran kicked a difficult free wide and Warrenpoint – who looked a level above their opponents in terms of pace and conditioning – continued to dominate possession.

Another McGarry free stretched the lead to 1-8 to no score after 23 minutes and Ballyholland eventually got on the scoreboard when Loughran passed to former Down forward Joe Murphy who shrugged off two defenders and sent a curling effort inside the post from 21 yards.

Again it was only temporary respite and at the other end of the field the pacey Donagh McAleenan was brought down as he made a darting run through a posse of defenders.

Referee Paul Faloon awarded a free, some backchat made it a tap-over for McGarry and the increasing desperation in the Ballyholland defence was evident when McAleenan was fouled again and this time Jack Grant was booked.

McGarry brought his personal first half tally to eight points with a sweetly-struck 45 and the teams went in at the break with Warrenpoint 1-10 to 0-1 and already looking sure things for the final.

There was no second half miracle for Ballyholland. John Boyle joined the attack from centre half-back early in the second half to further extend Warrenpoint’s lead and two more McGarry frees followed before Tiernan Rushe swooped onto a breaking ball and swung over Ballyholland’s second of the game.

Nothing went to plan for the beleaguered Harps and their night was summed up when Loughran and Ryan Connolly hit the same upright in the same attack. Meanwhile, McGarry couldn’t miss and with Down manager Paddy Tally watching from the stands, he brought his haul to 11 points with another sweetly-struck free.

James Kearns and the pacey McAleenan swapped scores and Ciaran Tinnelly landed a consolation for Ballyholland but, fittingly, McGarry had the last word in the game. Jamie Grant and Ryan Magee combined to send Niall McGovern through and he was pulled down by Mark Walsh as he shaped to shoot. McGarry smashed the penalty past Liam Coulter and Warrenpoint progressed to the final in stunning style. They’ll go into it as underdogs but, on last night’s evidence, they will take some stopping on October 13.

Ballyholland: L Coulter; C Brady, N Quinn, C Loughran; R White, J Grant, J Murphy (0-1); P Murphy, P McAteer; B McAteer (0-1), M Walsh, R Murtagh; T Rushe, T Havern, S Loughran

Subs: R Campbell for Loughran (20), J Kearns (0-1) for B McAteer (HT), T Brady for Quinn (HT), R Connolly for Murtagh (45), B Campbell for Havern (45), C Tinnelly (0-1) for P Murphy (52)

Yellow cards: J Grant (27), Rushe (27)

CPN: G McMahon; A Lynch, P Murdock, R McAleenan; R Boyle, J Boyle (0-1), C McCartan; C McCartan, R Magee; R Mallon, D McAleenan (0-2), R McCormack (1-0); A Magee (0-1), R McGarry (1-11, 1-0 pen, 0-8 frees, 0-1 45), A D’Arcy

Subs: J Grant for A Magee (55), O Henry for Mallon (58), N McGovern for Byrne (58), N McCartan for D McAleenan (59)

Referee: P Falloon

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