IN the end, it was a comfortable 2-12 to 1-9 victory for Béal Átha’n Ghaorthaidh over Naomh Abán in the first round of the Cork Premier IFC at Macroom on Sunday.
The adverse weather made life difficult for both sides, but a significant wind advantage helped Naomh Abán into a three-point lead at half-time.
Béal Átha’n Ghaorthaidh had the wind in the second half, which meant that Naomh Abán struggled a bit up front.
Béal Átha’n Ghaorthaidh then gradually took charge, drawing level by the 42nd minute.
And while you would have expected their challenge to wilt following the dismissal of Colmán Ó Tuama at the three-quarter juncture, their ability to strike for goals in the closing few minutes was crucial.
It was a case of all shoulders to the wheel.
“They did respond tremendously well to the sending off,” said selector Éamonn Ryan.
“Basically, they stopped thinking too much about it and went and did it. They are very good footballers. The last quarter of an hour was very pleasing.
“At half-time, obviously we weren’t where we wanted to be, but I didn’t think the game was gone from us.
"There was a breeze. I thought we were very much in the game. In fairness to them, they did play well in the second half.
"They gave it their all, especially when they went down to 14 men. I would have no question about their football, but I thought their attitude today was outstanding.”
They sealed the win with two green flags which were raised by Aindrias Ó Coinceannáin (penalty) and Diarmuid MacTomais. Both majors came in the last five minutes of normal time, their minds clearly focused on the job.
They are passionate about football in these strongholds and adding an extra bit of spice to the game was the proximity of the clubs.
Also the fact the contest was doubling up for the Comórtas Peile na Gaeltachta — an annual competition for football clubs in Irish language speaking Gaeltacht areas.
Clubs compete at county level first. Subsequently, Béal Átha’n Ghaorthaidh secured a final meeting with Cill na Marta, who earlier in the day had beaten Éire Óg in the PIFC and remained on as interesting spectators.
“Ballingeary is only a third of a parish, half a parish at the most,” added Ryan. “Football is a big thing with them. In other places, it would be hurling and football, but it is football and football in Ballingeary. It is a huge part of their lives.”
Béal Átha’n Ghaorthaidh too managed to turn things around from last year. First and second-round defeats to Éire Óg and Macroom respectively left them winless after the championship of 2018. So, not long before Christmas, they found themselves in a relegation play-off, but they showed their potential recording a convincing victory over Na Piarsaigh.
Interestingly, Éire Óg and Macroom have lost their opening fixtures this year, and they will need to bounce back in round two.