(Originally posted on boards.ie)
To put it bluntly, Ballysaggart were poxed to come away with a draw from a game in which, for the most part, they played second fiddle to bigger, stronger, more committed and more focused opponents whose combined play and ball control were also far superior. That they managed to survive can be attributed to a couple of gift goals, poor Creggan shooting, some good freetaking by Stephen Bennett and, it has to be said, some gritty defending by the Ballysaggart defence at a time in the second half when Creggan looked like completely taking over the game.
Up to now, Ballysaggart have generally been able to force the agenda in the games they have played in this championship. Today, they were on the back foot from an early stage and did not respond well, sending a lot of Hail Mary balls up to their forwards which were generally mopped up by the Creggan defence.
Ballysaggart got the boost of an early goal when Stephen Bennett shot low from a 20 metre free to the right of the goal, and although not all that well struck, it squeezed past the Creggan players on the goal line who clearly weren’t expecting it. Creggan subsequently began to dominate in the middle third of the park, but like many teams before them, found shooting at the Davin Stand goal with its swirling winds a difficult task. They shot seven first half wides to Ballysaggart’s two.
Ballysaggart’s second goal in the 20th minute was the best of the game. Kenneth Cashell sent in a great diagonal ball behind the Creggan defence from out on the right sideline for Shane Bennett to run on to, although it took him two attempts to get it past the Creggan goalkeeper. Their third goal in the 30th minute was a complete gift, as Stephen Bennett’s long-range free fell short but the Creggan goalkeeper allowed the ball to slip through his fingers into the net. Earlier, another long ball into the Creggan goalmouth also found its way to the net but the referee somewhat questionably disallowed the goal for a square ball. The half-time score was 3-6 to 0-6.
Ballysaggart started the second half with Shane Bennett moved to wing back from the full forward line, and this did give them more possession in that sector of the field. When Stephen Bennett pointed an early free to extend the lead to ten points only one result appeared likely. However, to give them their due, Creggan came back strongly, urged on by their numerous and vociferous supporters. They got a lifeline in the 40th minute when the Ballysaggart last line failed to clear the ball after goalie Matty Meaghe batted out a shot and a Creggan forward fired to an empty net.
With centre forward Oran McCann lording possession, Creggan landed some great points and a converted penalty on 50 minutes brought the deficit back to a single point. At that stage, a Creggan win looked inevitable, but Ballysaggart defended doggedly to maintain the one-point lead until Creggan finally landed a deserved equaliser from a long-range free on the call of fulltime.
Creggan continued to dominate matters in the first period of extra time to go into a three-point lead, only for déjà vu to strike again as Shane Bennett’s attempt at a long range point fell short, with the Creggan goalie again leaving the ball slip from his grasp and into the net. Creggan rebuilt their three-point lead in the second period of extra time and, with the Ballysaggart front line unable to create openings, the game seemed done and dusted.
Then, with normal time up, Kieran Bennett made a run down the left wing and lobbed a high ball into the edge of the square which ended up in the net with Shane Bennett, I think, getting the vital touch. The referee allowed two more minutes of play before calling a halt to what was an enthralling contest.
If Ballysaggart are to make the most of their unlikely second chance, they are going to have to raise their game to a higher level of intensity and will need to get a better type of ball into Stephen Bennett. They should also reconsider having Bennett taking long-distance frees which, on many occasions, fell short. Would it not be better to have someone else taking these frees and have Bennett at the end of them?
Ballysaggart scorers: Stephen Bennett 2-7 (2-5 from frees); Shane Bennett (3-0); Ronan Walsh (0-2); Kieran Bennett (0-1); Daniel Devine (0-1); Kenneth Cashell (0-1).