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County Final Memory: Ballyfin see off Ballyroan to claim their first Junior ‘A’ title in 1995

Ballyfin - Laois JFC A champions in 1995

Ballyfin 1-9 Ballyroan 0-6
1995 Laois JFC ‘A’ Final

At some stage in 2021 the Ballyfin footballers will play in the 2020 Laois senior football championship semi-final.

Though the fixtures have been thrown by the Coronavirus restrictions, it will be the second successive season that they’ll appear at that stage of the championship.

It’s a golden era for football in the club, that has mostly played second fiddle to hurling and has, over the years, generally been way down the grades.

They’re only senior since 2015 and hadn’t even played in the intermediate grade all that often prior to winning it in 2014.

2020 marked the 25th anniversary of their first ever Junior ‘A’ success, one that came four years after they had won the Junior ‘B’ grade.

To win the junior title in 1995 they’d to beat Castletown in the opening round, Portlaoise’s third team in the quarter-final and then get the better of 1994 beaten finalists Clonaslee in the semi-final.

As always the junior championship was a mixture of first teams like Ballyfin, Clonaslee and Castletown and the second-string of senior clubs. On the other side of the draw, an experienced Ballyroan outfit, consisting of a handful of players from their 1992 senior success, saw off Stradbally and then O’Dempsey’s to reach the final.

And Ballyroan looked to have done enough on the first Saturday in September only for a late goal from Paul Culleton and point from Eddie Fitzpatrick. It finished 1-8 to 0-11.

The sides then had to wait six weeks to play the replay and when they met again it was just as competitive.

Ballyroan led 0-5 to 0-2 at half time after three points from Greg Norton and one each from David O’Brien and Paul O’Donoghue. Both of Ballyfin’s first-half points came from Sean Culleton.

But Ballyfin were much improved in the second half as they outscored Ballyroan by 1-7 to 0-1.

“Whatever trainer Peter Byrne said to his charges at half time certainly had the desired effect,” noted the Leinster Express report.

“Their defence tightened up, midfield improved their workrate and with a more plentiful supply the forwards made good us of it.”

Points from Eddie Fitzpatrick, Kieran Cuddy and Sean Culleton had them level within ten minutes of the restart and Culleton then put them into the lead for the first time only for Barry Walsh to level it up again.

Culleton put Ballyfin back into the lead and it was then the turn of teenage sub Kieran Cuddy to “make his mark on the final” according to the Leinster Express. 

“A great Ballyfin move saw him well placed inside the Ballyroan defence and with the coolness of a veteran he placed the ball well wide of the Ballyroan ‘keeper for the game’s only goal.

The Ballyroan team that lost the 1995 Laois JFC ‘A’ final to Ballyfin

“Once ahead Bailyfin never looked back, they went on to add two more points to ensure victory. Ballvroan never gave up but they found the Ballyfin defence almost impossible lo penetrate in the second half.

“The game was delicately poised as it entered the final stages but Ballyfin had an ace up their sleeve in county minor panellist Kieran Cuddy.

“Due to missed opportunities, Ballyfin looked as if they were heading for yet another final defeat but Cuddy scored a vital goal, the only one of the match to send Ballyfin on their way to claiming a first ever junior title.

“Ballyroan, who could justly feel they left the title behind them the first day, had no answer to that strike.”

Ballyfin would play intermediate for a number of seasons before dropping back down again in the 2000s. They’d win the junior title again in 2010 before winning the intermediate in 2014.

A number of the Ballyroan players would get their hands on a winner’s medal three years later when they beat Portlaoise in a replay.

 

The Leinster Express coverage of the 1995 Laois JFC ‘A’ final

BALLYFIN: John Connolly; Brendan Connnolly, Paddy Ryan, Pat Gibbons; Denis Kelly, Michael Coleman, John Horan; Damien Holohan, Liam Hogan (captain); Paschal Dunphy, Sean Culleton, Eddie Fitzpatrick; Jimmy Goode, Seamus Connolly, John Gilligan. Subs: Kieran Cuddy for Gilligan, Declan Critchley for Goode

BALLYROAN: Tom Whelan; Paddy McWey, Michael McEvoy, Eamon McWey; David O’Brien, John Fennell, Tony Carter; Daragh Phelan, Greg Norton; Har Fingleton, Brendan McWey, Joe McEvoy; Paul Donoghue, PJ Peacock, Barry Walsh. Subs: Danny Madigan for Fingleton, Tom Gee for McEvoy, Tom Scully for Donoghue

REFEREE: Mick Hand (Graiguecullen)

SEE ALSO – Check out all our County Final Memory series here