Borris 1-1 Balbriggan (Boris won 4-3 on penalties)
(goal by Chris Nolan free kick on 57mins)
Borris are into their second Leinster Final in a row after an extremely challenging game on a warm day in Newbridge. Both teams were evenly matched in the amount of chances they created but Balbriggan were by far the better footballing team on the day. They moved the ball around the pitch very confidently, making Borris chase it for a lot of the first half. Borris found it difficult to get their tackles in as Balbriggan made the most of the extra man in midfield. The Carlow men eventually got to grips with their oponents after a formation reshuffle saw man of the match Tony Lawlor gain control of midfield. Chances were at a premium for both sides as both defences were on top form. Balbriggan got absolutely no joy from high balls and crosses as Jamie McDonald, Cathal Tracey and Lawlor dominated in the air. Likewise Borris' attacking players were starved of the ball as Balbriggan hogged possession in midfield. A tense game ensued.
Balbriggan were good. It was obvious that soccer was their first sport in the way they passed and moved. They were also quick and for once we faced a team that was as fit as ourselves. It made for an intriguing game. Before the match had started, Balbriggan's supporters had welcomed us to the pitch with some jungle music blared out over an amplifier. Obviously an attempt at intimidating our lads, it was greated with much laughter by the panel as we got off the bus. As soon as we got out on the pitch it was down to business as Borris got a bit of a shock from the speed at which Balbriggan moved the ball. They found it hard to get on the ball at all and Balbriggan created a number of half chances. As the half wore on Borris got into the game and started to assert themselves. Jon Nolan, energetic and dangerous all game, started to get the better of their no. 8 and a combination of Dara Tobin and Tony Lawlor got to grips with their no.7 and no.6, two seriously talented players. Jack Foley and Rory Joyce up front were finding the going tough as the balls up to them were always putting them under pressure. They never stopped trying though. The first half finished 0-0 as Borris had Thomas Dowling in goal to thank for some fine one on one saves.
In truth, Borris never got going at full pace during this match. It could have been down to the conditions, the bouncy pitch or the opposition. Serious questions were asked of their stamina in the second half as Balbriggan continued to move the ball at pace. There was no issue there though, there never is. Rory Joyce really came into the game after half time. He was bothering the full back as much as he bothers teachers in school and won an awful lot of ball down the left. Unfortunately his good work only led to half chances as Nolan and Foley up front struggled to find space to get their shots on target. The breakthrough eventually arrived and no prizes for guessing who scored. Lawlor won a free kick about 25 yards out and Chris Nolan lined it up. As cool as anything, he stitched it in the bottom corner. In a game of few chances it looked like this goal would be enough. Balbriggan had other ideas however. Just a couple of minutes later they won a penalty. Their classy midfielder gave Dowling in goal no hope by powering it into the top corner. one-all now with about 20 minutes to play.
With Borris going very direct and Balbriggan keeping the ball on the ground it made for a fascinating end to the game. Balbriggan did have the ball in the net but it was correctly ruled out for offside. Nolan and Foley combined to get through on goal only for some last ditch defending to deny them. Jamie McDonald, Jack Doyle and Cathal Tracey were under pressure at one stage as Balbriggan's tricky attackers turned them inside out only for Dowling to block the resulting one-on-one. It took McDonald a couple of seconds to compose himself after a short dizzy spell. So the match drifted into a penalty shootout.
There's one thing that can't be questioned about this group, they have 'bottle'. It was very unlikely they would lose on penalties, they have never lost a shootout. Dowling in goal is always good for a save or two and there was never a doubt that we'd score most if not all of our penalties. First up was my reliable Tony Lawlor. Straight into the bottom corner. Balbriggan were always going to score their first 3 penalties as they had 3 seriously talented players. Chris Nolan doesn't miss so the score was 3-2 by the time Joyce stepped up. Having played so well it was a surprise that he missed, although the keeper was like a kangaroo. Jack Foley got us back on track and then Balbriggan ran out of 'bottle'. Dowling had placed the ball on the penalty spot and their no. 8, obviously nervous, just walked up to the box and took his penalty without even placing the ball himself. Well he blasted it over the bar to keep the score at 3-3. Tracey then stepped up and smashed his penalty into the top corner leaving Balbriggan's lively substitute with a kick to keep him in the game. He followed his mate and sent the ball into orbit giving Borris the win and leaving Balbriggan's players in tears.
So the tension and drama finally ended. All the talk after the game centred on how good Balbriggan were and how lucky we were to win the game.At the end of the day it was about never giving up and taking your chances. With neither team able to finish the game in normal time it was Borris who showed the greater character to clinch the victory. As always, there are lessons to be learned from that game and things to work on in training. All attention now turns to another Leinster final and a chance to redeem ourselves after last year.