Ballynanty Rovers consigned ten-man Mungret Regional further into the relegation mire with a comfortable victory over Alan Finucane’s low-scoring side.
Selection issues were the order of the day prior to kick off, with centre back a particularly sticky position for both clubs. Mungret’s Brian Cotter and Alan Connors were unavailable, while Ballynanty lacked Danny McInerney, David Dunphy and the injured Ryan Earls. Dan Lucey continued to deputise for Earls, with full back Darragh Hughes shifted inside to partner him. Mungret, for their part, fielded Jamie Morrissey and Richie Burke in that area of the field.
The hosts were lacking upfront too, with both Marcus Finucane and Barry Danaher also unavailable for selection. Neil O’Callaghan and Byron Fitzgerald’s new partnership showed promising signs early on however, when a nice one-two between the pair finished with Fitzgerald dragging his resulting clear-cut chance wide of Stephen McNamara’s far post.
Mungret were left to rue that missed chance minutes later, when an individual error from Richie Burke saw them fall a goal behind. Mungret’s policy of playing the ball out of defence came back to bite when Burke was dispossessed outside his own box by Kevin O’Mahony. Lloyd Whyte duly slotted in the resulting through ball to secure his fourth league goal of the season.
Whyte’s opener was much deserved on the balance of play, with the northsiders’ midfield firmly in the ascendancy. Eddie Radcliffe was giving Ian Moore a torrid time on the right flank, while Derek Daly was also bringing his technique to bear in between the Mungret defence and midfield.
A fantastic through ball from Daly, down the inside left to Andrew Leyden, resulted in James Roche making one of several excellent saves to deny the Balla winger. Roche had earlier dived low to his left to palm wide a fantastic long range strike from Daly.
Mungret improved greatly towards the end of the first half, only to see a consistent period of pressure on the visitors’ goal spoiled by Rob Horgan’s dismissal. The full back was sent off for violent conduct by referee Martin Monahan, for kicking out at Lucey seconds after his penalty appeal had been denied.
Cognisant that a win was needed to lift them above Summerville at the foot of the table, Mungret bravely went with a 4-2-1-2 formation after Horgan’s departure. This, of course, rendered them extremely vulnerable in the defensive phase, with Ballynanty wasting three good chances in the first ten minutes of the second half.
Whyte was culpable for two, shooting straight at Roche after a cross from the right and allowing the Mungret goalkeeper to smother at his feet after another Richie Burke error. Later, Daly again took advantage of the acres of space between the lines to feed Leyden, who blasted over.
Eventually, Balla made the pressure tell; good work from substitute Dean O’Brien led to a right-wing cross from Whyte that Radcliffe turned in at the back post – his first league goal of the season.
Mungret introduced Division 2B’s top marksman John McManus up top in what looked like a 3-3-3 shape, but a comeback was not to be. The young striker did get one chance in the closing moments, directing a free header wide from a Ger Burke corner, but by that point the result was academic.
Ballynanty therefore consolidate their hold on 7th position in the Premier Division ahead of Thursday’s visit to Pike Rovers. Management will surely be pleased with this performance, in the absence of key personnel, with Hughes in particular acquitting himself well in an unfamiliar role. Daly and Radcliffe’s efforts in midfield also bode well for the visit to Nenagh in the Lawson Cup semi-finals.
Mungret, meanwhile, must now regroup after this latest devastating reverse. Management will rue both the needless dismissal of Horgan and the unavailability of key players at such a massive stage of the season. Although the 16 year old Colm Barrett turned in a remarkably mature performance in the middle of the park, some of his more experienced teammates should regret their individual underachievement in what would have been targeted as a winnable fixture.
Another failure to trouble the scorers now means that Mungret, who remain 11th, have scored only eight goals in 20 league games. That final day home clash against rivals Summerville looms large over what promises to be a thrilling end to this Limerick DL Premier Division season.
Whyte 31′, Radcliffe 71′
Man of the Match