Ballina boss admits preparations are ‘disrupted’ ahead of clash with Ganiveguilla

Some see January football as a joyless venture, but for Ballina or Nieveguila, the next Saturday afternoon can bring untold joy.

For the first time in the competition’s twenty-year history the Hitchever club comes out on top and will be crowned Munster Junior Football Champions.

That two-decade-long history has been a story of Kerry dominance, with clubs from the Kingdom emerging as provincial champions on three occasions – their supremacy interrupted by Cork sides: Carberry Rangers in 2003, Canovy in 2007, and Knocknagri in 2017.

Whether Ballina could cause another blockage remains to be seen, but preparations have not been going smoothly in recent weeks.

Like many clubs across the country, the Tipperary champions have been forced to grapple with the impact of Covid-19 cases and self-isolation rules, and while manager Kevin Byrne admits Covid certainly created unwanted complications They feel that their side has now come to the fore. Disruption.

“Our preparations have been somewhat hampered,” he revealed.

“We had planned two challenge games over Christmas, but the opposition teams pulled out of them both due to COVID cases and close contacts.

“We have had a few cases ourselves, and one or two people have been side-lined because of having close contacts, but I think that matters to everyone trying to build a team over the Christmas period. There has been, and thankfully it looks like we’re coming out of the other end of it.”

While Nieveguila looks like a balanced and capable all-round side, Carey’s senior panelist Pa Warren is likely to lead his charge from the half-back line.

, The wing-back made his debut in Carey on January 5, with Jack O’Connor picking him up for the McGrath Cup fixture – a 2-23 0-6 apocalypse of Limerick at Tralee.

However, Ballina is focusing on her game. Ball retention will provide the key, and will likely determine the outcome of this Munster Final.

Some in Ballina Club may still feel haunted by the memory of their last visit to Mallow – the 2013 Münster Intermediate Hurling Final, which Tip Club defeated by Cork champion Ughal.

Kevin himself was in that game, and while he is aware that his memory will feel uncomfortable for some Ballina supporters, it will not affect his players.

“The last time I was in Mallow was to watch the Ballina Intermediate hurlers in the Munster final in 2013, but it’s a perfect location, the pitch is always great,” he said.

“Playing football at this time of year, possession becomes even more important. We will send the message to our players that you have to focus on the ball, you have to keep your possession.

“This is not the time to attempt risky, long cross-field passes, because the longer you maintain possession, the easier you make things for yourself.”

As Christmas lights disappeared from the streets of Ballina, the venue began to display a new type of decoration, with placards and banners emerging in support of junior footballers.

Byrne is influential in his praise of the wider Ballina club and community, all of whom have come together in support of his team.

There should be a feverish atmosphere in Mallow next Saturday, and part of the challenge before Ballina will be resting in detaching herself from that feeling.

Some of the more experienced players – Steven O’Brien, Michael Breen, and Willie Connors (unfortunately now ruled out due to injury) – have experienced the adrenaline rush of Croke Park on the final day of the All-Ireland.

He will know how to channel that emotional energy into his performance and guide the young players in this regard.

Energy, adrenaline, emotion. all dangerous things. However, if balanced properly, they can serve as the right recipe for success.