So here it is – the Ballina Town FC 21st Century XI, as chosen by the great Ballina public.
The difficult part was leaving some players out but we had to go with most popular picks and most popular formation, which happened to be a 1-4-4-2.
It’s been a fun exercise and we are grateful to all who took the time to send us their nominations.
With so many close calls we decided to name not just the starting team, but five substitutes as well – honourable mentions, if you will.
So read on to get the lowdown on the Ballina Town FC 21st Century XI, as chosen by you.
There was a clear number one in the last line of defence as Mark Duffy went virtually unchallenged for the goalkeeper’s spot, despite players of the calibre of Aidan Reape, Emmet Peyton, Kieran O’Malley, Neil Langdon and Niall Gallagher having played in the position since the start of the century.
Mark is a big presence off the pitch as well as on it at Ballina Town FC, and he proved his popularity among the general public when he ran in the local elections last year and commanded a huge vote to get elected on the first count.
The back four had many nominees and the likes of Michael Knight and Sean Kelly were most unlucky not to get starting positions here.
The right-back, Duane Helly, is such a versatile player that he could have been selected anywhere along the back four. His happy knack of getting forward to score regularly was no hindrance either. On the other flank, Brendan Giblin wasn’t a noted goalscorer but as a combative and tough-tackling defender, he made life incredibly difficult for any winger who ventured over to his side of the pitch.
The aforementioned Knight and Kelly could easily be our centre-back pairing but they lose out narrowly to Derick Tansey and Ross Kenny, an inspiring pair who mixed dependability with a good degree of skill and tenacity.
In the centre of midfield, Tom O’Connor and Fergal Forde make a formidable duo. Indeed, O’Connor could have been selected in the back four but as a defensive midfielder he has more licence to roam the pitch and dominate the play, ably assisted by the incredibly skilful and influential Forde, who could cajole the best out of those around him.
Our wide midfielders had contrasting careers with the Town. John Mountney joined from Kiltimagh/Knock United as a teenager and spent just two seasons on Moyside before moving on to the League of Ireland, but he made a big impact and won a Super League title while at Belleek. He gets the nod on the right side. On the other side we have Eugene Gorman, a man who played in a number of positions over a long and distinguished career but arguably most memorably and most influentially on the left wing.
It must be noted here that Fergus Quinn and Jamie Cawley were a tad unlucky not to make the starting midfield. The same can be said for current first team manager Philip Devers up front, who had the misfortune to be pushing for one of just two positions in attack against Benny Lavelle and Mick Duffy. Lavelle and Duffy scored goals for fun – the former is still doing so too – and contributed massively to the Town being at or near the top of the scoring charts for many years. Mick also managed the first team with a huge degree of success for the greater part of three seasons.
Other players to get a mention among the voting public were Dylan McKee, Declan O’Connor (who was also assistant manager to Mick Duffy during his stint in charge), Dylan Edwards, Shane Quinn, Peter Duffy, Graham Nash, Keith Duffy, Clive Judge, Mark Birrane, Steven Moyles, Daniel Gorman, Malachy McCarron, Daniel Fahy, Denis Coen and Evan Regan.
In the final analysis, however, the Ballina Town FC 21st Century XI, in a 1-4-4-2 formation, is: Mark Duffy; Duane Helly, Brendan Giblin, Derick Tansey, Ross Kenny; Tom O’Connor, John Mountney, Fergal Forde, Eugene Gorman; Benny Lavelle, Mick Duffy. Subs: Jamie Cawley, Philip Devers, Sean Kelly, Fergus Quinn, Michael Knight.