Jack Kyle Cup
Dungannon 20 Ballymena 16
The Dungannon players brought a little festive cheer to frosty Stevenson Park on Boxing Day when they edged out Ballymena in the annual Jack Kyle Cup match. Ballymena had the better of the first half and when David O’Hara hit the target with penalties on five and twelve minutes it left Dungannon on the back foot after the opening quarter. Paul Magee then raised Dungannon hopes with a fine break on the half hour but the usually reliable Jake Finlay shot wide with a penalty award on the half hour. Five minutes later Dungannon lost control at a set scrum, Peter Ireland broke clear for Ballymena and winger, John Nicholl finished the job. O’Hara converted and the Braid men led 13-0 at the break.
Dungannon started the second half with intent. A diagonal kick was chased to the corner before 2 penalty awards took Ballymena out of trouble. Undeterred, Dungannon worked their way back up field for Finlay to strike with a penalty on 47 minutes. On the next visit good work by the pack saw Simon Potter dive over before being deemed ‘held up’. Minutes later the same fate happened to John Joe Kane. Dungannon were clearly on the up and up but scores eluded them. On 55 minutes that all changed when Stephen Todd took a slick pass from James Bates before diving over close to the posts. Finlay knocked over the conversion and Gannon were just 3 points adrift. Ballymena bounced back with another penalty per O’Hara on the hour mark but it was Paddy Johns ‘young charges’ that held sway in the final quarter. Steven Sinnamon was stopped just short but along came Kane and he finished the move. Finlay popped over the conversion and Dungannon had a first time lead, 17-16 on 65 minutes. Determined to hold on to the lead Gannon moved forward again with Cormac McCartney making a notable break. Come the 80th minute Finlay sealed the issue with a second penalty and Dungannon skipper James Bates collected the silverware when the final whistle blew.