There is talk at the moment that the Mayo senior football final could be played under floodlights in MacHale Park on Saturday Oct 29th with the Intermediate final being played as either the curtain raiser or to remain fixed for Sunday 30th. Speaking of lights, Cillian O’ Connor was shooting them all out on Sunday for Ballintubber.
People seemed genuinely shocked that the Mayo captain had put away 4-4. “Did ya hear Cillian’s after getting four goals? He’s some forward!” someone said to me in Milebush as I was covering a game. The world’s round, we’re all going to die someday: tell me something I don’t already know. (Thanks for the update all the same random supporter!)
Great teams hit you hard and hard enough to leave you stumbling for the duration of the game. Michael Plunkett finished off a superb effort in the opening two minutes of this quarter- final between Ballintubber and Garrymore, his brother Alan and Mayo comrades, Cillian and Jason Gibbons, all handled the ball before the youngest Plunkett opened up the game in style. Sean Rice put it perfectly in the Mayo News saying that “it took the wind right out of their sail, even before they set sail”.
It’s hard to come back from that and they didn’t. 3-7 to 0-2 at half-time, I got a Snapchat from a Mitchels supporter who had seen enough of his semi-final opponents, “It’s a potential murder scene and I’m not sticking around for the killing” he said.
3-7 in one half, matched with 3-7 in the other from the Boys from the Tubber. Bryan Walsh ground out three points in a superb display before his substitution while midfielder Gibbons returned to the centre of the park and notched up 1-1. Four frees from Jimmy Killeen and 1-6 in the second half from Garrymore was slightly better.
I’d covered Garrymore’s game the previous week and, as I mentioned in last week’s article, they struggled even to grab a draw from bottom side Claremorris who had a lad sent off in the first fifteen minutes. Were they already beaten going into MacHale Park on the back of that performance? It probably didn’t help but, facing a machine like Ballintubber, a win would never have looked easy.
We now know that Ballintubber will play defending champions Castlebar in the semi but it wasn’t always veering that way last weekend. Ballaghaderreen were leading by four points in the opening ten minutes and held a one-point lead going in at half-time.
Their attacking wing backs can be a thorn in anyone’s side, with the pacy Sharoize Akram and David Drake normally finding themselves up front at most stages of the game. Long-range kicking was the order of the day and Akram, Andy Moran and Barry Regan all pointed from distance for Ballagh’ before the first half was out.
1-1 from Akram and eight points from Regan was a heavy first half start from them but Mitchels, like Ballintubber, have the ability to turn it on at any stage. 2-7 from Castlebar to Ballagh’s 1-3 shows just how dominant the second half was for the county champions.
Second half goals from Cian Costello and Barry Moran are what separated the sides in the end as they added to Eoghan O’ Reilly’s first half netter. Andy Moran, meanwhile, came close to grabbing a second Ballagh’ goal from a free. He wasn’t as fortunate as with his sideline effort from last week and the best he could manage this time was a clatter of the crossbar.
Knockmore had to grind out a win against Ballagh’ last week in order to secure a first place finish in their group. They were back to the grindstone when they met Aghamore on Saturday.
It was one of those empty-the-reserve-tank-limp-off-the-pitch efforts from both sides as they locked horns in what sounded like a fierce battle. Kevin McLoughlin took up the reins in midfield for Knockmore with fellow county man Brenda Harrison linking the chain between half-back to centre for Aghamore. Another Mayo panellist was on show in the form of Aghamore’s Alan Freeman who fired over five frees and one from play to land six of Aghamore’s eight points.
The game may have swung in the opposite direction if Agha’s Fergal Boland had played the duration but his game was ended early after he picked up a head injury. Four points from Colm Reape in this game who put in a massive shift in centre-forward and Knockmore had a valuable lead going into the closing stages.
Two of Freeman’s frees came in this stage of the game and with only a point hanging in the balance, the next score, if any, was always going to be vital. Aghamore went for a full attacking approach in the hope of obtaining the equaliser but the decisive score fell to Knockmore substitute Francie O’ Neill who propelled his side into the semis where they will meet Breaffy.
Much like Garrymore’s performance against Claremorris in their final group match, Breaffy would have wished for a better one last weekend as they now face into their next clash with Knockmore. They played tug of war with Crossmolina who did not make it easy for last years runners-up.
Two county team-mates squared up in this one as Michael Hall and Conor Loftus had a great battle. Loftus managed two points despite Hall’s persistent defending while two hot forward prospects also lined out on opposite sides in the shape of Fionan Duffy and Liam Irwin.
Both hit the majority of their scores from frees but there was plenty of focus on frees that Irwin didn’t lash over, ‘The Bear’ missing five. It’s a huge responsibility on his young shoulders and it is a task he normally excels at.
Robbie Hennelly was on hand to kick two bullets of placed balls for Breaffy as they looked to book their place in the semis. Duffy’s fourth and final free edged his side a point in front with twenty minutes remaining but it would turn out to be Crossmolina’s last score of the day.
An unanswered 1-4 from Breaffy finished off the second half in style but their goal didn’t come until the last minute of the game and until then, they were slowly edging away just a kick of a ball separated them. Substitute Tommy O’ Reilly gave the Breaffy fans cause to sigh with relief as he netted home in the dying seconds despite the best efforts from Patrick Loftus, who had a superb game between the sticks for Cross.
As for the semis, two old enemies lock their horns again as Ballintubber face Castlebar. It is impossible to call, it always is. Castlebar unloaded their bench against Ballagh’ which proved a huge help in keeping a constant tempo while Ballagh began to lose the legs.
Ballintubber couldn’t have asked for a better game before meeting their noisy neighbours and will be looking at Cillian, Diarmuid, Jason Gibbons and the like to spur them on as they look to stop the champions from having a shot at retaining the title. It’s that word – champions – that gives Mitchels the slight advantage, but it really is going to be a fascinating game and one that Ballintubber have every chance of winning.
This is Breaffy’s third semi-final appearance in four years and they will look favourites going into it. The absence of Seamus O’ Shea in midfield is huge but surely one would imagine they have the firepower elsewhere to kick on. On the other hand, Knockmore have been kings so far at grinding out performances and taking teams right to the death. They will be hoping they’re still in with a shout in the last fifteen minutes and, if they are, they will fancy their chances.
One definite in the SFC relegation play off is that Ballinrobe will be fighting for their senior status. Their opposition is still unknown as Ballyhaunis and Claremorris fought out a draw, Danny Broderick nailing over for Claremorris in the dying seconds. Claremorris’ James Shaughnessy and Ballyhaunis’ Cathal Carney had strong games for their respective sides.
Just like against Garrymore, Claremorris ground this draw out with only fourteen men for majority of the game. I’d love to know how they’d get on with a full deck for the full game!
Hollymount-Carramore are safe but will wonder what happened to their championship hopes following their rip-roaring start against Ballintubber. Conor Keane, Darren Coen and Kevin Feerick helped Holly-Cara over the line. Ballinrobe substitute Sean Og Collins came on at half-time and made a significant change in Ballinrobe’s level of urgency. He grabbed a goal, won a penalty (which was brilliantly saved by Niall Campbell from a Darren McDonnell effort) and his speed was something which tired legs found hard to keep up with.
It would be a shame had Holly-Cara found themselves in a relegation dog fight in the same year that they won the Division 1A League title. Football’s a funny old game, though, and I assume for Ballinrobe and their two potential opponents this is no laughing matter.
Austin Garvin and myself were watching Kiltimagh vs. The Neale in one of the intermediate quarter-final games on Saturday. Austin is a great man to have by your side at the game, he can tell you the age, occupation and mother’s maiden name of any given player.
We witnessed a strong Kiltimagh team finish out on top over The Neale in what turned into a very scrappy game toward the end. Bryan Gallagher and Ciaran Charlton owned the half-forward line for Kilti’ and Ronan Malee managed to pop over four despite having a relatively off day. The first half was as tight as tight can get, 1-5 to 0-8 points with The Neale’s Aidan O’Sullivan nailing 1-1 of that in the first half. O’ Sullivan would only manage to grab himself two yellow cards in the second half as he got caught up in the brawl which ensued in the second half.
They face a Burrishoole side whose talisman Jason Doherty was on fine form notching up 1-9 of Burris’ 1-12. They overcame an Islandeady side who pushed the Newport outfit right to the end but to no avail. It’s hard to see past Kiltimagh who have a 100% record so far in the championship and by the looks of things, if they can keep Doc at bay, it’s their’s for the taking.
Shane Nallen chalked up 1-2 for Belmullet in their close encounter with Shrule/Glencorrib but it’s the men on the border between Galway and Mayo who will meet Westport in the quarter- final. A disallowed goal for Belmullet was all that separated the two sides in the end as the Erris lads managed to close an eight-point gap to three but, alas, that was all they could manage.
Shrule/Glencorrib now face a Westport side who are always on hand to wake you up with a few shoulders but can match it with equally good football. It was nice to hear that the two Keegan brothers played for their club in this win. I’ve seen both of them play individually and was shocked earlier this year when Westport United star Phil was restarting his Gaelic career while still managing to play at a high standard soccer as well.
It should be a Westport/Kiltimagh final. There shouldn’t be too much separating the two semi-final games but the Westport and Kiltimagh should push through. However, Shrule/Glencorrib are far too used of senior football to bow down to Westport that easily, while Burrishoole are forever knocking on the door. With the help of Jason Doherty, they will hope to bust it down against Kiltimagh.
Tourmakeady held on to their intermediate status for another year as they sent Kilmaine down in an exciting relegation play-off.
Tourmakeady love the dog fights. The rain and the mucky pitch is like an incentive for them to go and play their hearts out and they did, their white away shirts had turned to black by the end of the game. Darren Kelly, Shane Staunton and Brian Heneghan all finished off their magnificent performances with goals with Kevin Dolan straight as a die with his frees as usual.
Danny Walsh is a man who has spent many Sundays walking off a pitch with Tourmakeady and walking onto another one an hour later with Partry. The man doesn’t know the meaning of the word tired. Darragh McConnell, meanwhile, had his finest hour for Tourmakeady in his short career so far. He hobbled off the pitch through injury and only for that he would have been chasing lads around the park for the whole 60 minutes. He was immense and crowned his fine performance with two magnificent left-pegged efforts.
As for Kilmaine, they have played with real heart in the last few rounds of this championship and were unlucky not to have stayed up on the last day. Michael Hession was outstanding for them and racked up six points but as I said above, it was Tourmak’s day, conditions and all.
To finish off, the ladies are flying the kite high for Mayo football in Connacht as Carnacon and Kilmoremoy have booked themselves places in the Senior and Junior Ladies’ Connacht finals respectively. Sarah Rowe’s side bulleted past their Roscommon opponents Michael Glavey’s in their semi-final as the Mayo star notched up 4-6 of their huge 5-16 score.
Carnacon will hope to secure their Connacht title a week before Kilmoremoy as they do battle with Leitrim side Kiltubrid on Sunday morning. Carnacon put one over on old rivals Kilkerrin-Clonberne in the semis and will be looking for provincial success this weekend. If they do, 20 year-old Doireann Hughes will hold the trophy aloft. A big feat for the young lady, not to worry though, she will have the veterans standing right behind her.
Digested all of that? It’s easy to make paper-based predictions but nothing beats witnessing first hand what’s going on, kick for kick. I promised Willie Joe an early article on the club scene this week but college work told me otherwise. You’d forget about college work for a while when dissecting such interesting action like this. Then again, football does beat learning about some media law legislation. Actually, is there anything football doesn’t beat?