Three left in the hunt for Moclair Cup

I’m on Holy Ground for the night, not long in from an evening at MacHale Park where Breaffy qualified for the Senior club football final and where Castlebar Mitchels and Ballintubber couldn’t be separated, even after extra-time, in the other semi-final.

It was getting on for ten tonight when I finally left the ground but when I took my seat high up in the stand shortly before six this evening I still needed the sunglasses. Away to the west the slowly descending sun cast long autumnal shadows from the players onto the green sward. It was a perfect evening for football.

Breaffy were on top from the start in the evening’s first semi-final, racing to a three-point lead over Ballaghaderreen inside the opening few minutes. The atmosphere inside MacHale Park was strangely muted during these early exchanges, the crowd – still smallish in number, though plenty more would arrive later for the main event – making little or no noise, which meant the players’ shouts, in particular Andy Moran’s incessant promptings, dominated on the vocal front.

The crowd eventually got something to shout about when Breaffy broke through for a goal midway through the half. Ballagh’ had reduced the gap to one but then Matthew Ruane floated a ball right into the danger zone where Gareth Dunne connected with his fist and steered it to the net.

Breaffy took that four-point lead into the break. They failed to build on it on the resumption, though, and instead Ballaghaderreen cut the gap in half. The second of these was a classic Andy Moran score, out in front to win the ball, twisting this way, then that, then chipping it over.

The lights were now on at MacHale Park but still this dour contest doggedly refused to catch fire. Eventually Breaffy added a point to their half-time score – a neat one from Tommy O’Reilly, after a long ball in was knocked down into his path – and then slowly but surely they began to pull away.

Three nice points from play saw them push six clear. The first came from Conor O’Shea – the most prominent of the three siblings this evening – who turned neatly before firing over with his left. Then Mattie Ruane, bursting through at speed, rode a tackle well and shot over. Next it was Seamus O’Shea to try his luck off his left and that went over too.

There seemed to be no way back for Ballaghaderreen now but, with time running out, they pulled a goal back when sub Kuba Callaghan (at least I think it was him) connected with a low, raking cross and poked it home. It was too late, though, and while Breaffy had to scramble a bit at the end, it was, in truth, a comfortable enough semi-final win for them.

Here’s my post-game audio report on this one:

Onto the main event, where the meeting of defending champions Castlebar Mitchels and Ballintubber proved to be a far more compelling encounter. It went all the way to extra-time, either of them could have snatched it but in the end they both had to settle for a draw.

It was Ballintubber who were out of the traps sharper and they took the game to the champions early on. Cillian O’Connor squeezed a shot over the bar from a tight angle to open the scoring and Ciaran Gavin from a free doubled their early lead.

Castlebar hit back with three points on the spin. Their relaxed manner while in possession exuded confidence and it seemed only a matter of time before this was translated into scores on the board.

It wasn’t, though, as instead Ballintubber broke through for a goal at the other end. The score was created thanks to a sublime Alan Dillon pass into Cillian who offloaded smartly to the inrushing Michael Plunkett. I thought he definitely took too many steps before pulling the trigger but he got away with it and slipped the ball into the corner of the net.

Castlebar responded well, though, scoring the final two points of the half. They both came from David Stenson, the first from a free, but this positive boost was counterbalanced by the loss of Aidan Walsh, ordered off before the break on a second yellow.

A point in arrears and a man down, Mitchels looked in a bit of bother at half-time. Ballintubber’s massed defence had done well to bottle up Castlebar’s attacking forays in the opening half so the question now was how better those attacks might be, with the champions hobbled by virtue of the sending-off.

We got our answer to that shortly after the resumption. The ref played a good advantage when one of the Mitchels players was fouled out around the fifty, opting instead to let the attack develop. When the ball was played into Ray O’Malley a goal chance didn’t really look on but the Tubber defence parted obligingly for him and the Mitchels wing-back sashayed into the open space afforded to him and cracked the ball to the net.

A big home town roar erupted in the stand and when Jason Gibbons hacked a point effort badly wide at the other end straight away after, it really did seem like the contest had swung decisively in Castlebar’s favour.

A Cillian free cut the gap back to one but Barry Moran, anonymous until then, thumped over a monster point into the bacon factory end. A David Stenson free increased the margin between the sides to three points.

Two more Cillian frees brought Ballintubber back into it but then Neil Douglas smashed over a cracking point from distance for Castlebar. The same player was in on goal after the ‘keeper made a hash of his restart but he failed to convert the chance of bagging what would have been a decisive major. Instead, the ball cannoned back out, Danny Kirby picked it up and fed Dougie who popped it over.

Three to the good once more and again it was Castlebar who looked likely to prevail. Then Ciaran Galvin rammed over a long-range point for Ballintubber, but this was followed by bad wides from Alan Dillon and Diarmuid O’Connor.

Castlebar missed another chance to land the knockout blow, Donal Vaughan butchering badly a goal-scoring opportunity from a breakaway attack.

Into injury-time and Cillian was presented with a must-score free from close on fifty yards out. He duly nailed it. Then, with just seconds left to play, Alan Dillon tempted Ger McDonagh to dive in with a challenge, the Castlebar captain duly obliged and down went Dillon. Cillian pointed the free – although it took the hesitant umpires a few seconds to confirm that the ball had actually gone over – to send the match into extra-time.

By now the contest was starting to resemble a heavyweight boxing bout heading towards the fifteenth round. The big guns from both teams were cancelling each other out, both were flailing at the other but the punches never connected cleanly.

In this grim battle for supremacy, one player stood out. Diarmuid O’Connor’s influence grew and grew as the evening wore on and despite the repeated hits on him he kept taking the fight to the champions. In the end, he played himself almost literally into the ground.

Half-time of extra-time approached and neither side had managed to trouble the scoreboard. Then Jamsie Finnerty was played in by Cillian and fired over off the trusty left to edge the Tubber lads back in front.

When Miles Kelly’s awkward-looking effort eventually dropped over the posts soon after the start of the second extra-time period it now began to seem like it would be Ballintubber’s night. Then, all of a flash, Mitchels reeled off three points without reply, the second one another Barry Moran boomer, and they were back in front.

But Diarmuid continued to drive his side on and it was a foul on him close to the Mitchels goal that gave Cillian the chance to level the tie yet again, which he duly did. The same player even had a late chance to win it, with a speculative effort from fifty yards out, a bit like the one he’d knocked over deep in stoppage time to salvage a draw in the 2016 All-Ireland final. Tonight, though, Cillian’s effort tailed wide and soon after it was all over, the score tied at 1-12 each.

So these two heavyweights will have to do it all over again next weekend, to earn the right to meet Breaffy in the final in a fortnight’s time.

Here’s my audio report on this stalemate battle:

Finally, there was a shock outcome this evening in the Senior relegation final at Charlestown, where Davitts edged out Crossmolina by 0-17 to 1-13. This means that Deel Rovers, the All-Ireland club champions in 2001, will be plying their trade at Intermediate level in next year’s championship.

The fateful score that confirmed Crossmolina’s relegation from the Senior ranks was bagged by Davitts’ substitute, Mickey Conroy. Here it is:

47 thoughts on “Three left in the hunt for Moclair Cup

  1. Was at the Breaffy v Ballagh’ game but prior committments meant I could not stay for the second semi. I agree with WJ’s verdict on Breaffy v Ballagh’. A poor game overall with some terrible shooting, particularly from Breaffy. If they had been on song it would have been settled by half time. They seem to have a major problem in deciding how to use Aiden O’Shea, or is it that Aiden is trying to do it all himself. I was disappointed not to see Micheal Hall, a player who seems to have dropped out of the Mayo scene in the past year. Is he injured? I was also disappointed in the performance of Seamus Cunniffe. He was moved out of the full back position, probably on account of Aiden O’Shea’s positioning at full forward, but it does not look like he is an answer to Mayo’s full back problems. Conor O’Shea does, on the other hand, seem to have something to offer at full forward. And I don”t think that we have or are likely to have problems at corner back. From listening to the commentary on radio on my way home Diarmuid O’Connor seems certain to be a mainstay of Mayo’s midfield for the foreseeable future.

  2. I watched the game on the MayoTV stream and was quite impressed with Seamus Cunniffe. I thought he held his own overall and didn’t give anything easy to Aidan O’Shea while he was on him.

  3. Watching David Drake play some great football this year in corner back against Ballina, Garrymore and Breaffy you can see why he deserved his place on the Mayo panel. Seems to me playing him as a half forward with the county might have been the issue and not the man himself. With all the focus rightly on the McHale Park action, the relegation battle really was a cracking game of football, end to end stuff and played in a great spirit given what was at stake. After Kildare earlier in the year and last nights heroics, it looks like Diarmuid is coming back to his top form again. His U21 performance in Tullamore against the Dubs in 2016 still stands as the greatest individual performance I’ve ever witnessed.

  4. Seamus Cunniffe just needs a bit more physicality from a strength program. The timing and positioning is there, just needs a bit more hoomph in contact. David Drake as I heralded before should be used as a man marker. Very capable of shutting down more reasonable size forwards than Aidan. Even on Aidan at county level the ball he broke would have helpers come in quicker.

  5. Diarmaid o Connor immense, despite suffering from an early knock. Cillian’s form continues to deteriorate unfortunately.

  6. Kiltane anonymous, Ballina only middlin’ the last while, Knockmore struggling and just avoiding a relegation game and Crossmolina Deel Rovers now relegated. It’s not looking good in north Mayo.

  7. Agree that Drake has been really effective at corner back. Thought he played exceptionally well as a tight, sticky and physically strong man marker. Got in a few nice dispossessions last night. Cunniffe is a clever defender but agree thst he is much too light for senior intercounty at this early stage. Sharioze did quite well – great intensity and tackles hard but it does cross over into fouling a lot of the time. Diarmuid immense for Ballintubber as was Paddy Durcan yet again for Mitchels. Not for the first time Cillian got very little change with Ger Mc Donagh breathing down his neck all night. One of Rochfords errors of judgement not to give Ger a chance during his time in charge. Has the window of opportunity may have passed for Ger at this point with the Mayo senior team? A great warrior who certainly deserved a better chance to represent his county. Ciaran Gavin looks one for the future.

  8. Ger McDonagh is an u29 next year. Still young enough to deserve a shot.
    Within the next four years I think two of Seamus Cunniffe, Brian OMalley, Basil McLeod and Rory Brickendon will take the full back and backup full back spots.

  9. Joet1480 I agree with you to a point but will stick up for my home club knockmore. finished 3rd in league and bar this year are consistent enough in championship. Also unlucky with injuries this year. Think in first round championship tlthey had 5 of team that startered quarter final v Castlebar last year. Kevin Mc and shane mchale missing or carrying knocks for all championship games also mot ideal for team with so many young players. Junior team unlucky against kilmeena in junior A and if beat Mitchells in last game league will go to division 3. Also fielding 3rd adult team.
    doing well underage while mot winning many titles they generally compete at div 1 and A championship. unlucky losing minor quarter to Westport by 2 or 3 points in Westport in game they could have won.
    Crossmolina sadly seem have tough few years ahead based on level their underage teams playing at currently. But proud club am sure will make a return to top level.
    Ballina I don’t know what’s going on there TBH. With pick they have I’m sure something could tick yet.
    Shame weather deteriorating for today’s game. Was looking to see Tommy Conroy on dry turf. Think he has real potential as inside corner

  10. It’s very clear that the effects of the last ten years of economic hardship are beginning to show on the football field in terms of the north Mayo clubs. It’s a sad situation but north Mayo is a bit like the Connacht of Mayo, if you know what I mean. Disproportionately affected by the recession, the players just aren’t there. Underage amalgamations everywhere, while westports and Castlebar can barely handle the numbers they have. Our politicians have a lot to answer for.

  11. Well done Burrishoole, Jason Doc and a load of Macs for getting through to County Final. Managed by Colm Mac.

  12. Yes I agree with Larry very few jobs created in Co Mhuigheo during the last 7 years. In comparison 8-10k jobs created in Limerick where the ‘real’ Taoiseach Mr Noonan resided! As late as last week 600 new biotech jobs announced for Luimneach and the new IDA park in Castlebar which was opened with great fanfare 9 months ago not one announcement! In fairness this was highlighted by deputy Lisa Chambers on Midwes on Friday last. It is time all political parties got together in Co Mhuigheo to keep our young people at home! They should show a map of the county to the IDA management!
    Ar sceath a chaile a maireann na daoine!
    Mayogaa TV- go hiontach

  13. No agenda here, just a thought. North Mayo in the past twenty or so years has been home to three of the most successful senior clubs in the country. Knockmore, Ballina Stephenites and newly Intermediate, Crossmolina. All three have done us proud in Croke Park on St. Patrick’s Day.
    The pendulum of achievement has swung away from this region which is now also host to a number amalgamations at underage level. And yet, all of James Horan’s backroom team are from this part of the County where, for one reason or another, football standards are statistically and irrefutably on the decline.

  14. Gizmobobs with Knockmore you seem to have more knowledge of what’s happening at underage and have reason for optimism with that club.
    Either way north Mayo teams only twice finalists in the last ten years (both Knockmore) and no titles by comparison to the previous decade of fifteen teams in finals and nine titles…. that’s a clear decline.
    But these things rise and fall and I’m sure there are plenty of people involved in the big north Mayo clubs that will straighten things out.

  15. @PJMcmanus, Ciaran Harrison has been injured a lot. Many times missing for Aghamore. Brendan Harrison and Eoin O’Donoghue would be my corner backs next year.

  16. @sourceoftherobe it really doesn’t matter where in mayo the backroom team are from .its not like they don’t know every player in the county.people say football in north mayo is in decline but take Belmullet reaching an intermediate final it was not to long ago they were junior! Lahardane won the county junior last year!
    With all clubs things come and go in phases.knockmore have being steady at senior and still are.crossmolina will bounce back doing good work at the younger age groups .
    Ballina probably not as strong as before and rugby is strong there to.
    Kiltane keep battling away.
    As for amalgamations don’t forget north mayo is vastly rural and the erris region alone is the size of county Louth!
    A lot of national schools have closed and people have to travel large distances to work!
    It’s not as easy for someone in north mayo to drive to Galway to work as it would be someone living in Claremorris south mayo region !

  17. I think the senior should go back to being divisional or promote two and relegate two based on championship. Kiltimagh are mid table in Div 1 and won’t play senior.
    Davitts are now Div 3 and will play senior.

  18. Thoughts on kiltimagh belmullet Ryan o Donohue is top class,James Kelly is also county standard kiltimagh very bad managerial decisions backed up by a red card that was most certainly not a red card,cillian Finn eoghan Lavin and Sean Walsh (the lad who got the red)are all very talented and should push on too bigger things in the future..ah well just another year for kiltimagh in the doldrums that is intermediate I honestly think there an up and coming club does anyone agree or disagree with me

  19. Notwithstanding the exaggerated sentiments by the MWR sports team present, imo none of the teams on show last night would cause sleepless nights to their counterparts in Connaught. Sloppy and aimless forward play in both games but at least in Breaffy v Bderren game the referee was almost anonymous and allowed a degree of physicality associated with Gaelic football – hope he is doing the final. Castlebar displayed zero nous in the closing stages of their game – reminiscent of Mayo on so many occasions. Have such players and coaches never heard of closing out a game.Finally a great attendance and good sportsmaship on the field.

  20. @Mayogodeo. Kiltimagh are a strong club suffering from the ridiculous one up one down senior system. Should have been senior last year with a different system.

  21. I agree jp but what can they do now only change the manager plenty of young talent coming up trust me from what I here from the underage managers will they be a big club in the future Jp?

  22. There’s one for James Horan’s TO DO list all right Mayo Exile: closing out a game. By God, that’s something we need to work on.

  23. Hello Rober, I don’t really get that comment about Cillian O’Connor being in decline. He scored 8pts last night. That’s a significant contribution by anyone in any game at any level. (P.S. I’m not suggesting your happy about it either way)

  24. Cant equate league to championship, most senior clubs have to play without a large contingent of county players. Aghamore a prime example this year without anything up to 12 players due to U20, Senior & Hurling. Kiltimagh playing with a full deck all through league. They need to win to prove they are good enough for Senior. Davitts have never made a Senior QF since reaching intermediate all ireland. They have played in two relegation finals though. The step up is huge between Intermediate & Senior. Moy Davitts done well this year but the record of recent Intermediate Winners isnt brilliant in recent years.

  25. It was mentioned by John Maughan on Mayo gaa tv that Cillian will have surgery when Ballintubber exit the championship.
    Really excited to hear about the upcoming trials where a 100 of Mayos best footballers will have 2 full games to prove themselves.

    Players who should feature
    Brian Reape Moy Davitts
    Conor Diskin Claremorris
    James Carr Ardagh
    Sharoize Akram Ballaghadareen
    Darren Coen Hollymount
    Jack Reilly Charlestown
    James McCormack Claremorris
    Matty Ruane Breaffy
    Fionn McDonagh Westport
    Eddie Doran Achill
    Michael Plunkett Ballintubber
    James Durcan Castlebar
    Cian Hanley Ballaghadareen
    Seamus Cunniffe Ballaghadareen
    Ryan O’Donoghue Belmullet
    Ciaran Treacy Ballina
    Peter Naughton Knockmore
    Colm Moran Westport
    Michael Murray Ballina
    Jordan Flynn Crossmolina
    Gary Boylan Belmullet
    Adam Gallagher Mayo Gaels
    Matty Flanagan Balla
    Rory Byrne Castlebar
    Posters please add to list any name who should you think should be considered

  26. @TH Adam Gallagher has been surpassed by his younger brother. John Gallagher has been the lynchpin of Mayo Gaels winning a lot of games this year.
    On a sidenote, we would have had our best u18 team since 2013 if there was such grade this year.
    Parke – Alan Moran, Jack McLoughlin, Ronan Reilly.
    Westport – Rory Brickendon, Emmett Rowley, Pat Lambert, Mark Moran
    Charlestown – Paddy Goldrick, Paul Towey
    Carras – Liam og Horkan, Enda Hession, Adam Barrett, Oisin Mullins
    John Gallagher- Mayo Gaels
    Ciaran Gavin- Ballintubber
    Basil McLeod- Louisburgh
    Kuba Callaghan- Ballaghadereen
    The power and pace of that forward line for u18 level is excellent.

  27. Don think there ready for Senior yet JP but will defo push for an All Ireland Under 20 title next year.
    I hadn’t heard Gary Boylan had done his cruciate, I just know Rochy was very interested in bringing him in last year but he chose to sign a new contract with Sligo Rovers ,he was one of Mayo minors standout players in the 2014 campaign.
    Wonder if Liam Irwin will return from London for County Trials , a huge loss to Breaffys chances of beating Mitchels or Tubber in a County final as they are lacking a scoring forward.

  28. Gary Boylan hasn’t kicked a ball in gaelic football since 2014. Was approached by SR and Andy both each close season over the last couple of years, but is earning a living playing another sport. I can’t see him leaving after this year after Sligo paying his wages the full year while he was out injured.
    Liam Irwin will not be involved. Not a personal attack or anything of the likes, but why are we talking about players who haven’t performed at senior club level, and romanticising performances at under age level. We need to look at the players who are playing club in the county and performing. Was very impressed with Eoin Lavin yesterday. It seems Belmullet with the core 5 lads from the u-21 team and u-20 captain and Chrissy and EOD are a coming team. James Horan made reference to it in his interview. The Westport, Claremorris, Kiltimagh and Belmullet lads should all be given a serious look outside of the big 3. Jason Doc also looks to be still playing great football all year. You still have a good core of “older” players, Aidan, Lee, B Harrison, Paddy Durcan, Jason, Cilian. You then have Diarmuid Brian Reape et al, the ones from the u-21 team that are performing in the county, and given a year to develop playing with the senior panel, the ability to compete for another few years yet is still there. What we have to be prepared for in the county is a couple of years of transition. All booked up for New York next year in plenty time to see the start of the second revolution.

  29. JP – there was an u17 competition last year for the lads that are u18 this year. We played Galway in Salthill as a curtain raiser to a championship game there (I presume we were playing Galway). While it was a wet and windy day – the performance of the u17 team on the day was very poor to say the least. Our score was very low and I don’t know did we score from paly at all – except for one player. Perhaps the management weren’t good enough or these players may have improved considerably since – lets hope so.

  30. Was at both senior semis Saturday evening.
    Garrymore must be kicking themselves after the ballagh breaffy game. Both teams had some awful wides particularly ballagh. The ballagh keeper had a nightmare. He keep kicking the ball out to the breaffy giants and never varied his kickouts. Hanely was disappointing arkam no better. Rory Martyn was very impressive for breaffy and was involved in everything good they done. The crowd was very small for this game and surely the county champions will come from the other semi.
    The other semi was an intriguing battle to say the least. I was very impressed with the tubber set up. There backs have clearly tighten up and there forwards defended as a unit so much so the paddy durkan was very quiet. You have to hand it to castlebar do 14 men for a large majority of the match and 2 points down in the 1st half of extra time and still came back to go 1 up the sign of county champions.
    Again on official’s the linesman the scoreboard side of the ground (i am serious when i say he is in his mid 70’s) gave castlebar a sideline ball when it was clearly a tubber ball. He was overruled by the ref & as a result tubber got the goal.
    The county board have serious questions to answer here. Having players giving the commitment that is required for this level and having a linesman who cannot keep up with play is totally disrespectful to the players clubs and supporters.

  31. @South Mayo Exile.
    A lot of the u18s I listed were injured or not involved with the u17s or have come on a lot in the last year.

  32. Had been injured. Then he was back. Then this year he was listed and other times not playing. Not sure the story.

  33. after all the club championship games so far there doesn’t seem to be any new fullback or midfielder or indeed any scoring forward uncovered good enough to make the first team all same names over and over again comes up , most of whom have been tried in FBD last year and never won a game worth while and some have been used as subs in League games a number of times and failed to impress . Any chance these trials will unearth a fullback or a few forwards.

  34. Culmore, fair comment, although some names are young lads who wouldn’t really have featured previously. I think a point made by BJP in the latest podcast that one of the best attributes Horan brought last time was his ability to bring the best out of players. Hopefully he can identify some potential in players over the course of the coming months and that these guys can develop into really top footballers for Mayo.

    Horan was able to instil a real mental strength into the lads he developed in 2011/12…Id like to see Reape fulfil his potential and I’ve always said Liam Irwin had a special footballing talent (particularly his goal scoring ability and free taking OFF the ground). If Horan can’t entice him to give it a real go and get the best out of him then no one will. If he wants to play senior for Mayo his chance is now.

  35. Isn’t Irwin still living and working in London, and playing for London?. A bit of an ask to get him to move back I’d say.
    He showed great promise at minor and under 21 but lost his way a little after the under 21 all Ireland win. I’d love to see him back but only if he’s good enough to warrant an spot on the panel. No point in making a space for him if he’s not better than whomever owns the Jersey that he may be taking.

  36. No point talking about Irwin until he is back playing club football in the county.

    Culmore – I would say that Matty Ruane, Mikey Murray and Fionn McDonagh have stood out as midfielders during the senior club championship. In terms of forwards, Colm Moran and Brian Reape did well in the games I saw.

    I don’t think you can say any of those lads have tried and failed previously.

  37. I’d like to see David Drake or Caolan Crowe given a run at full back next year. Both have the necessary size for the position and are sticky man markers.

  38. Donie Buckley has been named in the Kerry management team.
    I wish him well. He gave us everything he had for 6 years.

  39. Hear, hear, Eddie – we got six great years out of Donie and were fortunate to do so. As Gamechanger said here earlier on, our loss is Kerry’s gain. Best of luck to him.

  40. Will miss Donie Buckley for sure – players have always spoken so highly of him. No more he could do for us.

  41. Still…youd imagine after 6 years the senior lads will have learned all they can from him and can pass that on to the younger fellas. Biggest concern would be if and when we face Kerry and they have a guy who knows us inside out. Not dissimilar to Cian O Neill being on their line in 2014.

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