Conditions were very different at MacHale Park this afternoon, the still and steely night replaced by the wet and wind today. The cold was, though, a common factor – it’s never not cold in the MacHale Park stand at this time of year.
The honours in the day’s opening Intermediate semi-final between Burrishoole and The Neale were up for grabs for a good portion of the hour. While the Westerners found scores easier to get throughout, The Neale proved to be sticky opponents and were well in it midway through the second half.
They’d had the significant breeze at their backs in the first half. Leading by two with ten minutes or so to the break it looked then like they’d made good use of the wind but four on the spin from Burrishoole left the Border boys two in arrears at half-way.
The excellent Padraic Walsh drove them back into it on the resumption. He got all of their first three scores, one from a free, in the second half and when Tommy Conroy angled over one from the right-hand side they were back in front again.
It was all Burrishoole, however, from then on as they hit 1-4 without reply to surge six clear. Three of those points came from well-struck Jason Doherty frees while the goal was bagged by centre-back Paddy Mulchrone.
Although the goal jolted the match to life, with the exchanges threatening briefly to boil over, The Neale were now left with too much to do. Burrishoole were canny enough to shield their own goal from any three-point threats as they closed out a 1-15 to 0-14 win.
The breeze had strengthened by the time the second match got underway. Kiltimagh enjoyed the wind advantage and they used it to reasonably good effect in the opening half, as they led Belmullet by seven points to five at the break. Cillian Finn opened the scoring for them and two nice points from Tomas Keegan helped them build an 0-4 to 0-1 lead.
The Erris lads battled back, though, with three unanswered points hauling them level. The second was a booming ’45 driven over into the teeth of the wind by Shane Nallen, while James Kelly cut through at speed to land the equaliser.
Eoghan Lavin had the biggest say on the scoreboard from then to the break, pointing three times, one a delicious effort from play way out on the left and another a booming free from close on 70 yards out, as Kiltimagh went in two to the good.
Ryan O’Donoghue bagged Belmullet’s opener after the break to cut the gap to two. Eoghan Lavin, who failed to make the distance from a free a bit over 30 yards out then proceeded to lamp the resultant fifty over the bar. Tomas Keegan landed his third of the day to stretch Kiltimagh’s lead to three.
Belmullet steadied themselves when Gerry Barrett lofted a nice score over from distance and then Michael Keane used the wind equally well to fire over a fifty-yard free, cutting the gap to one.
Belmullet then struck for a well-worked goal. The wind was a factor again as Shane Nallen hoisted a long ball in which was collected close to goal by James Kelly. Moving away from goal, he threaded the ball with precision across to the unmarked Cathal Barrett who rounded the ‘keeper and slipped it to the net.
Kiltimagh were hit with a further blow when midfielder Sean Walsh was dismissed on a straight red but an odd kind of goal brought them right back into it. Cillian Finn’s shot bobbled and bobbled and it wasn’t clear if any of his teammates got a touch on it in the crowded area close to goal before the ball crossed the line.
Back came Belmullet with a second goal, though, once again finished by Barrett, this time fed by Ryan O’Donoghue. The latter was fouled on a goalwards burst just after, the pointed free easing the Erris side three clear.
But fair play to Kiltimagh who battled back, striking with their second goal as the match approached injury time. The goal was crashed home by Donovan Cosgrove after a strong charge through the middle.
Michael Keane edged Belmullet back in front with a free almost out on the sideline on the far side. The exchanges were now becoming increasingly frantic, as Belmullet flooded their defence and Kiltimagh sought desperately to find an opening for the equaliser.
Kiltimagh had two shouts for a free close to goal waved away and Belmullet broke rapidly. The ball was eventually fed to Ryan O’Donoghue who had the composure to lift the ball over the bar with his fist. That was the insurance score, Belmullet winning in the end by 2-11 to 2-9.
Here’s my audio report from MacHale Park on the day’s action: