Come this time of the season, the win is all that matters and that's exactly what Ballintubber and Ballaghaderreen both delivered in Elvery's McHale Park on Sunday afternoon. Both of this years senior championship semi-finals weren't games for the ages. What they were, was games that had to be won. Ballintubber who are looking to be the first team since the historic Garrymore side of the mid-seventies to put together a three-in-a-row title rein, booked their place in this years final, by coming out on the right side of a result that looked for a good portion of the game, was going to go against them.
Having to line out without Cillian O'Connor was always going to be a serious hinderance to Ballintubber, but for long periods of Sunday's game it looked like it could be a fatal blow. In open play O'Connor is more often than not the focal point of their attack and from placed balls is worth a handful of scores in every game. Without him on Sunday, Ballintubber struggled to hold onto the ball in the danger area and missed a couple of chances from placed balls, you'd normally bank on them scoring from.
But all that is tempered by the fact that when the final whistle was blown they were on the right side of the a 1-7 to 0-8 scoreline that has them back in the same venue in a few weeks time looking for a historic three-in-a-row. When it was put up to them and it looked like they would be surrendering their crown, like the true champions they are they dug in and and fought hard to get the win. The vital score in the game arrived with 11 minutes left on the clock and swung the momentum back in the defending champions favor. A few minutes earlier, Alan Dillon pointed a free to leave only three points between the sides. He then slung in a ball from the stand side of the field towards the Albany end of the ground. The ball broke a few yards out from goal and sub John Duffy was the quickest to react and drove the ball to the back of the net from close range. That goal gave Ballintubber the belief they needed when Danny Geraghty kicked a classy point to put them in front for the first time a couple of minutes later the large Ballintubber crowd found their voice in the ground. There was still time for the Gods of fortune and fate to shine on Ballintubber again before the end. Crossmolina's Cathal Carolan hit a monster of a free just before the end of normal time, it carried a good 50 meters before crashing down off the top of the bar and away to safety. From that rebound the ball was worked down the field and Ballintubber were awarded a free close in which Alan Dillon converted to put two points between the sides and seal the win for Peter Ford's men.
The second contest on Sunday's card saw the 2008 champions Ballaghaderreen make it back to the final with a composed performance which set up their win over Knockmore. As in the first game of the day, the only goal of the game was the vital score and the in this game it came early in the first half. And a fine goal it was too Barry Kelly played in Joe Dillon who showed great composure to put the ball under Andrew Higgins and raise the green flag.
At the end of the day, there were only three points between the sides, but Ballaghaderreen were the better side for the vast majority of the game, with Knockmore staying in touch thanks to a big performance from Aidan Kilcoyne. The Knockmore number 15 scored eight of his sides ten points, an was for a long time threatening to be the only Knockmore man to score for the whole game. It was only when Kevin McLoughlin clipped over a close range free six minutes from time when someone else got on the scoreboard for the north Mayo men up to that stage.
Ballaghaderreen's win was grounded in hard work form the likes of David Drake, James and David Kilcullen, Barry Regan and Barry Kelly. They were physically powerful and at times looked like they could pull away from from Knockmore and build up a big score. They nearly paid for not running up that lead at the death when Declan Sweeney won the ball and from a tight angle cracked an effort at the goal which forced Ollie Flanagan into a smart save to keep three points between the sides at the end.
Breaffy ensured they'd be in the in the hat when the draw is made for the senior championship next year on Sunday morning, when they saw off the challenge of Ballina Stephenites in the first of the relegation play-offs. The game which took place in Ballyhaunis was won by the west Mayo men by a score of 1-8 to 0-6. Peter Dravins was the man who hit the back of the net for Breaffy early in the second half to set up the win. Ballina were reduced to 14 men in the second half and will no await the losers of the second play off between Aghamore and Kiltane, with the losers of that third and final play off dropping down to intermediate for next year.
Charlestown made no mistake second time around against Kilmaine in the 1-15 to 2-6 win over Kilmaine in Claremorris in the intermediate championship semi-final replay. A late, late Kilmaine goal the previous week rescued the game for them, but Charlestown proved too strong on Saturday night and they will now take on Burrishoole in the final this coming weekend.
The junior final this year promises to be a real tough encounter when The Neale take on Ardnaree. Both sides have lost in the final in recent year and will be going hell for leather to ensure it doesn't happen again this year. Ardnaree saw off Ballintubber B in their semi-final with The Neale getting the better of Castlebar Mitchels. Ballyhaunis retained their Mayo senior hurling title on Sunday by the tightest of margins on a score of 1-14 to 0-16 against Tooreen in the all east Mayo affair.