Castlebar Mitchels moved a step closer to defending their Mayo senior championship on Sunday, seeing off Ballintubber by 1-11 to 1-5 in MacHale Park. Declan O’Reilly’s men were the better side throughout the contest, but it wasn’t until late in the day they managed to shake off the challenge of their arch rivals from not to far away.
Neil Douglas put in another top class performance with the Mitchels number 14 hitting eight points over the hour. He got the scoreboard moving right from the throw in with a well taken score from out on the right flank, he followed up with another top class score a few seconds later. When Cian Costello spun his man and made a beeline for goal and drove over an excellent score, it looked ominous for Ballintubber. Things got worse for them not long after when Castlebar extended their lead to five points with Douglas tagging on two pointed frees.
The latter of those points also saw Ballintubber get a black card when Damien Coleman was ejected from the proceedings for a foul on James Durcan on 14 minutes. Four minutes later Aidan Walsh also picked up a black card for an off the ball foul, but it didn’t knock Castlebar too much.
Cillian O’Connor finally got Ballintubber going on the scoreboard with a free from close range on 22 minutes, but three minutes later Douglas added another pointed free to his tally. O’Connor clipped over another point from a placed ball just before the 30 minute mark and injury time he really should have cut the gap to three points, but he pulled his effort wide of the far post.
He did manage to cut the gap back to just three points right at the start of the second half, but Ballintubber really couldn’t get a proper foothold in the game to launch a real offensive. Both sides struggled for scores in the third quarter and with 11 mintues to go, there were only two points in it with Castlebar leading 0-7 to 0-5.
When they needed to drive on again, Mitchels upped the gears and points from Douglas, Ray O’Malley and Donie Newcombe stretched their lead out to five points with 56 minutes gone on the stopwatch.
Ballintubber did get in for a great goal chance after Cillian O’Connor created some space close in on goal and fed the ball to Alan Plunkett who put his effort just past the post. Mitchels went straight down the field from that miss and the ball was worked to sub David Stenson who finished from close range to kill off the game as a contest.
It was the fourth minute of injury time before Ballintubber registered their first score from play when Danny Geraghty tapped in a close range goal for a consolation score, but it was far too little too late for his side as Castlebar marched on to their fourth county final in a row.
Knockmore back in the final after seven year absence
Knockmore were full value for their win over Breaffy in the first semi-final of the day, the north Mayo men came in as underdogs and tore into Breaffy from the start. Kevin McLoughlin got things going with a fine score after 30 seconds, which was replied to two minutes later by a Kevin Curry point from close range.
Ray McHale’s men kicked the next three points of the day wth Keith Ruttledge, Kieran Langan and Peter Naughton all raising the white flag. Breaffy hit back with a pointed Liam Irwin free on the ten minute mark, but it was Knockmore who pushed on again strongest after with McLoughlin and Naughton pointing to put their side into a 0-7 to 0-2 lead.
Breaffy needed to get back into the game and Irwin kicked another free to bring the gap back to four points and three minutes from the end of the half Tommy O’Reilly got in behind the cover and lashed the ball past, Aiden Kilcoyne to leave just one between the sides.
Both sides added a point each before the break with Robbie Hennelly kicking a 45 and Naughton adding his third free of the afternoon to send Knockmore in leading 0-8 to 1-4 at the turnaround.
The second half was a scrappy and tetchy affair, with the Knockmore defense putting in a massive shift, choking Breaffy in possession in attack time after time. Sean Ruttledge kicked his side two clear three minutes in and nine minutes later that was extended to three points by another Naughton free.
Liam Irwin kicked his third point of the day 43 minutes in but it wasn’t the kick start to a comeback that many would have expected as Knockmore kept working hard all over the field. Andrew Keane was sent to the line for a second yellow late on and Breaffy did manage to close the gap to a single point in injury time after Robbie Hennelly drove over a long range free. He had a chance to tie it up from a 45 not long after, but his effort fell short and Knockmore got the insurance score they needed when Naughton finished from close range deep in injury time to send the north Mayo men into their first county final since 2009.
Knockmore 0-12 Breaffy 1-7
Castlebar Mitchels 1-11 Ballintubber 1-5