A storming early second half performance from Ballintubber laid the foundations for their progress to this Sunday's Mayo senior football championship semi-final. Despite seeing Cillian O'Connor sent to the line with 15 minutes left for a second yellow card, Ballintubber were able to use all their experience to hold off their southern opponents down the home stretch and book a meeting with Claremorris in the final four.
Tom Prendergast's men started the game in flying form, going into an early 0-2 to 0-0 lead with Connor Finnerty and Alan Plunkett slotting over points inside the opening three minutes. Hollymount-Carramore got their first score on the board through a Darren Coen free on five minutes, but it was the west Mayo men who kicked on again with Alan Dillon and Diarmuid O'Connor slotting over points to put their side 0-4 to 0-1 up with seven minutes just gone.
It wasn't as one sided as the early exchanges looked on the scoreboard, with Hollymount-Carramore having plenty of the ball and looking dangerous with Robert Molloy and Nathan Moran to the fore for Tony Duffy's side. Molloy landed a point from well out the park to cut the gap to two points on 10 minutes, and two minutes later the gap was back to just one, thanks to a well worked Kevin Ferrick score — after Darren Coen looked like he might get in for a goal, only to be swallowed up by the Ballintubber rearguard.
It was all level when Coen kicked another point from close range on 16 minutes after he ghosted in past the defence. Ballintubber almost had the ball in the net themselves not long after only for Padraig Ferrick to get a block on a Conor Finnerty shot after a flowing move involving Jason Gibbons and Danny Geraghty — when Ballintubber ran right through the heart of the Holly-Carra defence. Alan Dillon then edged his side in front again with a well taken score fisting over on the run from a tight angle.
Hollymount-Carramore should have rattled the net through Darren Coen just after that point, but he pulled his effort well wide after creating space for himself inside the danger area. But his side did hit the back of the net six minutes from the break when Nathan Moran showed great strength to field a high ball, round Brendan Walsh, and bundle it over the line from close range, putting his side into a 1-4 to 0-5 lead.
Cillian O'Connor steadied the Ballintubber nerves with his first of the day from a 45' two minutes later to cut the gap back to just a point. The south Mayo side went straight back down the park and Kevin Ferrick pointed and almost straight away. Molloy drove over his second of the half to push his side three clear. The gap at the break was cut back to two points thanks on a Cillian O'Connor point from play and there was time for everyone to breath following a frantic first half of football.
Whatever was said in the Ballintubber dressing room at half time worked a treat as they came out a more focused and forceful outfit. Jason Gibbons began to dominate the middle of the park and their forward unit were moving much more smoothly. Diarmuid O'Connor forced Niall Campbell into a fine save right off the throw in, his elder brother Cillian slotted over the resulting 45' to cut the gap back to one. The third O'Connor brother Padraig slotted over the next point and the game was all tied up.
Hollymount-Carramore couldn't clear their defensive lines and Ballintubber tagged on three more points on the bounce with Conor Finnerty, Michael Plunkett, and Cillian O'Connor edging them 0-12 to 1-6 clear and leaving them in control of the game. Then with 15 minutes to go, Cillian O'Connor was shown a second yellow card, to his disbelief and much protestation from the Mayo captain. That could have tilted the game back in Hollymount-Carramore's favour with the next score being vital to the outcome. That score came from the experienced old head of Alan Dillon — which calmed the nerves and kept his side more than a goal in front.
Hollymount-Carramore did hit back with two points in a row not long after, but that was as close as they could get as Ballintubber's defence held firm and they picked off five more points on the break to close out the game in impressive style, and send them into the last four of the championship as they go looking for their first county title in three years.
Ballintubber: A Dillon 0-5 (1f ), C O’Connor (0-4, 2 '45s, 1f ), C Finnerty 0-3, D O’Connor 0-2, A Plunkett, P O’Connor, M Plunkett, D Coleman 0-1 each.
Hollymount-Carramore: D Coen 0-4 (3f ), K Feerick (0-3, 1f ), N Moran1-0, R Molloy 0-2.
Ballintubber: B Walsh; G Loftus, B Murphy, M Plunkett; D Coleman, M Kelly, D O'Connor; J Gibbons, D Geraghty; P O'Connor, A Plunkett, A Dillon; C Finnerty, C O'Connnor, R Geraghty. Subs: S Broderick, S Finnerty, C Hallinan.
Hollymount-Carramore: N Campbell; B Maloney, F Conroy, N Walsh; B Sheridan, R Molloy, P Ferrick; C Connolly, S Coen; K Ferrick, K Costello, N Moran; D Coen, C Keane, E Keane. Subs: D Costello, D Kelly.
Ref: E Devenney (Ballina ).