The biting cold and soaking rain probably stopped Tooreen’s most famous alleged visitor from stopping by again, but it didn’t dissuade the hurling faithful of Mayo from making their way to Adrian Freeman Park on Saturday afternoon for the latest instalment of this very local rivalry.
Nobody wants to have to go out and play in weather like both sides faced into and great credit must be given to both sides for putting in a massive effort over the course the hour into howling winds and lashing rain. It was never going to be a day that anyone of those out of the field were going to show their full potential - instead if was an afternoon for grit, hard work and hoping that bit of luck went you’re way.
The bit of luck was definitely on the side of Tooreen when all was said and done and maybe it was someone supernatural pulling the strings for them as two fortuitous goals from Fergal Boland in the space of three minutes at the midway stage of the second half saw them home to victory.
The first 20 minutes of the first half was a fairly dour affair - with both sides struggling to get to grips with the conditions. Keith Higgins opened the scoring for the defending champions with a well taken effort from play nine minutes in, four minutes later Tooreen got their scoreboard moving with the first of five pointed frees from Shane Boland, the Tooreen number 12 doubled up his tally one minute later to put his side in front for the first time and eight minutes on he did so again to leave the challengers 0-3 to 0-1 in front.
Brian Hunt cut the gap back to a single point with a well taken free of his own a minuted later, but a fine close range point from Sean Kenny and a Shane Boland free put three between the sides as the half time break approached - however Ballyhaunis weren’t done yet and two more Hunt free’s before the short whistle left just a single point between the sides at the turnaround and the conditions looking to favour the champions in the second half.
First blood in the second half went to the eventual victors with Boland driving over his fifth point from free and not long after they went three points clear when Cathal Freeman drove over a fine score from well out the park. Initially the umpire singled the ball had gone wide, but following the intervention of the linesman and some consultation with the other umpire - referee Charlie Collins gave the point - much to the pleasure of the boisterous home faithful.
In between those scores - Kieran McDermott broke through the Tooreen defence and hit a shot for goal which Stephen Lenhean did well to save and put out for a 65’. Just before the midway point in the second half Ballyhaunis hit their first score since the turn around when Keith Higgins intercepted a sloppy clearance and drove it over the bar from well out the park.
The vital scores in the game came very quickly after that Higgins point, Fergal Boland found himself in some space well out from goal on the left hand side and drew a shot for a point. He had the accuracy but not the distance - however Donal O’Brien misjudged the flight of the sliothar in the air and it dropped into the back of his net and put Tooreen five clear. Three minutes later almost the exact same thing happened, this time on the opposite side of the goal - when O’Brien again misjudged a Boland effort that dropped short and it ended up with the green flag being raised.
That was the winning of the game with Boland tagging on two points before the end with Kenny Feeney getting his first of the day with the last puck of the game, the full time whistle was greeted by much jubilation from the locals as the celebrated their first Mayo senior title since 2013 and their 28th in all.
Tooreen: F Boland (2-2 ), S Boland (0-5, 5f ), C Freeman (0-1 ), S Kenny (0-1 ), K Feeney (0-1 )
Ballyhaunis: B Hunt (0-4, 4f ), K Higgins (0-2 )
Tooreen: S Lenehan; D Huane, M Morley, A Heney; C Henry, C Freeman, D Kenny; S Coyne, F Boland; K Feeney, S Regan, S Boland; B Morley, B Douglas, S Kenny. Subs: C Charlton, S Morley, C English
Ballyhaunis: D O’Brien; A Brennan, M Phillips, A Lyons; K Kiely, L Cribben, F Lyons; E Collins, K McDermott; A Phillips, K Higgins, B Hunt; P Kiely, S Hoban, J Lyons. Subs: S Griffin, J Coyne, C Gardiner.
Ref: Charlie Collins (Lacken )