Twelve months ago, the blue devils from Tooreen ended a 10 year famine, with an unexpected and devastating victory over Ballyhaunis in the Mayo Senior Hurling Championship final. Their 4-10 to 1-6 win over their near rivals ended a decade of hurt, where for eight of the previous nine years the TJ Tyrrell Cup spent the winter with their near neighbours. It was an emotional victory for the men from Tooreen, with Kenny Feeney leading the way scoring 3-6 over the 60 minutes, with man-of-the-match, Cathal Freeman, chipping in with three points from midfield.
Both sides have already met in the round robin stage of the competition in Tooreen, where they battled out a 1-13 to 0-16 draw in late August. The draw left both teams locked on five points each in the group stage, after both sides had dispatched of the challenges from Castlebar Mitchels and Westport in earlier games. Ballyhaunis led that meeting by 0-8 to 0-4 at the break, with Tooreen only managing one score from play in the opening 30 minutes as Pierce Higgins, Morgan and Fergal Lyons, and Kieran McDermott took the game to them early on.
But they showed their championship credentials in the second half, led by the sharp shooting Kenny Feeney, who added on eight points in the second half to his opening period tally of three to finish the day with 11 points to his name. Tooreen even had to fight back from conceding a goal early in the second half from Patrick Kelly which looked like it might have killed off their comeback before it even began properly. They trailed by five points with 10 minutes left on the stopwatch, but over those ticking seconds they managed to outscore Ballyhaunis by six points to one. With that one, coming from a late Brian Hunt free to level the game at the death, after Tooreen had taken the lead for the first time thanks to a Stephen Hunt score.
That draw sent Tooreen directly into the final and they have had to wait the guts of six weeks to get back on to the field, while Ballyhaunis, who finished the group in second place behind Tooreen on scoring difference, faced into a semi-final against the third placed Westport side. The game was a cake-walk for the Ballyhaunis men as they ran out 1-20 to 1-3 winners over the coastal outfit. Brian Hunt was the main man scoring five points as they shared around the scores, with Keith Higgins and Adrian Phillips chipping in with four points each, Stephen Hoban with two, and Morgan Lyons grabbing the goal. Another man who got his name on the scoresheet that day was Christy McCrudden, who made his championship comeback that day after a serious falling accident two years previously. McCrudden was also part of the Ballyhaunis football team that claimed the intermediate title along with a number of other dual players, who will be looking to double up on Sunday with a hurling medal in what has been a wonderful year for the club.
On Sunday, Tooreen will be hoping David Kenny, Joey Ganley, Ray Larkin, and new man Sean Regan who has transferred in from Ballina to support Kenny Feeney and Cathal Freeman will help the drive to victory on Sunday. While for Ballyhaunis Keith Higgins, Brian Hunt, Kenny McDermott, Anthony Phillips, and Morgan Lyons will be expected to be big players as they look to avenge last year’s 13 point drubbing. So will it be a 28th title going to Tooreen on Sunday or will it be championship number 10 for Ballyhaunis? The game throws in on Sunday at 2pm in the Tooreen Hurling grounds, with Charlie Collins the man in the middle.