Second helping should be another thriller

GAA: Mayo SFC

Play it again: Castlebar's Ray O'Malley and Ballintubber's Cillian O'Connor will have to do it all over again tomorrow night. Photo: Sportsfile.

Play it again: Castlebar's Ray O'Malley and Ballintubber's Cillian O'Connor will have to do it all over again tomorrow night. Photo: Sportsfile.

Who wouldn't want more of what they saw in MacHale Park last Saturday night between Castlebar Mitchels and Ballintubber?

The game had a bit of everything, some great passages of play, some poor errors and some exceptional performances - none more so than the one that Diarmuid O'Connor put in for the challengers.

He was the driving force for his side still being in the championship at the end of 80 minutes of nerve-racking action - as they came from behind not only at the end of normal time, but also in extra time, to earn the right to have another swing at the champions.

The Mitchels will probably feel they have learned more and have more to offer come Saturday night's replay - they had the better chances to win the game at the death - and they played from midway through the first half with 14 men - after Aidan Walsh was shown two yellow cards early doors.

They didn't look the all-conquering side we had seen throughout the championship to date, but they were never going to be allowed to appear so by their near neighbours - who never show any fear when coming up against a team who have conquered all before them over the last three years.

Ballintubber started the game the better, but they left half-a-dozen scores behind them in the opening half - that could have made a real difference at the end of the day.

Mitchels, while never hitting the heights they can - showed why they are three-times champions, regrouping at the break and coming right back at Ballintubber with Ray O' Malley's goal catapulting them into the lead just after the restart; and when Neil Douglas swung over their ninth point, 11 minutes from time, it looked to have put them into winning a three-point lead on the night - when scores were hard to come by.

But the 'Tubber didn't bend the knee and a Ciaran Gavin point, followed by two late frees from Cillian O'Connor, sent the game into extra time, the last free being expertly won by Alan Dillon deep in injury time.

Extra time couldn't separate them either. With Mitchels restored to their full complement for the additional 20 minutes, it looked like fortune would favour them, but it wasn't to be and we are back for some more tomorrow night.

Breaffy do what they need to do

Three years on from their last county final appearance, Breaffy are back in the senior decider for only the third time in the club's history - following a three point win over Ballaghaderren in the first course of last Saturday night's double header in MacHale Park.

In reality the gap should have been more, as Peter Ford and Shane Conway's side never really looked in trouble, but they did let Ballagh' in for a late Kuba Callaghan goal, to leave it at just a one score game topped off by a nervous final few minutes.

Next time out, Breaffy will know that such lapses can't be allowed if they are to claim a first ever senior title for the west Mayo outfit. The habit of leaving teams in games they really shouldn't be in, has plagued them over the past few years and saw them eliminated from the championship much earlier than they would have expected in the previous two seasons.

They will have had a fortnight to work on putting that to right, before the final against one of the near neighbours on Saturday week - and while they will go into the final as underdogs against whoever comes out of the Ballintubber v Mitchels replay - they have the quality and potential to have a real go at winning the title.

Aidan O'Shea's first half positioning at full forward worked well at times, while brothers Conor and Seamus were all critical to their win - but Matthew Ruane was the player who stood out the most in this one. The All Ireland minor and u21 winner is having a fine run of form of late and is one who will have his hand up to be looked at by James Horan, come next year.

There were other big performers too for Breaffy on the day - with Rory Martyn, Dylan Cannon and Tommy O'Reilly - who finished up with five points over the hour - some of them coming at vital times when the game looked to be still in the melting pot.

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