Tubber hold strong to win back Moclair

GAA: Comment

Band of brothers: Ciaran Gavin leads the celebrations in the Ballintubber dressing room after last Saturday nights county final. Photo: Sportsfile.

Band of brothers: Ciaran Gavin leads the celebrations in the Ballintubber dressing room after last Saturday nights county final. Photo: Sportsfile.

It was county final heartbreak again for Breaffy as Ballintubber reclaimed the Moclair cup they last won in 2014.

As far as achievements go, Ballintubber's win is right up there. Not that too long ago they were operating as an intermediate team, now they have amassed four county senior titles in the last decade to go level with Castlebar Mitchels on championships won in that time.

There was a nervy end to this very tense encounter. When Conor O'Shea's last ditch attempt at an equaliser fell short I was fully sure the ball would end up in the back of the Ballintubber net, as big brother Aidan was on the edge of the square under the dropping ball. It looked like he would flick the ball to the net and win Breaffy their first Moclair cup.

But credit to 'Tubber' keeper Brendan Walsh who was very sharp off his line to fist the ball away from O'Shea. Anarchy reigned thereafter and after the final whistle was blown. Breaffy players were of the opinion there was an infringement in the square and that they should have had a penalty, however I failed to see any foul myself.

James Minogue collected the ball from Walsh's fisted clearance and clearly went to ground inside the 14 metre line, but it was his momentum that took him head on into a Ballintubber defender that led him to hit the deck. The ball got turned over and moments later the final whistle was blown. Breaffy were incensed but the ref got this one correct for me.

Breaffy got off to a dream start, last Saturday being their third final since 2013, Aidan O'Shea was hauled down in the square in the third minute by Cathal Hallinan. Peter Dravins coolly slotted home the kick to raise a green flag for the underdogs. It was however to prove a false dawn as Ballintubber took control thereafter.

O'Connor's free-taking proves vital

The first half proved to be a battle of the free-takers. Cillian O'Connor was on fire while his counterpart, Rob Hennelly, didn't have his radar in sync. The precision and ruthless accuracy from O'Connor ultimately decided the game. He finished the game with 0-7, six from frees and one from play. Five of those points were far from straightforward and three were nailed from 45 metres or more.

In what can be described as a very defensive and cagey first half, there were only three scores from open play in the opening period, meaning the free-taking was of crucial importance. I feel for Breaffy after this one. This one will hurt them the most because they were in it right to the death. Their one point loss will have players dwelling on decisions made that could have altered the outcome: Was it the ref's fault?; If only I passed the ball earlier?; Why did I shoot?; Why didn't I make that tackle? These are the questions the Breaffy players will be asking themselves for a long time. I'm still doing it 20 years later.

When you're beaten comprehensively you don't dwell on the little things, comprehensive defeats are easier to get over. Embarrassing at the time, yes, but easier to forget about. Robbie Hennelly and the O'Shea's have had to deal with a lot of near misses down the years, mostly with the county but now with their club. Their time will come.

A serious marker laid down

Ballintubber's victory is a proper example of resilience. It looked like their era of winning titles was over as Castlebar Mitchels dominated the Mayo club scene for the last three years and looked set to do so for a few more years. It would have been a sickening blow for them not to win back the Moclair cup this year after beating, what I thought was an unbeatable team, in Castlebar Mitchels.

Diarmuid O'Connor's point, which ended up being the winning score, was worthy of winning any game, of winning any cup. He has a tendency to do that, produce something out of the ordinary late on in a game when the chips are down and everyone around is panicking. His endurance and energy levels know no bounds. I spy a future Mayo captain. Congrats Ballintubber.

Belmullet are worthy champions

Belmullet put in a top class first half performance to win the Intermediate title against an out-of-sorts Burrishoole. Colm Mac's team only registered a single point from a placed ball in the entire first half while their opponents had 2-6 on the board. They did have a much better second half but left themselves a mountain to climb.

In an era where goal-keeping has been revolutionised and every single aspect of the position is scrutinised, keepers are being put under the most extreme pressure. Kicking a ball 60 metres and stopping the odd shot is no longer good enough. You have to be able to dictate the game from between the posts. That is why I feel for Burrishoole custodian, Paraic Holmes, who tried to influence the game with two short first half kicks that ended up having a big bearing on the result. Belmullet registered 1-1 from those two kick-outs and all but diminished his team's chances of a victory.

I've been there and done that and you just want the ground to swallow you immediately afterwards. If it's any consolation for Padraic, Belmullet would still have won the game. They look a really good side. Belmullet, marshalled by county players Chrissy Barrett and Eoin O'Donoghue at the back, have a very exciting and potent forward division. I look forward to monitoring their progress. Spare a thought for Burrishoole's Liam O'Malley. The former Mayo defender has now lost six county finals with his club, one senior and five intermediate. Now that's tough to take.


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