Ballintubber show their experience to see off Stephenites

GAA: Mayo SFC; Ballintubber 1-10 Ballina 0-6

Back to the final: Alan Plunkett kicked three points for Ballintubber as they booked their place in the Mayo GAA Senior Football Championship Final. Photo: Sportsfile

Back to the final: Alan Plunkett kicked three points for Ballintubber as they booked their place in the Mayo GAA Senior Football Championship Final. Photo: Sportsfile

Ballintubber held the course on Saturday night in MacHale Park seeing off Ballina Stephenites challenge and book their place in the county final.

The west Mayo men were composed and controlled throughout the game and they didn’t let their northern challengers bring the level of intensity to the contest they had brought a fortnight before when they dispatched Breaffy at the quarter-final stage.

Ciaran Gavin’s sidestepped David Clarke right at the death before finishing the ball to the back of the net to put the full stop on their performance to wrap things up in style.

The game wasn’t one for purists with both sides engaging in a low scoring but engrossing tactical battle particularly in the first half, with both nullifying their others attacking threats for long periods.

Ballintubber went in leading by three points at the break thanks to a flurry of scores in the final few minutes of the opening half.

Alan Plunkett who replaced Alan Dillon on the team named to start hit the opening score of the game before two minutes had elapsed with a neat effort on the turn - but it would be another ten minutes before the white flag was raised again after Ciaran Treacy landed the first of five pointed frees he would kick over the hour.

Cillian O’Connor put Ballintubber back in front on the quarter of an hour mark after he won the ball out in front of Ger Cafferkey well, flicking the ball down before collecting it and slotting it over the bar on the turn.

Eleven minutes later he would kick the first of two points inside a minute after a drive down the left flank and followed that up when he finished off a move that saw Bryan Walsh make a strong burst through the Ballina rearguard.

Before those scores Ballina had two goal chances that they will know they needed to have taken if they were going to grind this one out against a well drilled Ballintubber side.

The first came on 19 minutes when Sean Regan broke through, but his effort cannoned back off Brendan Walsh’s bar and away to safety, the second came two minutes later when James Doherty somehow got the ball away under serious pressure and it dropped in front of Conor McStay but his first time shot flew the wrong side of the post.

Treacy cut the gap back to two points with his second point of the day from a free on 29 minutes and Ballina could have cut the difference back to a single point not long after but they skewed an effort off target from a good position - instead they went in at the break three points down when Ballintubber worked the ball to Noel Geraghty who pointed to put his side into a 0-5 to 0-2 lead at the turnaround.

Alan Plunkett pushed the gap out to four points early in the second half with a fine effort from tight to the right hand corner of the field - Ballina responded well with Mikey Murray firing over one from place from well out the park and Treacy adding another pointed free to have Ballintubber leading 0-7 to 0-4 - the gap was extended to four points just before the three quarter mark when Gavin.

Enda Gilvarry’s men kept plugging away and two more frees from Treacy had just two between the teams with ten minutes left on the clock - but they were unable to break down the Ballintubber rearguards strong defence.

Treacy’s second pointed free in that run looked like it could have missed the target, but the umpires waved it over - however it was not as bad as the mistake the umpires made the opposite end of the field when they raised the white flag for a Cillian O’Connor free which was clearly wide - the point was wiped out by the referee after he went in to consult after the crowd reacted to the waving of the flag.

O’Connor didn’t make a mistake with his next free and Mayo captain Diarmuid O’Connor rounded off the point scoring for his side right on the 60 minute mark, with just time left for Gavin to add the icing to the cake right at the death.

Ballintubber roll on and they will be hard beat in the county final, Kevin Johnson’s men are masters at playing the game on their own terms and they showed this ability in spades on Saturday night.

Scores

Ballintubber: C Gavin (1-1 ), C O’Connor (0-4, 1f ), A Plunkett (0-3 ), D O’Connor (0-1 ), N Geraghty (0-1 ).

Ballina: C Treacy (0-5, 5f ), M Murray (0-1 )

Ballintubber: B Walsh; G Loftus, R O’Connor, B Murphy; D Coleman, M Plunkett, M Kelly; J Gibbons, D O’Connor; C Gavin, C O’Connor, B Walsh; N Geraghty, A Plunkett, S O’Malley. Subs: J Geraghty for B Murphy, K McDonnell for A Plunkett, P O’Connor for S O’Malley.

Ballina: D Clarke; S Mullins, G Cafferkey, C Hunt; R Tigue, J Doherty, D O’Mahoney; P O’Hora, J Irwin; M Murray, S Regan, C Treacy; K Tigue, S Leonard, C McStay. Subs: T Doherty for R Tigue, E Regan for S Regan, D Tigue for K Tigue, C Sweeney for S Mullins, K Newell for C McStay, L Doherty for C Sweeney (BC )

Ref: G McMahon (Davitts )

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