It wasn't the greatest spectacle in the world. The purists and traditionalists will be out with the long knives criticising the quality of what unfolded in our showpiece club competition, but Knockmore couldn't care less, they have impressively won back-to-back county senior titles for the first time since 1997.
The Moclair cup will reside in the McHale household in Coolcronin, Knockmore, for another 12 months. This was a defensive master class by Ray Dempsey's team. They elected to go after Belmullet high up the field, safe in the knowledge that their strong defensive set-up were going to be able to cope with anything Belmullet had to throw at them and they were right.
They were safe in the knowledge that should Ryan O'Donoghue evade the clutches of captain David McHale, Kieran King wouldn't be too far away as cover, that was if King even let the ball go anywhere near O'Donoghue in the first place.
Over the duration of the game, King intercepted some amount of ball and carried it to safety every time with the exception of one miscued pass. He had a brilliant game.
Belmullet didn't register their first and only point of the opening half until the 28th minute, a free from Ryan O'Donoghue. Knockmore hadn't done much better themselves, having only scored twice by that time despite creating way more chances. A slight worry for Ray Dempsey will be the erratic free-taking from his sharp shooters.
Despite Belmullet having a real cut off Knockmore in the second half from the 38th to the 47th minute, where they reduced the deficit to two points, this game was won and lost for me in first-half injury time. With the scores 0-2 to 0-1, Ryan O Donohue gained possession in the 30th minute on the stand side of the pitch in Ballina before weaving his way towards the Knockmore goal.
Knockmore backed off expecting O'Donoghue to offload but instead he went low himself with an attempt that would surely have found the net, only for a critical and inspiring block by Knockmore midfielder Shane McHale. Three minutes later the same McHale robbed the ball off Belmullet's best player on the day - James Kelly, before Aidan Orme gained possession and fired in a diagonal ball that James Ruddy won brilliantly before slotting low and hard under the legs of Belmullet stopper Shane Nallen. That’s a six-point swing in any man's terms and most definitely can be attributed to the gutsy hard work of Shane McHale, who was my man of the match just ahead of Kieran King.
It's not too often you see it but Connell Dempsey was immediately black-carded for comments made towards Shane Nallen after the goal. For anyone not aware, black card offence no 4 is for verbal abuse to an opponent or a team mate. I don't recall ever seeing anyone black-carded for verbals before.
Despite Knockmore getting the first two points of the second half with a numerical disadvantage, Belmullet then hit their purple patch, scoring four in a row themselves; however, Marty Boylan's black card for a late hit on Kieran King all but quenched their chances of a heroic revival.
Knockmore hit five of the last five scores to run out handsome winners. Two of those points were real peaches. Conor Flynn has obviously been watching Peter Naughton up close at training as he executed a beauty of a dummy solo before splitting the posts in the 49th minute. After Naughton then pointed from a free in the 52nd minute, the breaking ball was gathered from the resulting kick-out by Connell Dempsey, who powerfully ran through the Belmullet defence before hammering over another inspirational point.
That was the straw that broke the camel's back, there was no way Belmullet were going to breach the Knockmore rearguard for two goals. Pearse Ruttledge, who can consider himself lucky not to have attracted the attention of referee Jerome Henry after he left a flailing leg on Owen McHale, had a brilliant last 15 minutes, winning some critical ball for his team.
The 1-09 to 0-6 result was a fair reflection of proceedings on the day. Knockmore have now emulated their great team of 1996 and 1997, winning two county titles in a row.
At least this year, unlike last, they can represent Mayo in the Connacht Club championship. With Corofin not in the mix any more, it's wide open for the four remaining teams. Knockmore take on Sligo champions Tourlestrane in Ballina on Sunday week.
Bye bye Boyler
Colm Boyle announced the inevitable during the week, pulling the curtains down on a marvellous career in a Mayo jersey. He really epitomised all that was good about being a Mayo player. He literally wore his heart on his sleeve and was as courageous and brave a footballer as we have ever produced, putting his limbs on the line for the cause. His passion when he put on the green and red jersey was unquestionable, culminating in him being awarded four well-deserved All-Stars for his troubles. Good luck with the next chapter Boyler.