Returning heroes and tight tussles

Welcome home: Ballaghaderreen’s Pearce Hanley gets a welcoming challenge in last weekend’s Mayo Senior Football championship clash agaist Ballintubber. Photo: Michael Donnelly.

Welcome home: Ballaghaderreen’s Pearce Hanley gets a welcoming challenge in last weekend’s Mayo Senior Football championship clash agaist Ballintubber. Photo: Michael Donnelly.

By the time you read this the semi-final pairings for the TF Royal Theatre football championships will have been revealed with the draw taking place late on Thursday evening. But last weekend’s action in the senior championship in McHale Park was an engrosing weekend of football. Saturday started off with Breaffy looking to get one over the experienced heads of Crossmolina in only their second ever quarter final at this grade and ultimately coming up short, while it concluded in a barnstorming game of football, where Ballintubber will be ruing the fact they let a Ballaghaderreen side with posssibly the longest list of mentors ever to grace a programme back into a game.

While the football was supposed to be the highlight, come 6.15pm last Saturday evening there was only one thing on football supporters’ minds in the county and that was the number 29 for the east Mayo men. Only a week after he made his debut in the AFL for the Brisbane Lions, Pearce Hanley was back in white and green for his home town club, looking stronger and more physically built since he left these shores for Australia.

Gardiner the key once again

Back to action on the field, the weekend action kicked off with the meeting of Crossmolina and Breaffy, the Deel Rovers were the only side to defeat Jim O’Shea’s upstarts so far this season. The two goals that Crossmolina scored after half time and before the game turned for the home straight was what ultimately decided the outcome of this north- west duel. The first came from the penalty spot from Brian Benson whose effort just about evaded Robert Hennelly in the Breaffy goal. While the second was palmed to the back of the net by Peadar Gardiner at the end of a sweet move which the Crossmolina wing back started and finished. Gardiner was the man all evening on a day where he drove up and down the field and caused Breaffy a number of problems as Crossmolina’s intricate interchanges carved open opportunities for the Deel Rovers. Not that Breaffy didn’t play their part, in defence Barry and Colm Jordan put in very solid displays, while Alan Durcan gave a masterclass in free taking up front and took his own goal with aplomb. There aren’t many sides who do championship better than Crossmolina and when they needed to the likes of Gardiner, James and Tom Nallen, Brian Benson and Michael Moyles showed their experience and guile. And that’s not mentioning Ciaran McDonald who was well marshalled by Breaffy but hit two sweet frees from long distances in the first half and contributed four points for the day.

Home for the holidays and last-second saviours

We’ve been here before haven’t we, Ballaghaderreen come to town with the tag of favourites only to get rumbled. Well not quite this time, but, it came very close. In fact the only time the east Mayo men led in this contest was in the final seconds when Andy Moran who was having a very indifferent evening by his own high standards in the club game rifled the ball to the back of the net to seemingly break Ballintubber hearts. But as last year’s second-tier county final proved the west Mayo men aren’t afraid of doing it late. Ruaidhrí O’Connor skipped down the flank and cut inside for one last attack and he was upended, affording Alan Dillon the chance to fire over the equalieser and give the intermediate champions a second bite.

Tiernan inspires Charlestown comeback

While experience was an essential ingredient in Crossmolina’s win on the Saturday evening, Charlestown showed that they had plenty of it themselves the following day against Castlebar Mitchels. The county town side, who have been progessing well this year, started with a bang and were six points clear five minutes into the contest, but by the break Charlestown were back in a one-point lead. Kevin Filan’s goal early on was the spur to the early Mitchels lead and was supported by a trio of minor scores. But as Tom Parsons and David Tiernan got to grips in the midfield sector, the east Mayo men came more into the game and Anthony Mulligan’s goal ten minutes in closed the gap. The second and decisive Charlestown goal came near the end of the opening half from the fist of Ollie Conway and they went in at the break leading by 2-5 to 1-7. The second half was a nip and tuck battle with Charlestown going into an early three-point lead before the Mitchels pulled it back level and with only a handful of minutes left on the egg timer the ageless Kevin Filan played in Sean Ryder to level it up once again. But Charlestown and Tiernan were not going to be denied a final four spot and Tiernan’s long-range effort sealed the win.

The south rises again

Claremorris went into their last eight clash with Knockmore as underdogs despite impressive form in the group stages, the loss of Mickey Mullins was thought by many to be a terminal blow to their chances. But his team mates had other ideas and a 1-7 haul from Ger Brady underpinned their deserved victory. While Claremorris had to deal with the loss of Mullins, Knockmore were forced to line out without their teak tough full back John Brogan, but their attacking duo of Aidan Kilcoyne and Damien Munnelly were expected to have too much for the south Mayo men. But it wasn’t to be as both sides engaged in a wholehearted battle over the 60 minutes and it was Brady’s goal midway through the second half that only really separated the sides at the end. Claremorris led from start to finish and the sides went in only a point apart 0-6 to 0-5 at the break.

Garrymore stay up

Garrymore retained their status in senior football for another year thanks to a 1-14 to 0-8 win over Louisburgh last week. The coastal club now face into a do or die contest with Kiltane to avoid making the drop through the trap door into intermediate football. Enda Varley was the star of the show for Garrymore scoring 1-4 over the hour. In the intermediate championship the game of the weekend, as many were predicting, between Aghamore and Ballyhaunis in Claremorris never really materialised with Aghamore powering home by 12 points. Aghamore were outstanding with nine players getting on the score sheet and hitting 1-12 from play setting out their stall in the championhip. The other quarter-final that was played last weekend saw Westport book their place in the last four thanks to a five-point win over Crossmolina B with David Keane and James Gill the main men driving them on to a 0-13 to 0-8 win.

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