My school, Carmelite College, Moate, won back to back All- Ireland Hogan Cup titles in 1980 and ’81. I was on the 1980 team. A couple of lads decided it would be a good idea (and it was ) to organise a 30 year reunion last Saturday in Moate for both squads. I didn’t make it up in time for the golf or the walking tour of our old school (now closed ), which started around 2 o’clock that afternoon. I arrived at the hotel at about 7.30pm and walked straight into a crowd of about 50 lads who, at that stage of the evening, were in right good form. They had the benefit of five or six hours in each other’s company and had managed, in that time, to reacquaint themselves, many not having met throughout the 30 years. It was a mortifying moment for me as I didn’t recognise half of my school mates initially. Many had, let’s just say, that wintered look about them. Two of the lads had emigrated to the US after leaving school. One of those two is now a policeman in New York, the other a successful business man in San Francisco. It was good to meet up with those lads after so many years. Val Daly was another member of the side. He arrived later than I, as he was in Tuam watching his native Mountbellew lose the county semi final to Killererin earlier that evening. The boys from the 1981 winning team had invited a couple of the lads from the beaten finalists of that year. So, in fact, the first faces I recognised when I went in the door were Sean Maher, John Finn, Seamus O’Brien and Ollie Kelly, all members of the Claremorris school team beaten by Moate. It was a wonderful night and highlighted for me the fact that friends made on the football field can last a life time.
Semi-finals fail to live up to billing
I was lucky enough to have made it back in time for the semi-finals at McHale Park as we had a very late night. To be perfectly honest the games themselves were quite poor. Let’s start with the Castlebar v Knockmore match first. This was the better of the two. Castlebar went in as underdogs but were it was immediately apparent they were definitely the better team and fully deserved their victory. But many of you will agree with me when I suggest that, had Declan Sweeney not got injured as early as the 10th minute, he just may have swung the result in Knockmore’s direction. Kevin O’ Neill also made a huge difference when introduced with about 15 minutes to go. He managed to create several chances with his deft passing, experience, and general know how, and he created moments of panic in what was up to then a very solid defensive performance from Castlebar. It was a calf injury that prevented him from starting, but Knockmore management must regret not putting him in from the start or at least at half time. Castlebar were missing one of their star players in Tom Cunniffe (out with a hamstring injury ) and he would surely have contributed something to proceedings had he been playing. But Castlebar were the hungrier, sharper, team throughout the field. And it is not often I can say that about a team that comes up against Knockmore. Their (Castlebar’s ) defence was magnificent, with both Alan and Richard Feeney excellent from start to finish, (obviously taking their talent from the mother! ). Up front Neil Douglas kicked two brilliant points, and of course Barry Moran was always a threat. Kevin Filan, a man who has been around a while, must have been really annoyed with himself on Sunday evening. After kicking arguably the best score of the match from an almost impossible angle, he was lured into an incident with a Knockmore player which resulted in a straight red card. It was a rather innocuous incident and in the context of the situation could, and maybe should, have been overruled.
I spoke to Declan Sweeney on Tuesday evening from his hospital bed in Castlebar General. He was quite lucky that he did not pick up a serious injury after his clash with his own goalkeeper. It was an unfortunate incident, but thankfully he was expecting to be discharged by Wednesday.
The second game didn’t live up to expectation at all. Shrule-Glencorrib were a huge disappointment and never really got going at all. Like Knockmore they were expected to make it to the final. Ballintubber got a great start with Jason Gibbons putting in a brilliant performance at midfield. Once they built up a sizeable lead, they were smart enough to close up shop at the other end, limiting Conor Mortimer and Mark Ronaldson to live off scraps. Any ball they did manage to get their hands on, the Tubber defence swarmed them, forcing them away from the scoring zone. Despite the fact that that Ballintubber only managed a single point in the second half they will not be complaining as they are in with a mighty shout now of pulling off a County title. Based on last Sunday’s performances however, Castlebar look the better outfit.
Dizzying time for James Horan
As I finish this article, I have just received a text informing me that James Horan has been ratified as manager of the Mayo senior team. I am genuinely happy for James as he is a passionate football man. It is an exciting time for him and his family and a fantastic honour to have the chance to manage our inter-county team. I know from experience his head will be in a spin for the next few weeks as he tries to come to terms with the challenge of preparing Ballintubber for a county final, head for New York for an FBD final, and also select a panel for winter training. I wish him and all his back room team the very best of luck.