Ballintubber make history

Mayo SFC Final

Ballintubber 0-8     Castlebar 0-5

As the sun began to set in McHale Park, 'The Boy's from the 'Tubber' was sung with gusto after John Feeney had just collected the Moclair Cup for the first time in the clubs history, by Ballintubber sub Myles Kelly. The game may have been one that won't live long in the memory of the neutral, but it's one that will never be forgotten by anyone from Ballintubber. For a club celebrating it's centenary it was the perfect end to the Mayo championship as they never said die right until the final whistle to hold off the challenge of Castlebar Mitchels and set of celebrations that will go on long into the week ahead.

Alan Dillon picked up the man of the match award at the end of the day, but every man who put on the red of Ballintubber played a staring role over the 60 minutes of the contest. The football on display from both sides was poor all through out but when it came to the crunch the it was James Horan's side who dug in and got the scores when it counted to keep Castlebar at arms length.

Ballintubber were forced to do it the hard way too, loosing goalkeeper Noel Gibbons and full forward Padraig O'Connor to injury during the game, but they were able to strangle the Castlebar Mitchels attack with Michael Nestor once again putting in a great performance as a sweeper for his side.

The game was nip and tuck in the first half with Ballintubber going into the break leading by one point on a scoreline of 0-3 to 0-2 with Alan Dillon's free late into injury time the score that separated the sides. Dillon had started slowly and hit a few bad wides, but he shook off the poor start to take the game by the scruff of the neck and have a huge influence on the game. Castlebar opened the scoring after two minutes when Neil Douglas kicked a point from the right hand side of the field. Only moments before that Ballintubber could have had the ball in the back of the net when a ball across the face of the goal by Alan Dillon wasn't dealt with. It ended up in the hands of Padraig O'Connor whose shot on the line was blocked by Alan Feeney. The Mitchels full back Alan along with his brother Richie put in heroic displays for their side, but alas at the end it was not enough. Castlebar could have plundered a goal themselves five minutes later when Tom Cunniffe played in Neil Douglas, but his shot which looked destined to end up in the roof of the net was blocked by the foot of Tom Early and out for a 45'.

Alan Dillon had the game level after nine minutes when he slotted over a free from the edge of the D after Jason Gibbons had been fouled. But it would be another 15 minutes before either side registered a score as both teams hit wide after wide and managed to spurn scoring chances. Douglas put the Mitchels back into the lead when he was able to punch a weak effort from Shane Fitzmaurice over the bar from close range. It was during this play that Ballintubber goalkeeper Noel Gibbons was forced out of the game with an ankle injury. Alan Plunkett land his first score of the afternoon with a minute left in normal time, Alan Dillon played the ball into Cillian O'Connor who broke it down to Plunkett who popped it over the bar from close in. Dillon's late free put the seal on the first half scoring and the hope of better things to come in the second half.

But it didn't get much better, no one can doubt the commitment and heart shown by either side during the game, but the curse of a local rivalry, both sides knowing each other so well from underage battles and playing on the same inter county teams made sure that each side cancelled each other out for long periods of play.

Padraig O'Connor put Ballintubber two points clear five minutes into the second half, but the gap was cut back to a single point a minute later by Neil Douglas. While Douglas did most of the scoring for the Mitchels men, the Ballintubber defence did a great job forcing him on to his weaker foot as often as they could. With 14 minutes gone in the second half Cillian O'Connor finished off a neat move to restore the Ballintubber two point lead and two minutes later sub Damien Coleman put them three clear. With eight minutes left on the clock, Ballintubber had a great chance to wrap the game up once and for all. Alan Dillon picked up the ball, he fed Cathal Hallinan who in-turn played in Declan Larkin. Larkin had the goal at his mercy, but he opted to play one last pass into Cillian O'Connor who saw his shot superbly saved by Ciaran Naughton in the Castlebar goal. Naughton must come in for special praise he didn't put a foot wrong all day and finished up the championship season without conceding a single goal. Cillian O'Connor though soon made up for his miss pushing his side four points clear with six minutes to go when he punched Danny Geraghty's effort over the bar from close in. The Mitchels though kept fighting and points from Douglas and Ronan Burke had the gap back to two points as injury time neared an end. But the last say was left to Alan Plunkett who hammered the ball over the bar for Ballintubber's eighth point to seal the win.

It wasn't pretty, it wasn't free flowing, but no one in Ballintubber will mind and it was fitting that in their 100th year they claimed their first ever Mayo senior championship.

Castlebar Mitchels: Ciaran Naughton; Richie Feeney, Alan Feeney, Eoin Reilly; Donal Newcombe, Pat Kelly, Ronan Burke (0-1 ); Shane Fitzmaurice, Darragh Sloyan; Danny Kirby, Niall Lydon, Tom Cunniffe; Aidan Walsh, Barry Moran, Neil Douglas (0-4 1f ). Subs: Ger McDonnagh for Darragh Sloyan, Eamon Tiernan for Shane Fitzmaurice, Eamon Kennedy for Danny Kirby, Fergal Durkan for Niall Lydon

Ballintubber: Noel Gibbons; Gary Loftus, Cathal Hallinan; Paul Early; Tom Early, John Feeney, Ruaidhri O'Connor; Danny Geraghty, Jason Gibbons; Gary Dillon, Alan Dillon (0-2,2f ), Alan Plunkett (0-2 ); Michael Nestor, Padraig O'Connor (0-1 ), Cillian O'Connor (0-2 ). Subs: Brendan Walsh for Noel Gibbons, Damien Coleman (0-1 ) for Padraig O'Connor, Declan Larkin for John Feeney, Damien McGing for Alan Dillon, Tommy Kilcoyne for Alan Plunkett.

Ref: J Hughes (Kilmaine )

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