According to the AA route finder only 4.9 miles separate Tooreen and Ballyhaunis from each other. On Saturday afternoon Tooreen will make that short trip to face their neighbours in the county senior hurling final at 4pm. Tooreen were the standard bearers of Mayo hurling for a long time before the past decade which has seen Ballyhaunis steal their mantle as hurling kings of Mayo. The Ballyhaunis men will be appearing in their seventh final in succession and will be looking for their fifth title in six years, their four in a row bid was stopped last year by James Stephen’s Ballina, who themselves were dispatched from the competition by Tooreen last weekend in a semi-final replay.
Saturday’s game will be the first meeting of the sides since the 2004 final which was won by Ballyhaunis and set them off on their three wins in a row. Tooreen’s last title win was in 2003 when they saw off this weekends opponents, claiming their 26th Mayo senior hurling title in the process.
Superb second-half display
Tooreen put in a superb second half display in last weekend’s semi-final replay to see off Ballina. Going in at the break 1-6 to 0-4 down, Tooreen came out and outscored the 2007 current champions by 0-8 to 0-0 to book their place in the final. It was a busy week for seven of the Tooreen players who the previous week were part of the Aghamore panel who won the intermediate football final crown after a nerve-racking win over Kilmaine and for the third week in a row they will be in serious competitive action.
There won’t be much time for the winners to rest on their laurels because on Monday they will face off with either Pearses or Four Roads in the Connacht intermediate semi-final.
Two very capable sides to clash
Both Ballyhaunis and Tooreen are very high quality sides who between them form the back-bone of the Mayo senior set up, which has just come off a successful inter county season. Keith Higgins will once again be the marquee name on the field, the Ballyhaunis man’s ability in open play and from placed balls is second to none in the county and he will be threat that Tooreen will have to nullify. Whilemost GAA followers will be familiar with names like Pierce Higgins, Derek Walsh, Hugh McKermitt, Derek McConn and new recruit Niall Murphy who has transferred from Kilmacud Crokes after playing for Mayo in the Christy Ring Cup for the past few years.
Tooreen themselves aren’t short of the big names either with Stephen Coyne, Paul Hunt and Shane Morley shoring things up at the back, while Alan and Adrian Freeman will provide plenty of threat in the full forward line. They will be looking to Cathal Freeman and Conor English to supply plenty of ball into the danger area.
Very little to be in it in the end
This promises to be a pulsating encounter where both sides will be going nip and tuck at each other in the chase for the title. Ballyhaunis midfielder Thaigh Buckley is the only definite absentee due to an arm injury. Which ever side wins will be missing a few men if they manage to overcome their opponents in the Connacht-semi final, with Stephen Leneghan, Stephen Coyne and Shane Morley (Tooreen ) and Keith Higgins and Jason Power (Ballyhaunis ) all jetting out to Australia for between a couple of months and a year.
Probable teams: Ballyhaunis: Michael Walsh; Derek Walsh, Peter Healy, Austin Lyons; Paul Lynch, Jason Powers, Hugh McKermitt; Pierse Higgins, Derek McConn; Paul McConn, Keith Higgins, Christy McCrudden; Niall Murphy, Liam Lyons, Fergal Walsh. Tooreen: Stephen Leneghan; Brian Delaney, Paul Hunt, Michael Cunnane; Michael Morley, Stephen Coyne, Shane Morley; Conor English, Cathal Freeman; Enda Kenny, Sean Ganley, Martin Devaney; Kenny Robinson, Alan Freeman, Adrian Freeman.