It’s been a long time coming, but just before dinner time on Sunday evening Islandeady had finally reached the mountain top when Martin Murphy blew the final whistle in McHale Park. The west Mayo club have had so many near misses at this level over the past few years, you could have forgiven them for thinking it would never come to pass for this group of players. But their persistence paid off in the form of a four point win over Ardnaree in the wind and rain at the county ground. The conditions weren’t perfect, but Islandeady and their captain Ollie Feeney couldn’t have cared less after all the hard work they have put in over the last couple of years was paid off in spades. They worked themselves into the ground to grind down a hard working Ardnaree side, who if it wasn’t for some erratic shooting could have brought the title home to north Mayo themselves. The full stop on the contest came in the dieing stages of injury time, with only three points between the sides and Ardnaree hunting a goal that would have sent the sides into a replay. The ball was cleared from the Islandeady defence and worked quickly down the stand side of the field into the arms of sub Brendan Gibbons who turned inside his man and from a tight angle cut the ball over the bar with a aplomb to give his side the insurance score and kick start celebrations that will go on long into this week.
Both sides had to come through tough semi-finals where they were both brought to replays the previous weekend, but tired bodies and mind were forgotten about by both sides who went about this game with all the heart and passion that you’d hope to see on display in a final.
Ardnaree played into the Bacon Factory end of the ground in the first half and had the aid of a very strong wind with them. But somewhere between their borough on the outskirts of Ballina and Castlebar they seemed to have forgotten their shooting boots and put the ball wide on eight occasions in the first half. They could have grabbed a couple of goals in the opening half too if their radar had been working properly. First Ronan Doherty blazed the ball over the bar when he was clean through on Noel Feeney from 14 yards out, later on in the half Kevin Newell who had come on for the injured Doherty punched the ball wide from close in when it seemed easier to score.
But Islandeady themselves had two goals disallowed over the course of the game, Stephen Staunton was adjudged to have touched the ball on the deck before he put it past Blaine Ginty in the first half and Vinnie Feeney looked to have been harshly judged to have been inside the small rectangle in the second half when he punched it home.
Islandeady went in at the break leading by 0-5 to 0-3 and looked to be in the driving seat for the second half when they would play with the strong wind at it’s back. Danny McGowan who was named as a sub on the program but started the game took over the free taking duties and showed nerves of steel on his way to claiming the man of the match award. He kicked three points in the opening half to nudge his side in front at the break. Ardnaree came out strong in the early exchanges in the second half and cut the gap back to a solitary point thanks to scores from Eoin McCormack and Rory Clarke, after McGowan had kicked the opening point of the half for his side. Islandeady though dug in and points from sub Finbar O’Mara and McGowan kept the north Mayo men at arms length and when Brian McCormack drilled the ball to the net with 12 minutes left on the clock, the Islandeady men could feel that this was going to be their day. Both sides added on a few more scores before the end and despite the best efforts from Ardnaree, the west Mayo men hung tough and the final whistle was greeted with great scenes of celebration from the men in white and green.
Islandeady: N Feeney; T Gibbons, N McCormack, S Heraty; B Heraty, O Feeney, C Gordan; W McDonnell, P Collins; V Feeney, D McGowan, M Feeney; P Ruane, P Gordan, S Staunton. Subs: B McCormack, F O’Mara, B Horan, L Joyce, B Gibbons
Ardnaree: B Ginty; M Walsh, E O’Hora, C Cawley; S Timlin, M Connor, P Lacken; I Clarke, J McHale; N Beattie, R Doherty, C Walsh; A Kelly, E McCormack, R Clarke. Subs: K Newell, R Doherty, S Tighe, E McLoughlin, J McHale.
Ref: M Murphy (Ballinrobe )