The smallest of margins separated Ballintubber and Castlebar at full time in McHale Park on Sunday evening. Cillian O'Connor hit a point that went over the bar after hitting the post as it looked to go wide, Brendan Walsh saved what looked like certain goal to put it over rather than under, Alan Dillon slowed down and controlled the game near the end. They were all reasons as to why Ballintubber won their second senior county title in a row. But the deciding factor was knowing how to win when it came to the crunch. Ballintubber learned that last year in this game and when it was still all up for grabs, they used that experience to hang on and bring the Moclair Cup back home with them.
As a spectacle this years final was a much more enjoyable fare than last years meeting between the same two sides, for Castlebar it's going to be a long hard, painful winter, but they had their chances to win this game, but as where they failed to take them when presented with them, Ballintubber were the more clinical in front of the posts.
The final score of the game came from the boot of sub Damien McGing who calmly slotted the ball over the bar from 21 yards out, when the pressure came on and when it could have been easy for the nerve to go.
Castlebar got off to a great start and had the ball in the back of the net after only 45 seconds, Alan Feeney worked the ball down the right hand side to Neil Lydon then on to Donal Newcombe before the ball was delivered into Danny Kirby. The big Castlebar full forward got enough of a connection to put it under the dive of Brendan Walsh and kick start the game into life. It was all Castlebar early on and Ballintubber had to work hard to stick with them. Cillian O'Connor cut the gap to two points with a free on five minutes from long distance. Kevin Filan who gave his all for Castlebar and scored five points over the sixty minutes, hit the first of those from play seven minutes in after Kirby played the ball back to him close to goal. Filan then swapped scores with Alan Plunkett, before Neil Lydon hit the point of the game from out on the stand side of the pitch with his right boot from an almost impossible angle. Then Ballintubber got the goal that swung the tie back in their favour. Alan Dillon drove arcing cross field pass from the McHale Road side of the pitch to Cillian O'Connor who squirmed himself into some space before pulling the trigger. His shot looked to have been covered by Ciaran Naughton in the Castlebar goal, but it took a cruel deflection of the inside of Alan Feeney's calf and squirmed over the line to leave Castlebar leading by 1-3 to 1-2 after 17 minutes. Alan Dillon tied the game up with six minutes left in the half with a fine point after he somehow managed to find an inch of space to break the tackle of two defenders. O'Connor from a free put his side in front a couple of minutes later, before Jason Gibbons was on the end of an slick passing move to score from close range to put his side two to the good. Castlebar did cut the gap back to just one before the break, when after a lot of work in the right hand corner the ball found it's way to Neil Lydon who scored from close range.
The first half action had seen the play swing in favour from one side to another over the 30 minutes, Barry Moran at times was dominant in midfield winning a lot of clean ball, while Kirby when the ball was played into him had Cathal Hallinan in all kinds of problems. But part of the reasoning for Castlebar's defeat was that they didn't get the ball into Kirby quick enough and often enough.
The opening score of the second was a Castlebar point that could have so easily been a goal. The ball was played into the path of Sean Ryder who bore down on goal, he took on the shot for the net, but Brendan Walsh stood tall to the last second and deflected it over the bar for the concession of only a point. Ballintubber replied in the 36th minute with a point from Alan Plunkett from distance, before Gary Dillon who at this stage had moved into the full forward line kicked his sides seventh point of the game two minutes later. Neil Douglas who had a couple of half chances for goals during the game saw his best effort saved by Walsh just after another Filan pointed free had the gap back to one. With a quarter of the game left to go, Mitchels pulled it level thanks to Filan's fourth point of the hour. But he missed a couple of tricky frees in the middle third of the half which could have swung the game in his sides favour.
With legs and bodies tiring, Ballintubber went for it and Cillian O'Connor kicked two points in the space of 90 seconds the first after he played a quick one-two from a free with Ruairi O'Connor and the second one from a tight angle on the right hand side which needed the aid of the left hand post to put it over the bar.
Castlebar wren't done yet and all credit must given to them for the way they battled back, the ever dangerous Kirby clipped a point over from close range before Filan hit his sides final point from a free close in after Neil Douglas had been fouled on the run. There were four minutes left on the clock at this stage and it was there for the taking, and Ballintubber were the side who took it. The ball was methodically worked down the park an into the arms of McGing did the necessary and sealed back to back titles for the boys from the 'Tubber.
Ballintubber: B Walsh; G Loftus, C Hallinan, P Early; T Early, D Geraghty, G Dillon (0-1 ); M Hoban, J Gibbons (0-1 ); A Dillon (0-1 ), A Plunkett (0-2 ), R O'Connor; P O'Connor, K McGuinness, C O'Connor (1-4 ). Subs: Damien McGing (0-1 ) M Nestor.
Castlebar: C Naughton; D Newcombe, A Feeney, E O'Reilly; R Feeney, T Cunniffe, S Ryder (0-1 ); B Moran, S Fitzmaurice; S Hopkins, N Lydon (0-2 ), A Walsh; D Kirby (1-1 ), K Filan (0-5 4f ), N Douglas. Subs: A Roache,
Ref: Ronan Gurren (Aghamore )