It was never going to be easy for Ballintubber this year, following up last year’s emotional first Mayo senior championship title, losing their manager to the county senior team, a new man coming in trying to steady the ship and push on. But they did it again last Sunday and put together back to back senior titles, thanks to a massive effort to overcome a Castlebar Mitchels side who were licking their wounds from last year’s final loss to the Tubber.
The smallest of margins separated the sides at the final whistle, thanks to Damien McGing showing the calmness and composure needed on the biggest club stage in the county to slot the ball over the bar under pressure from Alan Feeney as the clock ticked down in the drizzle in McHale Park.
But this victory was not founded in just one 60 minute display, it was forged through years of tireless work under-age in the club and again this year with plenty of hard graft and slog on the training field, and on the field of play once the ball was thrown up, in each championship game.
Ballintubber could not have got off to a worse start last Sunday when Danny Kirby put the ball past Brendan Walsh inside the first minute to give Castlebar the dream start as they looked to take down the defending champions. But the men in red stayed true to themselves and never let Mitchels get out of sight, and when the chance arose 18 minutes in Cillian O’Connor found the back of the net with aid of a slight deflection, to put fire in the bellies of not only the Ballintubber players, but their supporters in the stand.
From that moment on it was all about which side could hold their nerve when it counted, Ballintubber were the side who did that. They managed to push themselves before the break in front and respond to every question posed to them by a defiant Castlebar team. Even in the second half when it was nip and tuck on the field and Castlebar levelled the game up with a quarter of an hour to go, and then again with only a handful of minutes left on the clock, Ballintubber backed themselves, rolled the dice, and walked away from the table as winners. While McGing will be remembered for his point, O’Connor for scoring 1-4, Alan Dillon for pulling the strings, there were plenty other heroes on the field for them. Ruaidhri O’Connor drove up and down the field with determination, Brenda Walsh pulled off a number of vital saves, Gary Loftus stuck to his man like glue, Alan Plunkett kicked two points which were vital scores during the game, and Anthony McGarry who made two changes to the starting 15 which was named showed his managerial credentials. Winning the first time is always hard, retaining it even harder, doing it three times in a row is nearly impossible, but for this Ballintubber team they will not believe that it has come next year.