Could Castlebar Mitchels stop Ballintubber's drive for three senior titles in a row? That was the big question that was being asked in the lead up to last weekends quarter finals in the Treanlaur Catering Senior Football Championship. After 60 minutes of battle on Sunday evening, for the third year in row, Ballintubber emerged victorious from the heat of championship battle with their near neighbors.
Castlebar Mitchels can have no complaints really, they failed to take their chances when presented with them, while Ballintubber were more clinical in taking theirs. Three times Castlebar players bore down on Brendan Walsh in the Ballintubber goal and three times, he emerged as the victor in those mini-duals. Straight from the throw in, the ball was worked to Steven Keane who was put clean through on goal, but Walsh pulled off a top drawer save. Three minutes later it was the turn of Richie Feeney to bound up the park from the full back position he started in to have a crack at goal after a great run by Donal Newcombe. But once again Walsh would not let the ball past him.
Ballintubber know how to win championship games and they proved it once again on Sunday, they may have only scored eleven points, but they know how to control and game and do what's needed to make sure they come out on the right side of the result.
Cillian O'Connor and Alan Dillon lead the line in attack more than ably, but as Castlebar and most other sides in Mayo know. It's fine trying to limit the amount of influence both those players have, but you also have to contend with the likes Padraic O'Connor, Alan Plunkett and Damien Coleman who can all influence the game as much as former two.
Mitchels were in front early on thanks to a Tom King point, but from eight minutes in, until just after the quarter of an hour mark, Ballintubber outscored them by 0-4 to 0-1 with Cillian O'Connor and Dillon both getting in on the scoring act. From then on in, no matter how Castlebar tried, it never looked like there was going to be any other winner bar the defending champions, who went in at the break leading by 0-6 to 0-3. But to give Castlebar their dues, they did pull the game back level nine minutes into the second half thanks to a trio of points from Neil Douglas. But that run of points was also punctured by Walsh's third great save of the game.
But, Castlebar's hope was short lived as Ballintubber just moved up another gear and rattled off three points of their own in three minutes to keep their noses just that bit in front and they were more than capable to hold off the best efforts of the county town men.
There's life in the old Deel Rovers yet
If who was going to come out on top in the battle of west Mayo was the big talking point in relation to the big game of the weekend. The next big talking point around McHale Park was probably how good is Ciaran McDonald playing still? The iconic Crossmolina man may be a few years past the wrong side of 35 now, but he has still being putting some good shifts for the Deel Rovers this season. He started the game wearing the number 11 shirt, but operated around midfield and the full forward line more than on the 'forty'. He showed he was still a good outlet for balls and kicked a few points, but he also mixed it up with some terrible wides, taking on shots that, well only he could probably have converted back in his prime.
While that was a side show to the actual business at hand, which was the meeting of an up and coming Westport side and a Deel Rovers side that had battled back from a heavy first round defeat to Ballinrobe to make the knock out stages.
But Westport proved to be the biggest disappointment of the weekend (which is saying something, after some of the football that was on display on Saturday night ) with Crossmolina comprehensively beating them 1-12 to 0-4. Brian Benson tormented the Westport rearguard for the full hour, while Cathal Carolan put in another fine performance, he wore number seven and started at full forward which was one of at least a dozen positional switches from the program that Michael Moyles used before throw in. Another positive for Crossmolina and for Mayo was the return to action of Peadar Gardiner, who came on as a late first half sub for Mike Gallagher and got through the rest of the game unscathed.
Ballaghderreen blitz Garrymore
How were Ballaghderreen going to cope with out their talismanic leader Andy Moran? Was the question before the throw in of their quarter final with Garrymore, and at the end of 60 minutes, the 2-18 to 1-9 scoreboard showed that they'd cope quite well without him.
While Moran is a huge loss to any side, having Barry Regan in the form he was in on Saturday night is a nice fall back for any team. The Ballaghderreen full forward was superb, he hit 1-9 over the game and 1-7 of that was from play. His second half goal was one of the highlights of the weekend. Ballaghderreen started the game as the meant to continue with David Drake breaking up from the half back line to drive home a goal inside the opening 15 seconds to set his side on the way. Garrymore were game challengers in the first half and went in trailing by only two points at the break on a score of 1-7 to 1-5. With Enda Varley bagging their goal after a powerful run from deep. But in the second half, Ballaghderreen took control and rattled off another 1-11, while Garrymore could only respond with four points. Ballaghderreen were good and won't be fearing anyone whose left in the competition.
The one to forget
Knockmore are in the county senior championship semi-final, that's all that matters at the end of the day in a contest where there has to be a winner and a looser. They won and took home the spoils and Claremorris weren't good enough. But as a spectacle it was a game that the vast majority of the paying customers in McHale Park will want to forget. Knockmore didn't score until the 25th minute when Stephen Sweeney finished to the net, after Alvin McCallig failed to deal with a high ball. Knockmore were able to tag on two more points before the break to go in leading by 1-2 to 0-1. Claremorris got their first score from a Ger Brady free in the fifth minute, they then failed to score again until 43h minute. The game eventually finished up with Knockmore winning by 1-7 to 0-5, with a late surge of points from both sides in the closing out the game, but it's one that will be forgotten by most and especially the Claremorris attack who kicked almost 20 wides in the game.