There was terrific entertainment at the Connacht club championship semi-final last Sunday. The opening 30 minutes was as good as I have seen at club level this year. The first half was a real quality contest, very exciting with fast flowing end to end action, some wonderful scores, and generally two teams having a right go at advancing to a Connacht final. It went a good way towards warming the blood on a chilly day in McHale Park.
Sligo champions, Curry, were out of the blocks quickly and proving a right handful and I genuinely thought Ballagh were in trouble as the Sligo champions were full of confidence and really throwing down the gauntlet to our Mayo champions.
The margins are so small these days that it only takes a few guys within a team not hitting their potential for the team to be affected. And there were a few Ballagh boys not living up to their billing in the first half. However this Ballaghaderreen team appear to be more resilient than heretofore, and these big strapping lads are as hard as nails. They were not going to cough up the opportunity of playing in a Connacht final that easily. I assume they got a good rollicking at half time to shake them from their slumber, once the second half got under way they were a totally different outfit.
They were also very lucky to be only trailing by two points at the interval as Curry spurned at least three clear- cut goal chances. You will not get away with that at this level. Ballagh were now the ones in the driving seat. Barry Kelly and James Kilcullen totally dominated at midfield and once Kelly kicked the sweetest of points off the outside of his right foot from under the stand, you got the feeling that Curry would be lamenting those missed goal chances. Immediately after that classy point he won the kickout and off-loaded to James Kilcullen who had stormed through the heart of the Curry defence like an express train. With everyone backing off he rifled the ball to the back of the Curry net for a fantastic goal to give the Ballagh boys a lead they would never relinquish.
Provincial glory back in the Town
Charlestown will be extremely happy to have landed another Connacht title, albeit at a level below the one they won in 2001. I suggested here some weeks ago that I fancied them to have a right cut at winning the All-Ireland as most of us will agree that Charlestown are good enough again to be playing in the top tier. In fairness to them they put their heads down and reacted in the best possible manner by taking this competition seriously.
This victory should get the club back in the groove after the disappointment of last year. All you have got to do is take a look at the sprinkling of talent they possess throughout the side to see they should have a few more days out early in 2013. And remember, Mr Duracell himself, ‘Ginger ‘Tiernan, is lurking in the background if any of the starting 15 are showing signs of slacking!
U21s have to do it again
Much to my disappointment, I was not able to attend the county under-21 final last Friday night but I was keeping very much up to date on happenings through Twitter. No, I am not up to date with the modern nuances of this form of communication but I was leaning over the shoulder of a gentleman who is a ‘tweeter’. That match, as we now know, ended in a draw after extra time and apparently the Ballintubber sideline officials and many supporters were apoplectic with rage.
It seems that Castlebar were awarded a free at the very end of extra time to force the game to a replay. According to one or two neutral supporters that I have spoken to since, it seems that this was the fairest result on the night as no team deserved to lose.
The Ballintubber boys vented so much anger and rage at the unfortunate referee, who apparently did a fine job officiating, that they were not able to get out of bed until Sunday evening. Consequently, they failed to field a team to play Crossmolina in a senior league match at 1.30pm in Ballina. This is most unlike Ballintubber as it is my experience with them that they prefer to play matches on a Sunday. Weren’t they lucky it was not a Connacht Championship encounter at stake last Sunday?
Battle to beat the drop
I watched Castlebar Mitchels play Ballinrobe last Sunday morning. The game ended in a draw so now both Ballina and Mitchels will play the final league match next weekend to decide the destiny of the league title. There is a right battle going on at the other end of the table with a plethora of teams all hovering in and around the relegation zone. It would appear that there will be no change to the league format, but in the absence of a decision on this matter, teams are still anxious to stay away from the drop zone. Westport are one of those teams and they arrived at Ballina keen to pick up the points. My sources tell me that tempers flared at this game too. Ballina interim manager, David Brady, received a straight red card and was banished to the ‘stand’ during the game. Brady, obviously, is new to management and if he intends pursuing a career down this route, he will have to learn how to curb his undoubted passion. This game ended in controversial fashion as Westport, when trailing by a point, were awarded a 45 with the game well into injury time. Unbelievably the referee didn’t allow the 45 to be taken, denying the Coveys an opportunity to level the match. I have not witnessed this before in a game and while there does not appear to have been a technical breach of any rule most referees around the country would have allowed the 45. Incidentally had it been a free, the referee is obliged to allow it to be taken. I was not there to see the game but would love to have witnessed the Westport manager, Tómas Tierney, when John Hughes blew the full time whistle.