It was a weekend for surprises in Elverys MacHale Park in the Treanlaur Catering Senior Football Championship, with the defending champions Ballaghaderreen and the winners of the previous two titles Ballintubber both bowing out of championship at the quarter-final stage. The final of the last eight ties got off to a dramatic start, with most eyes during the warm up trying to see was Cillian O’Connor going to play any part in the game, then suddenly Knockmore’s Aiden Kilcoyne had to be stretchered off the field before a ball had even been kicked in anger. The All Ireland u21 winner, when running away from the team photograph did something to his knee in his run towards the warm up and had to be taken off the field on a stretcher, in some discomfort. It wasn’t the start that Nigel Reape would have been hoping for, but his charges, knuckled down without their marquee forward and tore into Peter Ford’s Ballintubber side. The main man in the clash was Declan Sweeney who rolled back the years with a performance for the ages in the full-forward position. He ran Cathal Hallinan ragged all day, and Hallinan didn’t have a particularly bad game and was the key difference between the sides. Knockmore were leading by 0-3 to 0-2 after ten minutes, when Ballintubber hit the first goal of the game to push themselves into the lead. Padraic O’Connor dropped the ball into the danger area and Knockmore goalkeeper Andrew Higgins didn’t cover himself in glory as the ball spilled loose and a combination of Alan Plunkett and Damien McGing combined to force the ball over the line from close range. But Knockmore weren’t going to bend the knee easily and 14 minutes later they pushed themselves back into a 0-8 to 1-3 lead thanks to points from Kieran Langan, Andrew Keane, Tom Clarke and a brace from Declan Sweeney. The north Mayo men tagged on two more points before the break through Kevin McLoughlin and they had the bit between their teeth at the turn around and headed for the dressing room leading 0-10 to 1-3. Diarmuid O’Connor opened the scoring in the second half with a fine point a minute in, but two minutes later the definitive moment of the game arrived when Knockmore bagged their only goal of the contest. Shane McHale who put in a top-class shift in around the middle third hit an effort for a point that came back off the post and Darren McHale was the quickest to react to the rebound a drove the ball high to the roof of Brendan Walsh’s net to put Reape’s side into a six point lead. But Ballintubber were not throwing in the towel just yet and they reeled off four points without reply in the next ten minutes to close the gap to just two points. Padraic O’Connor kicked three frees and Jason Gibbons added the other from distance. The game looked to be ebbing back towards the west Mayo men, but this was going to be Knockmore’s day and two pointed frees from Kieran Langan sandwiched other efforts from Stephen Sweeney and Kevin McLoughlin stretched their lead out to six points with ten minutes to go. Ballintubber went looking for goals at the end and they couldn’t dig themselves out of this one and Knockmore toughed it out at the end to win by 1-15 to 1-10.
The defending champions came unstuck against a imposing Breaffy side who took the game to them from the off and thanks to a great start to the second half build up a lead they would not surrender in the closing stages. The sides went in level at the break on a scoreline of 1-5 to 0-8 with Ballaghaderreen finding the net through Barry Regan, who palmed the ball to the net midway through the half after a quick break up field. Ballaghaderreen hit the front early on and lead by 0-3 to 0-1 thanks to scores from James Kilcullen, Barry Kelly and Regan with Gerry Jennings responding for Breaffy. Near the quarter of an hour mark, the game was tied at 0-4 each with Seamus O’Shea, Alan Durcan twice scoring for Breaffy and Andy Moran hitting his first score of the game for his side. Breaffy were dominating the possession with the O’Shea brothers taking control of the midfield sector and Rory Martyn snapping in winning the breaks, but they turned over the ball too often offering Ballaghaderreen the opportunity to get a foot hold in the game which they did through Regan’s goal. But Breaffy responded well to the major, with Durcan kicking three points on the trot to level up the contest again. Cormac Doohan put the champions in front again shortly after by Breaffy went in level at the break thanks to another Durcan free.
Breaffy hit the ground running after the turn around Tommy O’Reilly, Robbie Hennelly with a long range free put Breaffy two clear. The Mayo net-minder was shortly afterwards forced into a smart save from James Kilcullen forcing his goal-bound effort over the bar. Rory Martyn clipped over an effort not long after that save to keep Breaffy ticking over and then in the space of a couple of minutes Gerry Jennings and Brian Howley tacked on two more scores to put Breaffy into a 0-13 to 1-6 lead and have them believing that they could reach the county senior semi-final for the first time in the clubs history. Things kept getting better for Declan O’Reilly’s side with Alan Durcan, Tommy O’Reilly and Marty McNicholas all landing points and Robbie Hennelly pulling off another fine save, leaving Ballaghaderreen floundering. Breaffy were leading 0-16 to 1-7 when Andy Moran was pulled down en-route to goal inside the large rectangle. The Mayo captain dusted himself off and buried the ball in the back of the net from the spot to close the gap to three points. But Breaffy weren’t for turning and they dug in over the closing stages and Robbie Hennelly kicked his second point of the day to put the full stop on the scoring in this contest and create a little bit of history for the west Mayo club who are celebrating their 60th birthday this year.
Saturday’s action got underway with Castlebar Mitchels reasserting the impression that they are the side to beat with a comprehensive 1-20 to 2-8 win over Ballina Stephenites. David Clarke was fit enough to start the game for Ballina after having to miss out on Mayo’s run to the All Ireland final, but he wasn’t able to inspire his side against a Mitchels side who look almost unstoppable this year. By half-time Mitchels were leading by 0-12 to 1-4, with Barry Moran chipping in with four points over the opening 30 minutes, Neil Lydon kicked three and one of their rising stars James Durcan chipped in with two of his own. Ballina just weren’t really at the races and before they even managed to register a score Patrick Harte had a penalty saved by Ciaran Naughton in the seventh minute of the match. Eanna Casey bagged the Stephenites goal after being set up by Patrick McHale, but it was really only papering over the gap in class between the two sides. Mitchels didn’t let up at the start of the second half and kicked the first five scores of the half, with that run bookended by Neil Douglas’ goal in the 40th minute. It was just then a matter of running down the clock which Pat Holmes’s side did with out much trouble, with Ballina’s second major coming late into injury time. The game was held up for ten minutes when Ballina’s Patrick O’Hora had to be stretchered off the field after receiving lengthy treatment for an injury he picked up and was applauded off the pitch by supporters from all sides.
Charlestown booked their place in the final four with a thorough seven point win over Garrymore. Last years intermediate champions were rocked early on with a number of injury withdrawals late on and then by the Garrymore goal right from the off through Caolan Crowe, but by half time had worked themselves into a five point lead thanks to some impressive play in the middle third from Tom Parsons and Sean Morris and big scoring returns form their full forward line of Paul Mulligan, Richard Harran and Martin Mulvaney. The latter kicking three in the first half and a brace for the other two all contributing to the Dennis Kearney’s men’s 0-11 to 1-3 lead at the switch around.
Garrymore looked like they were going to make a fight of it early in the second half with three points on the bounce inside the opening two minutes, but it was a short lived fight back as Charlestown plundered two goals between the sixth and tenth minute from Maye and then Haran to seal the win and send them into the last four in confident mood. Crowe did bag a second goal for the south Mayo men to close the gap, but at the final whistle Charlestown ran out 2-17 to 2-10 winners.