Putting recent disappointments to right spur on Ballintubber

Setting things right from their own point of view is something that has been driving on Ballintubber this year. To the outsider, a team that reaches three county finals on the bounce, winning two and getting knocked out at the last eight stage in another year, is probably doing all right. But not by the exacting high standards the club members have set from themselves. Joint manager Tony Duffy spoke to the Mayo Advertiser in the build up to Sunday’s senior county final, and he explained: “It wasn’t hard coming back, we’d set very high standards for ourselves in previous years in getting to three finals in a row and winning two of them. It was disappointing in 2012, we were tame enough the way we went out against Ballaghaderreen and last year it was just terrible and very frustrating end to the year. I suppose the writing was on the wall a few weeks out from that game against Knockmore. I suppose injuries to key players didn’t help, but that wouldn’t be an excuse we’re using. We didn’t do ourselves justice in any way or form and it was massively disappointing. At the start of this year, we were determined to put that right.” That is the drive and determination that has propelled them back to the final of the competition for the fourth time in five years. They are very happy with the way the season has panned out for them so far according to Duffy. “It’s gone well, we’ve won pretty much all our games so far, the only loss we had was to Castlebar in the group stages of the competition. We lost that narrowly and drew with them in the league which has been very satisfying and a testament to the work that all the lads have put in and the commitment they’ve shown, after a disappointing year last year and the year before.”

The meeting of the two west Mayo giants in the opening round of the group stages of the championship is a game that was earmarked as the one to be at from as soon as the draw was made. But it was so long ago, Duffy does not think we can read much into it ahead of Sunday’s meeting. “It’s hard to know, both teams have changed a good bit since that day. A lot has happened since in terms of the development of both teams. We’re probably a bit better than we were then and I’m sure for Castlebar it’s the same position. We wouldn’t really read too much into ourselves, like the inter-county game being all about getting to the August weekend, with the club it’s the same, it’s really about getting to the quarter-final and things kick-on from there. Losing to them wasn’t terminal, we always knew that we had enough to get over the other two games and get to the quarter-final.”

Getting up and going again

Having put their all into the previous three years, last year’s exit could have been put down to the wear and tear that takes on a team, something that Duffy does not refute when asked about the effort it takes to keep going. He said: “It probably was, there are a few theories about it. Being on the road for three finals in a row does take a lot out of you physically and going into that Knockmore game we lost Cillian O’Connor, who had to get his shoulder operated on. It just didn’t work out for us. It did help to spur us on for this year.”

The success of Ballintubber is something that is based upon a lot of hard work and effort on the training field through the underage ranks, says Duffy. “People think we’re a big club, but we’re a very small rural club. We’ve only four national schools I think feeding us, and some of those schools there might be only 20 or 30 kids in them. At certain age levels we’re struggling to get teams out there, but we work very hard to make sure we fulfil every grade. We’re a small club, but we do work very hard with what we have and we do set high standards for ourselves. There’s a lot of good coaching going on, and the current senior team is backboned by a great group of players who came along a few years ago, and we’ve been gradually feeding lads into that the whole time who’ve been making Mayo minor and u21 squads, and with that you get a good blend and there’s a few years left in us yet.”

Ballintubber’s semi-final win over Knockmore was one of those results that will end up in local table quizzes as a question in years to come, with four brothers all finding the back of the net in their nine goal demolition of the north Mayo men, but it is something that will not be repeated any time soon he thinks. “It was a pure freak, we’ll probably never in the history of the club score nine goals again in a championship match. Having said that we did set out to be ruthless from the word go and by God were we ruthless. The big thing in that game was that in previous outings we had been creating goal chances and maybe the player in position was being greedy, and maybe could have laid it off and two or three of the goals against Knockmore came from that in popping it off to the man in a better position. It just really fell into place, but days like that never really happen. There were also negatives from it, we conceded 2-12 that day, which would win most games, we’ve plenty to work on.”

Manning the line

While Duffy is part of a joint management ticket with Peter Ford, he has plenty of big game experience by himself, having managed the Mayo minors for a number of years and the Mayo u21s for a season. Those roles have given him a bit of insight into plenty of the players that Ballintubber face from all corners of the county. “Seeing the level that top clubs in Mayo are at, and that level of football there’s not much difference. Being with the Mayo minors for three years and the u21s for a year and I enjoyed every minute of it, and I relished coming back with Peter as joint manager this year. I think I brought something to the table with experience and knowledge I’d gained. I certainly had a good knowledge of players throughout the county, who have passed through my hands over the years which can only be a help.” As for the workings of a joint management ticket, it is going just fine according to Duffy. “We’re both football people and have the same general idea of how the game should be played, and we agree on most issues, obviously there’s the odd position that has to be teased out but there should be. But when everyone is training hard and working hard, the team is easy enough to pick.”


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