Congratulations to Ballintubber who clinched their third Moclair Cup in five years against last year’s county and Connacht champions, and their fiercest rivals Castlebar Mitchels. It is a marvellous achievement for a team that was playing intermediate football in 2007.
It was a somewhat strange game with long periods of play where neither teams registered a flag but that will not bother Ballintubber in the slightest. Shane Conway and Alan Nolan decided that their impressive defence was good enough to go man on man with a dangerous forward line that could boast three current Mayo senior players, who along with Padraig O’Connor, Damien Coleman, and Alan Plunkett completed a formidable striking unit who all knew where the goalposts were. Castlebar aided by the unusual swirling breeze simply did not take advantage and very often over cooked passes into the full forward line.
You could see the frustration of Barry Moran and Niall Lydon when the ball went flying over their heads on numerous occasions. On the other hand Ballintubber had Alan Dillon who most definitely had his radar in sync, he sprayed the ball beautifully to his team-mates and got himself so much time on the ball with a little shimmy or a left footed toe tap, he seemed to be in the right place pretty much all of the time. His pass to Padraig O’Connor for Ballintubber’s first goal was top drawer. It split the Mitchels’ defence in two and credit to the eldest O’Connor sibling who still had a lot of work to do, he did not panic and finished low into Ciaran Naughton’s net.
It was the first time I flagged that it may be dangerous going one on one with Ballintubber, any good forward should be capable of beating his opponent if he has possession of the ball. Tom Cunniffe will not need reminding of his error for the second goal. He is Castlebar’s main man marker and we all knew he would be given the job to shackle Cillian O’Connor. After Jason Gibbons fired a long ball to the edge of the D it looked like Cunniffe had got his positioning perfect as the ball landed on top of him. I can only suggest that he had decided what his next play was going to be before he had actually gained possession and he uncharacteristically fumbled the ball right into the path of the deadly Cillian O’Connor. O’Connor could have taken a point or run at the goal and tried to pile drive the ball to the net as most of us would have done, but instead he side footed the ball into the top corner giving Naughton no hope in the Castlebar goal. It was cruel on Cunniffe but O’Connor does not need two invitations. You still felt Castlebar were in with a chance as they played most of the football for the rest of the half but it took them until the 26th minute to register their fourth point. They only went in two points adrift despite gifting scores to their opponents. I thought they still had a great chance as they have some fine ball carriers and playing into the stiff breeze for the second half would not bother them. It was slightly worrying that some of their bigger names had not showed up.
The second half started with orchestrator in chief, Alan Dillon, firing a sublime cross field ball to Padraig O’Connor who laid off to Stephen Broderick to put Ballintubber three points up again. Castlebar refused to go away and scored a fantastic team goal following an array of quality foot and hand passes, Barry Moran at the end of that brilliant move lofting the ball over the onrushing Brendan Walsh. Instead of pushing on it was Ballintubber who raised their game and time for O’Connor number three to take centre stage. Diarmuid O’Connor who had a very quiet first half got on copious amounts of ball and fired over two points in a short space of time. This is where you have to credit Ballintubber, they erected a wall across their 45 yard line which proved unpenetrable for Castlebar who went after a much needed second goal. Ruaidhri O’Connor and Myles Kelly were instrumental in keeping the Mitchels at bay. When Ballintubber went ahead the Mitchels never regained the lead and handed the Moclair Cup over to their fiercest rivals who were very deserving on the day. Castlebar gave us a great run last year, now it is Ballintubber’s turn.
Magic Moy boys
I was more than impressed with Moy Davitts super win in the minor A final against raging hot favourites Claremorris. It is hard to believe that was their first win at that level. They seemed to be superbly coached and I love the way they used the ball intelligently against the breeze to work numerous goal chances, only for Claremorris goalkeeper, Keith Saunders, it would have been a cricket score. Moy Davitts will now have to build on this and get as many of that minor team to take the next step and start winning trophies with their senior team.
Haunis keep on rolling
Ballyhaunis as expected hardly had to break a sweat in Carrick on Shannon and won handsomely, a far stiffer test in St Croan's of Ballintubber (Roscommon ) awaits in the next round. Kiltane's home fixture against Boyle last year means Ballyhaunis will have to travel to Roscommon for their tie which will add to the task in hand, however there is a real buzz in Ballyhaunis so I am sure the away trip will not bother them.