Nothing could separate these sides the first time out and the narrowest of margins was all that was between them at the end of a pulsating encounter on Sunday afternoon in MacHale Park. After missing two frees at the death to win the game the first time around, Achill had a chance to level this game up in injury time, but Pee Sweeney’s effort from tight out on the MacHale Road side of the ground missed on the near side and Killala held on for a memorable victory.
This was a classic championship encounter and by far the most entertaining of the four games played in the county grounds over the weekend and the north Mayo men’s one point victory has set up an all north Mayo final against Ardanree that will fittingly be played in James Stephens Park in Ballina on Saturday, October 10.
Both sides left everything they had on the field in this game with the Killala trio of Andrew Farrell, Brendan Garvin and David Lowther all putting in epic shifts for the men in blue and white. Farrell opened the days scoring kicking the first two points of the day inside the first seven minutes and they were quickly followed by a Darragh Herbert effort to put their side three points to the good.
But nine minutes in Achill were back on level terms after Pee Sweeney dusted himself off after he was bundled over by a pair of Killala defenders inside the penalty area and dispatched his penalty kick to the back of the net with style. The same man slung over his sides first point of the day three minutes later. But Killala weren’t for turning and six minutes later they had a goal of their own. A long ball into the danger area was picked up by Alex Quinn who fed Farrell who made no mistake driving the size five past Sean Cafferkey. Achill responded with two more points from Pee Sweeney who was causing all kinds of damage to the Killala full back line, all day long. Farrell kicked another fine score followed by one from a Darragh Herbert free to put their side into a two point lead, but that lead was cut to the bare minimum before the break thanks to a Jonathan Fadain point two minutes from the short whistle.
The second half started with Brian Lavelle tieing things up with a well taken score from out on the left, that was responded to by a David Lowther point a minute later. Achill then hit a bit of a purple patch and rolled off three unanswered points from Lavelle, Tiarnan Cooney and Pee Sweeney to put the islanders into a two point lead and looking like they could push on from here.
But Killala came back punching and the reeled off four points of their own on the trot to go back into a two point lead on a score of 1-10 to 1-8 at the three quarter mark of the contest thanks to scores from Herbert and Shane Maheady along with a duo of pointed frees from Farrell. The momentum swung back with Paul McNamara’s men again for the next five minutes with Peter Gallagher and Michael D McNamara all landing scores to leave the game all tied up once more as the game entered its final ten minutes.
The next five minute period was where the game was won in reality. First Alex Quinn fired over a point to put Killala back into a one point lead, less than a minute later he had the ball in the back of the Achill net. Andrew Farrell drove the ball into the penalty area, Quinn somehow emerged with the ball and was able to find the space he needed to skip through a gap in the Achill defence and raise the green flag for his side putting them 2-11 to 1-10 in the lead. Three minutes later Seamus Ryan kicked another score for Killala putting them five clear and looking home and hosed.
But there was still a kick left in Achill, Sweeney pointed a free, then Brian Lavelle landed a point within seconds. The midfield battle had swung in the islanders favour and Killala suddenly couldn’t clear their lines. Sweeney kicked another point there was two in it with two to go. Time was against them but Achill kept coming. Toirleach Dever came up from wing back and swept one over the bar and there was just one between the sides as the game entered injury time. Sweeney had one more chance from his free but it fell just the wrong side of the post. There was still time to play and Killala drove down field and won a 45. Rather than risk the ball dropping short and Achill staging one last attempt to storm their barricades, Andrew Farrell drove the ball high and wide of the post, in reality it was closer to going over the sideline than the crossbar. From the resulting kick-out the final whistle was blown and with that Killala were safe and have a junior final to look forward to. If the final is anything like this encounter, you’d be a fool to miss it.
Killala: A Farrell (1-5, 3f ), A Quinn (1-1 ), D Herbert (0-3, 1f ), D Lowther (0-1 ), S Maheady (0-1 ) S Ryan (0-1 )
Achill: P Sweeney (1-6, 1 pen, 1f ), B Lavelle (0-3, 1f ), J Fadain (0-1 ), T Cooney (0-1 ), P Gallagher (0-1 ), MD McNamara (0-1 ), T Dever (0-1 )
Killala: R O’Hara; M Barrett, M Dooher, K McLoughlin; M Maheady, K Dooher, D Lowther; B Garvin, A Farrell; A Murphy, A Quinn, S Maheady, D Herbert, K Walsh, C Gilvarry. Subs: S Ryan, D Lawlor, N Maheady
Achill: S Cafferkey; B Gallgher, C Cafferkey, D McNamara, F Gallagher, G Cafferkey, T Dever; S Grealis, MD McNamara; P Gallagher, E Doran, J Fadain; B Lavelle, F McNamara, P Sweeney. Subs: T Cooney, M Keane, O Cooney
Ref: G McMahon (Davitts )