They love their football in Lahardane and going by the sheer numbers of Lahardane people who showed up in MacHale Park, there wasn’t to many left behind to mind the shop at the bottom of Nephin on Sunday. The black and amber was on show in powerful numbers and their sons responded in kind - with a powerful display of football - especially in the second half where they outscored their opponents 1-11 to 1-3 to claim the Connacht junior title.
A brilliant first ten minutes of the second half saw Lahardane turn a four point defeat into two point lead. The north Mayo men trailed 2-2 to 0-4 at the turnaround, but right from the get go after the restart they hit Ballymote with all they had, Cormac Reilly cut the gap to three points with a well taken effort, then Paul Coleman put just two between the sides. Reilly kicked another fine score to cut the gap to the bare minimum - before Tony Dever landed two monsters of points from downtown to put his side in front for the first time in the game.
Adrian Leonard pushed his side two clear, with a Peter Lyons effort stemming the tide from a close range free for the Sligo champions cutting the gap back to just one point. But Lahardane kept going and two fine Leonard points along with another huge effort from out the park - this time from Gary Naughton pushed Lahardane into a 0-13 to 2-3 lead with 16 minutes to go.
Ballymote did nearly get in for a third goal just before Naughaton’s effort with Stephen Ross missing a glorious chance. Shane Loftus edged Lahardane even further clear with a neatly taken point on the run and his side really should have hit the back of the net when Keith Loftus was played by Mark Noone after a searing run, but Loftus’ effort was blocked by Robbie Flannery. Lahardane did hit the back fo the net four minutes from time when captain Gary Naughton picked up a poor clearance to drive it home from close range and seal once and for all the outcome of this contest.
The Mayo champions couldn’t have gotten off to a worse start in this game. Ballymote’s Robbie Flannery sent a rudimentary probing ball down the right flank and Jack Hever was able to out muscle Philip O’Malley to win the ball, then slip inside the challenge of two Lahardane defenders before driving the ball low past Joe Mulhern to the net to get the Sligo champions off to a dream start.
But this Lahardane team have been forged in tough battles all year and they have been playing with a fierce self-belief in their own abilities and they used that to haul themselves level by the eighth minute. Adrian Leonard got them moving with a well taken free on three minutes, two minuted later James Maughan swept over a fine point to close the gap to just a single score and 180 seconds later Shane Loftus swung over a fine off point off the outside of his right boot to leave things all square.
They should have went three clear on nine minutes, James Maughan was found in behind the Ballymotte defence and he was clean through on goal, but his effort was well saved by Gerard Feeney and put out for a 45 - which Matthew Queenan dragged wide of the target. Ballymote edged back in front 13 minutes in thanks to a well taken free from Peter Lyons. Lahardane should have levelled it up again just after the quarter of an hour mark, but James Maughan pulled his effort from close range wide of the post. Lyons put his side in front by two just before the 20 minute marker, from another free after Stephen Ross had been hauled down on his way towards goal.
Lahardane had dominated the play for most of the half - but their wastefulness in front of goal was holding them back with Cormac Reilly and Shane Loftus all missing good chances to bring their side level over the next few minutes pulling efforts wide from very scoreable positions. And two minutes before the break they were punished, Jack Hever got in behind the defence again and only for some smart play by Mulhern in the Lahardane goal facing him to over carry the ball it could have been goal number two. But from the resulting free-out Lahardane never really cleared their lines properly and Niall Closh hit a speculative effort from tight to the right sideline, which dropped short. Mulhern punched it clear - but only as far as Stephen Ross whose shot hit the post, but unfortunately for the Mayo side the rebound crashed off the knee of Barry Leonard to the back of the net - sending the Sligo champions in leaden thy 2-2 to 0-4 at the short whistle.
Lahardane: A Leonard (0-5, 3f ), G Naughaton (1-1 ), S Loftus (0-3, 1f ), T Dever (0-2, ) C Reilly (0-2 ) J Maughan (0-1 ), P Coleman (0-1 )
Ballymote: S Ross (1-1 ), P Lyons (0-3, 3f ), J Hever (1-0 ), N Brennan (1-0 ), N Closh (0-1, 1f )
Ladardane: J Mulhern; B Leonard, C Coleman, P O’Malley; P Coleman, M Queenan, C Rowland; T Dever, G Naughton; A Murphy, A Leonard, C Reilly; S Loftus, J Maughan, K Loftus. Subs: M Noone for A Murphy, G Mulhern for K Loftus, M Coleman for P Coleman.
Ballymote: G Feely; C McCann, D Clarke, K Meehan; R Flannery, M Doddy, A Caffrey; M Rafferty, C Byrne; C Meehan, N Cosh, S Ross; J Heever, M Irwin, P Lyons. Subs: Kieran Tighe for K Meehan, N Brennan for C Meehan, C McGuire for Flannery,
Ref: B Healy (Roscommon )