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The Mayo junior adventure came to an end in Croke Park on Saturday afternoon, when a far classier Kerry side put them to the sword without much fuss to claim the All Ireland junior crown.
The Mayo juniors will get their big day in the sun when they take on Kerry in the All Ireland junior final on Saturday week, after the GAA confirmed the showpiece in the grade will be on the under card of Mayo's senior All Ireland quarter-final in GAA headquarters. Mayo booked their place in the final of the competition last Saturday with a 1-12 to 0-8 win over Kilkenny in Tullamore, and sets up a repeat of the 2012 final meeting between the two sides.
The Mayo juniors picked up what the county will hope is the first of a few Connacht titles this year in style in Sunday in Páirc Seán Mac Diarmada against Galway. Sean McLoughlin’s side edged out Galway in a free flowing contest that saw both sides play open and attractive attacking football. Killala’s Andrew Farrell struck the all important goal 18 minutes into the first half when he finished from close range after Belmullet’s Eoin O’Donoghue went on a ranging run through the heart of the Galway defence. The wing backs strike for goal came back off the underside of the crossbar into the waiting arms of Farrell who made no mistake when the chance presented itself. Mayo had to deal with the loss of their captain Cathal Freeman who wasn’t able to make the game after picking up an injury in a club game last weekend, but that loss didn’t phase them.
The Mayo junior footballers will go looking to claim the first provincial title of the year for the county on Sunday lunchtime when they face off against Galway in the Connacht Junior Football Championship final in Carrick-on-Shannon. Seán McLoughlin's men booked their place in the provincial final last weekend thanks to a 2-10 to 1-10 win over the defending champions Sligo in James Stephens Park in Ballina. Sunday's game will be the curtain raiser to the senior championship meeting between Leitrim and Galway, the winners of which will face Mayo in the senior semi-final in five weeks time.
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.
Ballaghaderreen 1-9 Ballintubber 0-4
It has been a remarkable few years for Ballintubber, escaping with the intermediate title by the skin of their teeth in 2007 and going on to put together back to back senior titles in 2010 and 2011. This year, they are looking to make it three senior titles in a row. On Sunday in McHale Park, Crossmolina Deel Rovers will become the latest side to try to knock Peter Ford’s men off their lofty perch.
The defending champions Ballintubber laid down a marker for the rest of the sides in the county that they will not be giving up their championship easy this year when they blitzed their way through what looked like a potentially tricky opening round encounter against local rivals Breaffy with a 1-14 to 0-3 win. Breaffy were always going to be up against it facing the defending champions on their own patch in the opening round, but having to go into the game without both Seamus and Aidan O'Shea it was going to need a huge effort from them if they were going to take anything from the game.
It was never going to be easy for Ballintubber this year, following up last year’s emotional first Mayo senior championship title, losing their manager to the county senior team, a new man coming in trying to steady the ship and push on. But they did it again last Sunday and put together back to back senior titles, thanks to a massive effort to overcome a Castlebar Mitchels side who were licking their wounds from last year’s final loss to the Tubber.