HE'S BEHIND YOU Ballaghaderreen midfielder James Kilculllen is challenged by Ballintubber's Damien McGing during last Sunday's Mayo SFC Final at McHale Park, Castlebar.?Pic: Michael McLaughlin
Ballagh’ spoil ’Tubber party
Three-in-a-row dream ended by East Mayo’s sleeping giants
THE sight of Ballaghaderreen captain Stephen Drake lifting the Moclair Cup towards the heavens last Sunday evening would have brought it all home to Ballintubber.
The dream of three-in-a-row was dead for the Abbeysiders, ended by a team that came roaring back after four years in the Mayo club championship wilderness.
Ballagh’s performance on a day borrowed from spring was far from vintage but it was defensively sound, laced with intensity, and more than good enough to account for Ballintubber on the day.
A late scoring blitz that yielded 1-2 in the final ten minutes glossed the final scoreline for the East Mayo side, but the foundations for their third Mayo SFC title win were dug much earlier in the day.
Mark Dowd’s team led from gun to tape and a 60th minute goal from impressive midfielder, Barry Kelly, put the seal on a victory that was as deserved as it was emphatic.
Ballintubber badly missed the services of injured Mayo star, Cillian O’Connor, while county talisman, Alan Dillon, was forced to retire with an eye injury and suspected concussion at the end of the third quarter.
Alan Plunkett was also unable to start due to an ankle injury and only made a cameo appearance late in the day.
Without their marquee forwards, Peter Ford’s side were lacking guile and leadership up front, and they only managed one point in the entire second half.
In fact, they failed to score at all in the last thirty minutes and racked up more than a dozen wides. They never got going.
Ballaghaderreen had no much problems.
They tore into the defending champions (and pre-match favourites) with relish and their formidable midfield partnership of Barry Kelly and James Kilcullen wasted little time in taking control in the engine-room.
A couple of booming free-kicks from Barry Regan, allied to a fine score after a swashbuckling run from Keith Rogers, helped Ballagh’ into a 0-4 to 0-1 lead by the end of the first quarter.
Ballintubber, who had started with Micheál Hoban at midfield, Danny Geraghty at wing-back, and Diarmuid O’Connor up front, seemed a little flat although Damien McGing kept the scoreboard moving with a neat score on 17 minutes.
Their defence had their hands full though with lively, ball-winning forwards like Andy Hanley, David Kilcullen and Barry Regan, and another couple of Regan frees opened up a little daylight.
The only response an out-of-sorts Ballintubber could manage before the short whistle was a trademark, inspirational point from Alan Dillon after he ran the length of the field to start and finish a move.
However, ahead by 0-6 to 0-3, this was Ballaghaderreen’s game to lose at half-time.
They were winning more than enough ball around the middle while the Drake and Rogers brothers, along with Peter Kelly, were keeping Ballintubber’s depleted attack at bay.
Sub Daire Somerville saw a goalbound shot blocked by Ollie Flanagan shortly after the restart, but the indefatigable Alan Dillon pared the deficit back to just two points moments later.
However, it failed to shake the West Mayo lads from their slumber.
They went on to miss a string of chances and, remarkably, failed to score for the final thirty minutes.
Dillon’s retirement also robbed them of their primary source of leadership and inspiration.
At the other end, Ballagh’ weren’t exactly shooting the lights out either and it took them 18 minutes of the second period to raise a flag.
Joe Dillon’s neatly-taken point did feel like a decisive score at the time although it was only in the closing stages that the eventual winners made the game safe.
Ballintubber were forced to throw caution to the wind in an effort to save the day and this left them vulnerable at the back.
So it was that sub’ Rory Conway snaffled a point before Barry Kelly brought Brendan Walsh’s run of more than six hours without conceding a championship goal to an end.
The last word went to David Kilcullen who ‘tapped over’ a 45m kick in stoppage-time to gloss the final scoreline.
So there was to be no happy ending to a Ballintubber story that has featured a first county senior title in the club’s history in 2010, a memorable second title win last year, and 17 games without defeat in the competition over the last three seasons.
“Over the last few years seeing what Ballintubber did drove us on to where we are today,” Stephen Drake said in his acceptance speech. “They’ve been fantastic ambassadors for Mayo club football.”
And so say all of us.
Now it’s Ballagh’s turn to carry the baton.
O Flanagan; S Drake, P Rogers, T Regan; P Kelly, K Rogers (0-1), D Drake; B Kelly (1-0), J Kilcullen; D Kilcullen (0-1, ’45) A Hanley, S Finn; O Jordan, B Regan (0-5, 5fs), J Dillon (0-1).
Subs used: C Doohan for Regan (inj, 39); R Conway (0-1) for Dillon (55); B Solan for Finn (59).
B Walsh; L Tunney, C Hallinan, P Earley; M Kelly, T Earley, D Geraghty; M Hoban, J Gibbons (0-1); R O’Connor, A Dillon (0-2), D O’Connor; D McGing (0-1), P O’Connor, D Coleman.
Subs used: J Duffy for Hoban (28); D Sommerville for P O’Connor (half-time); A Plunkett (0-1) for Dillon (50); K McGuinness for D O’Connor (55).
Referee: K Connelly (Hollymount/Carramore)