Dillon leads ‘Tubber into Sunday’s semi-final
SAME characters, same stage, different outcome. When they were put to it, Ballintubber found a way to win. When disaster struck, they reached new levels of intensity and organisation.
And the six points they had to spare at the end of this Mayo SFC quarter-final replay at MacHale Park on Wednesday evening was a true reflection of their worth.
It was perhaps too much to expect a replay on the classic scale of the drawn match. But for thirty minutes it was close enough and tense enough to suggest another hairs-breath decider.
That was until Ballintubber found a new gear after the break that created enough momentum to see them get over the loss of their ace Cillian O’Connor.
Only three points divided them when the full-forward was given a second yellow card thirteen minutes into the second half. It seemed an ideal opportunity for Holly/Carra to exploit.
Within minutes, however, the Abbey gloom had lifted. Alan Dillon had taken the reins and raised a white flag that had nothing to do with surrender. Instead, it spelled out a message that was terse and to the point: ‘We are not for turning.’
And with that sort of leadership from the Mayo star, Ballintubber got stuck in, challenged everything in sight, and nothing Holly/Carra did could loosen their grip on the game.
Two further points would follow from Dillon, and a couple of inspirational scores from the left feet of Diarmuid O’Connor and Damien Coleman, a flourish that capped a second-half total of eleven points to Hollymount/Carramore’s meagre three.
Unfortunately for them victory has cost the loss of their brilliant corner forward Conor Finnerty who left the field in some distress with what appeared a shoulder injury.
That final margin was not what the first half promised. As with the drawn game it was nip and tuck. Ballintubber with points by Finnerty, Alan Plunkett, Diarmuid O¹Connor and Dillon inched ahead. Holly¹ by the 16th minute had caught up with similar scores by Darren Coen (two) Robert Molloy and Kevin Feerick.
Molloy, playing midfield, was their playmaker, sprinkling the forwards with tidy deliveries. Inside, Darren Coen and Conor Keane were a serious threat. And it was no surprise when their goal came.
Nathan Moran was the scorer in the 24th minute. From behind his marker he fielded cleanly a centre by Keane, turned, dummied goalie Brendan Walsh and put Hollymount/Carramore in front for the first time.
Strong defending by Barry Sheridan, glued tight to Cillian O’Connor, Niall Walsh and Francis Conroy helped the South Mayo lads maintain a two-point lead 1-6 to 0-7 at the interval. And it seemed control of the game.
A mere two minutes into the second half, however, Cillian and brother Padraic had wiped out the lead. Jason Gibbons assumed command in the middle of the field, Cillian shook off the clutches of Sheridan, Dillon popped up everywhere, and the graceful Finnerty shot them back into the lead.
With further points by Michael Plunkett and Cillian, Ballintubber were humming.
And then the Mayo captain got sent off, and manager Tom Prendergast was also ordered from the line by referee Liam Devenney.
A piece of good fortune for Hollymount/Carramore it seemed.
Until Dillon ignited stubborn resistance to which Diarmuid O’Connor, Coleman, Gary Loftus, Danny Geraghty and Brian Murphy, indeed the whole team, contributed handsomely.
Ballintubber must now refocus immediately on the challenge of facing Claremorris in the Mayo SFC semi-final on Sunday at MacHale Park, Castlebar (3.15pm).
B Walsh: G Loftus, B Murphy; M Plunkett (0-1); D O’Connor (0-2), M Kelly, D Coleman (0-1); J Gibbons, D Geraghty; P O’Connor (0-1), A Plunkett (0-1), A Dillon (0-5,1f); C Finnerty (0-3), C O’Connor (0-4,1f, 2’45s), R Geraghty.
Subs used: S Broderick for A Plunkett; S Finnerty for C Finnerty (inj); C Hallinan for R Geraghty.
N Campbell: B Maloney, F Conroy, N Walsh; B Sheridan, R Molloy (0-2), P Feerick; C Connolly, S Coen; K Feerick (0-3,1f), K Costello, N Moran (1-0); D Coen, (0-4,3fs), C Keane, E Maloney.
Subs used: D Costello for P. Feerick; D Kelly for Sheridan.
Referee: L Devenney (Ballina)