PICK AND GO Ballyhaunis’ Stephen Hoban wins possession ahead of Tooreen’s Cathal Freeman during Saturday’s Mayo SHC Final. Pic: Ciara Buckley
TOOREEN returned to the summit of Mayo hurling on the 60th anniversary of the founding of this unique club. The emotion was palpable on Saturday evening as Stephen Coyne raised the TJ Tyrell Cup and remembered the young man whose name now rests on the Tooreen club grounds, Adrian Freeman.
It was almost as if the Tooreen name was predestined to be written on the cup this season. Only last May, the President of the GAA, Aogán Ó Fearghaíl presided at the official naming of the Tooreen grounds in memory of a star hurler who died in a car accident in Australia in 2010 at the age of 24. ‘Twink’, as Adrian was affectionately known, was one of the shining lights in Tooreen hurling, and was named as Tooreen hurler of the year in 2009. He was also Mayo’s top scorer in the NHL two years in a row.
Six decades after their establishment, the man who pioneered this amazing odyssey, Michael Henry, the first Tooreen club secretary in 1957, was once again back home from Oxford on Saturday. The roots of his raising run deep.
Deep in the Fall of the year, Storm Brian roared across Mayo and the conditions were quite appalling for the showpiece of the Mayo hurling year. The leaden skies emptied themselves across the western landscape and the howling winds spoke a language that is foreign to the summer of hurling dreams.
The Booley Bush on the hill behind Cappagh heralded defiance yet again in the teeth of the gale. It was a forerunner of the resilience and bravery that the lads in the blue and white were about to bring to their venture.
Days like this produce low-scoring games. At the close of the first quarter, the teams were tied at 0-1 each. Ballyhaunis dual star Keith Higgins raised the first point of the day from play and Shane Boland converted a free. Francis Brennan from the RTÉ programme At Your Service could have served a first course during that time and not missed much of the action.
When referee Charlie Collins blew the whistle for half-time, Tooreen led by 0-5 to 0-4. The accuracy of Shane Boland from frees was central to Tooreen having their noses ahead. He converted three in the second quarter while Seán Kenny fired over a fine point, their only score from play in the half. Brian Hunt was on target with three points from frees for Ballyhaunis.
Tooreen should probably be further ahead at the interval. Their defence had quenched out the threat of the Ballyhaunis advance forces to a major degree. Daniel Huane was especially effective in the full-back line, while David Kenny was excellent in the half-back line from start to finish. But it was basically a strong and resilience display by all the defenders that held the champions in the opening half. The return of Michael Morley and Stephen Coyne was also a significant boost to Tooreen.
Shane Boland raised a white flag from a free on the resumption of play. Two minutes later, Tooreen goalie, Stephen Lenehan brought off a fine save when denying Kieran McDermott a certain goal. McDermott was one of the stars of the Ballyhaunis team on the day, delivering an energetic and stylish display.
Cathal Freeman rose to the occasion in the second half and blazed over a marvellous point from out the field to push them three clear. Ballyhaunis were now struggling all over the field but Keith Higgins blazed over the point of the game after 44 minutes and it looked again as if this would go down to the wire.
Just two points separated the teams at the three-quarter way stage.
And even though Tooreen looked the steadier, former club chairman, Jimmy Connor, gave the quote of the day: “I wouldn’t put the donkey on it yet!”
A few minutes later, Jimmy could relax as the game took a dramatic swing.
Fergal Boland fired in a shot that Ballyhaunis goalie Donall O’Brien seemed to have under control, but the umpires adjudged that it had literally inched across the goal-line before he cleared the ball outfield. Tooreen cheers rang out around the ground when the green flag was raised again after the referee consulted with the umpires.
Three minutes later, Seán Regan and Shane Boland combined to provide Fergal Boland with a long-distance effort. The dipping ball deceived the goalie and ended up in the Ballyhaunis net again.
All the momentum was now with Tooreen and there was no way for Ballyhaunis to rescue their bid for four in a row. Fergal Boland capped a fine display with two further points from play, while Kenny Feeney floated over one from a free with the second last puck of the game.
The Boland brothers contributed all but three points of the Tooreen tally.
Brian Morley, Seán Regan and Seán Kenny all toiled solidly, and while this might have been a case of ‘even Homer nods’ when it comes to Kenny Feeney, the maestro may well be the shining light when Tooreen take on Pádraig Pearses in the Connacht semi-final on bank holiday Monday.
Kieran McDermott at midfield and Mark Phillips at full-back were among the Ballyhaunis stars. Keith Higgins, Austin and Fergal Lyons, Eoghan Collins and Brian Hunt were others to the fore on a day when the champions were forced to play second fiddle to a resurgent Tooreen squad.
Johnny Hopkins, chairman of the Mayo Hurling Board, presented the TJ Tyrell Cup to Stephen Coyne amid scenes of jubilation.
Tooreen hurling is back at the top of the Mayo charts again.
S Lenehan; D Huane, M Morley, A Henry; C Henry, C Freeman (0-1), D Kenny; S Coyne, F Boland (2-2); K Feeney (0-1, 1f), S Regan, S Boland (0-5, 5f); B Morley, B Douglas, S Kenny (0-1).
Subs used: C Charlton for B Douglas; S Morley for S Kenny, C English for S Boland.
D O’Brien; A Brennan, M Phillips, A Lyons; K Kiely, L Cribbin, F Lyons; E Collins, K McDermott; A Phillips, K Higgins (0-2), B Hunt (0-4, 4f); P Kiely, S Hoban, J Lyons.
Subs: S Griffin for K Kiely, C Gardiner for A Brennan.
Referee: C Collins (Lacken)
TOOREEN now take on Roscommon champions Pádraig Pearses in the Connacht Intermediate Championship semi-final next Monday, October 30 in Athleague at 2pm.