CAPTAINS CALL Luke Fitzmaurice, Chairman, Mayo Hurling Board presents the TJ Tyrell Memorial Cup to Pierce Higgins, captain of the Ballyhaunis team that defeated James Stephens, Ballina in the Mayo Senior Hurling Final in Fr O’Hara Park, Charlestown on Saturday. They face Athleague in the Connacht Club Championship this coming Monday.
Divided loyalties for McConn
DAVE MCCONN faces a quandary ahead of next week’s Connacht club hurling championship game between Ballyhaunis and Athleague – he’s coach of both teams!
McConn has lent his expertise to the east Mayo side’s quest for glory this year, but he’s also involved in preparing the Roscommon outfit. So when the two teams meet in Athleague next Monday (2.30pm), he’ll have to decide which camp he stands with.
“I’m in a bit of a dilemma on that score all right,” he told the Mayo News yesterday. “That’s a decision I’ll make on Saturday or Saturday, I won’t make it til then. I have been giving both teams coaching all year so I won’t withdraw my services just yet.”
With McConn having a foot in both camps, neither side will lack knowledge of the other anyway. He knows Ballyhaunis’ next opponents well?
”Yeah, too well!” he says with a laugh. “I was born and reared in Athleague and I’ve been back with them coaching for the last four years. We’ve won two of the last three county championships in Roscommon.”
Having bridged a 25-year gap to take the cup in 2003, Athleague were denied back-to-back titles by Four Roads in 2004 after conceding a last minute goal. However, they got back on track the weekend before last, beating Padraig Pearses to ensure a tilt at the Mayo champions.
As for last Saturday’s game, McConn could be pleased with Ballyhaunis’ display, even if it lacked the champagne spark of their three-game saga with Tooreen.
“In fairness, county finals are always tight and hard,” he said. “In this case, we were feeling the pinch a little as well after three games in three weeks against Tooreen. It’s beginning to take its toll, but fair play to the players: they did the business and got the cup in the end, which was our goal at the start of the year.”
Dual star Keith Higgins gave another virtuoso display in Charlestown, scoring 0-8 of his team’s 1-9. He had played “his usual best” despite being “well marked for a lot of the game”, noted McConn, who praised his “spectacular points, both from frees and from play”. The coach’s sons Derek and Paul McConn “kept the activity levels high, especially in the second half when we brought Paul out”, while Fergal Walsh got a “superb” goal.
Ballina got off to a great start when Alan Stenson flicked home a goal following a long ball, and 21 minutes had elapsed before the aforementioned Walsh ended a nice move to score a ‘major’ for Ballyhaunis. They pressed on in the second half but had Ballina in the rear-view mirror for most of the game.
”Our goal was crucial,” agreed McConn. “They came at us fairly hard and got the goal in the first few minutes. We were hoping for a goal early on ourselves but it came at the other end. In fairness, the weather didn’t help; the elements were not very kind to the game of hurling on Saturday. But we got the goal and added a few crucial points at the end of the first half.
“Ballina missed a few crucial scores and we put our shoulder to the wheel. That put us in a comfortable position and the lads seemed to relax, but Ballina must us work hard for it. They fought right to the end. They’re a fine team a credit to the memory of TJ Tyrell [in whose memory the cup is named]. I’ve no doubt we’ll be seeing a lot more of Ballina in the years to come.”
CONNACHT CLUB HURLING CHAMPIONSHIP
ATHLEAGUE V BALLYHAUNIS
MONDAY, OCTOBER 30 AT 2.30PM, ATHLEAGUE