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Mayo club scene taking shape

Sean Rice
Sean Rice

Club scene taking shape

COUNTY champions Ballintubber met a foe on Sunday with a zeal they had not expected. The experience they have gained these past few years, and their ability to deal with crises, is what got the champions through a match that tested every fibre of their collective skills.
It was riveting stuff… even if the football was not of the highest quality. And the game was in the balance until the 26th minute of the second half when Cillian O’Connor finally nailed it down with their goal.
Garrymore are growing in stature. They have a bit yet to go to emulate their great teams of the past, but in stretching the county champions to the limit they have made a statement about their future.
The news that Alan Dillon had dropped out because of an injury picked up in the warm-up, may have been the incentive Garrymore needed to spring a surprise. But the manner in which they bounced back after Ballintubber’s red-hot start belied their underdog rating.
Without Dillon, the champions looked rudderless for a while. And it was no coincidence that their performance improved dramatically when their star returned after the interval. His presence alone seemed to inspire them.
In the heat of the exchanges it was hard enough to pick out the county players. And, of course, Garrymore are never loath to cut reputations down to size. Thus, Jason Gibbons and Cillian O’Connor were searching for authority throughout most of the first half as the Garrymore men got stuck in, challenged everything and left little room for niceties.
The two Ballintubber men came good after the break and O’Connor’s goal had that touch of class that sets county men apart in the end.
The duel between Enda Varley and Cathal Hallinan was one of the highlights of the game, especially in the final quarter when the champions had nosed in front.
But in the end, it was the redoubtable Dillon that made the difference… not by any unusual achievement on the day, other than the extraordinary presence he brings to every game.

IN carving out victory over Charlestown on Friday, Castlebar Mitchels suffered a further loss to their already badly hit resources when the injured Tom King was carried off the field.
The summer migration of several of their best players had already lowered their high expectations of re-capturing old glory, and the injury to their star corner forward is now a further blow they could have done without.
Their five-points win over Charlestown was achieved through hard work and some exceptional performances, especially those of their county men Alan and Richard Feeney, and Tom Cunniffe all in defence. Charlestown threw everything they had at them, but the half-back line, including Sean Ryder who had a massive second half, was the mainstay of their overall performance.
Yet Charlestown had a couple of chances of goals which they failed to take, but which exposed some cracks in the Mitchels’ defence which they need to iron out before they hit the play-offs.
Their best forward was the ageless Kevin Filan who knocked over a total of six points, four of them from frees, and who has seen them through many an emergency. But the loss of Tom King hits at the heart of their hopes.
Charlestown came to McHale Park fully determined to prove that their bottom of the table league placing was a temporary blip. And for most of the first half they played with that possibility.
But the years have taken their toll on their top players, and as they began to tire under fierce pressure from the Mitchels the end was inevitable, Aidan Higgins suffering the indignation of being sent off for double yellow card offences.
Their defeat could spell the end of a few magnificent careers.
KEVIN Jordan, one of the best players ever to don a Breaffy jersey, and who also starred as a wing back for the county, is undergoing spinal surgery at the Galway Clinic this week, Wednesday, and this column sends him every good wish for a full and speedy recovery to full health.

Another angle on the ’48 final

MAYO had every reason to feel hard done by in the All-Ireland final of 1948.
In a quirky turn of fate the son of a Mayo man denied them an equalising point in the final minutes. From a 14-yards free Padraic Carney, ­ given his unerring foot throughout the match, was about to set Mayo up for an unlikely All-Ireland win.
But out of defence bounded Cavan’s outstanding forward Mick Higgins, to block down the shot and thwart Carney¹s effort. Seconds later the full-time whistle was blown… a couple of minutes before normal time had elapsed.
And the thousands of Mayo people pouring out of Croke Park were aggrieved and hurt at the perceived injustice of it all.
Cavan people freely admitted later that full-time had not been played. But Mick Higgins ­ described by Mayo’s midfield star Eamonn Mongey as having had a fantastic game ­ denied he was too near the ball when he smothered Carney’s kick.
Higgins’ father, John, was a native of Kiltimagh, reared in the house in which his nephew and former Mayo County Board chairman, Mick Higgins now resides.
“John emigrated to New York where his son was born,” Mick Higgins told me.
“The family returned to Ireland some time later and bought a pub and farm in Cavan. But because they were a long distance from a school in the county, their son, Mick, was sent to live with us, his cousins, in Kiltimagh.
“He went to school there for some years and after returning to Cavan he went on to win four All-Ireland senior medals with the county of his adoption.
“It didn¹t go down too well with our local pals every time we cheered for
Cavan,” said Mick.
Mick Higgins said he spoke to his Cavan cousin about the disputed block-down of Carney’s free, and his explanation was that while it was a 14 yards free it was from an angle on the Cusack Stand side, and was thus farther away than if it was directly in front of the goal.
No explanation, however, could appease the anger that raged in Mayo for years about the two incidents that denied their county a morale-boosting victory in a time of woeful economic hardship.
One last anecdote from the 1948 campaign came from Joe Gilvarry who would distinguish himself later for Mayo: “In the Connacht final we were playing Galway. Billy Kenny was marking Tom O’Sullivan, one of the best backs the game has ever known.
“A ball came up the field and Kenny put out his hand to get it. Sullivan pulled on the ball and Kenny pulled up and held up his hand as if injured.
“I was ready to come on in place of Kenny. As he was coming off the field I asked him how he was and he said there wasn¹t a thing wrong with him, but he wasn’t getting a kick of the ball and that I should go in and try to do better.”

Just a thought …
IS there any team capable of beating either Kerry or Cork?  Their Munster final was more than a notch above anything we have seen so far this year. Cork are not gone yet.