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Ballintubber keep tight grip on Mayo crown

Sean Rice
Sean Rice

’Tubber keep a tight grip


THE pretenders had better beware. The county champions are in no mood for relinquishing the Moclair trophy they won for the first time last year.
They clinched a quarter-final spot on Saturday evening in Crossmolina and the manner in which they fought back from a four-point deficit six minutes from the end left no one in doubt about their determination to prove that last year’s success was not a once-off affair.
Had they lost on Saturday it would have been easy to explain it away by pointing to the absence of Alan Dillon and Cillian O’Connor, in particular.
And for much of the hour it looked as if they could have done with the help of their Mayo stars to hump them over the line. In the end Michael Nestor’s goal set them up for a spectacular finish which will have done their confidence and their defence of the title a power of good.
The one worrying note from the match was the hamstring injury that forced Peadar Gardiner to retire midway through the first half. His powerful running had played a key part in Crossmolina’s early lead, and all Mayo will be hoping the wing-back will be fit to take his place in the squad for the All-Ireland semi-final.
Meanwhile, Ballinrobe pulled off the shock of the championship with their victory over fancied Kiltane on Sunday.
Having brought county title hopefuls, Knockmore, to their knees on Bangor’s hallowed turf, there seemed little hope for Ballinrobe on the same ground as Kiltane sought not only victory but also a place in the quarter-finals.
It’s hard to know if they took their task too lightly in the light of their win over Kiltane, and their impressive performance against Breaffy away.
But from the throw-in, Kiltane were playing a rearguard action as Ballinrobe stuck shrewdly to their strengths… mainly the selection of county man Donal Vaughan at corner forward to whom ball was drilled with unerring accuracy almost always by centre-back Sean Grimes.
The two manipulated the strings of Ballinrobe’s driving performance which brought the best out of the likes of the Killeens, Paul Finnerty, Ray McGreal, James O’Malley and Mark Walkin.
Yet were it not for the spectacular goalkeeping of Kenneth O’Malley the efforts of the others might have been in vain. The goalkeeper made four stunning saves, one in the first half, the others including a penalty in the second half when Kiltane threw everything at them in a bid to turn the tide.
What a pity this passion is not a regular part of their game!
Farewell to a great gael
FOR the first time in decades no green-and-red flag fluttered from Walter Geraghty’s window.
Instead it lay with him in his grave in Castlebar.
Walter’s love for Mayo football was wrapped up in that Green & Red flag. It was his badge of faith in Mayo and for decades it adorned the window of his home in St Patrick’s Avenue on every championship occasion.
In dispirited times — and God knows there have been many of those down the decades — it flew as if to say there will be another day, a symbol of unflagging resistance, a perpetual emblem of hope in the arid atmosphere of under achievement.
Walter was one of those guys who greeted you with the words ‘up they go for it’ so reminiscent of Michael Ó Hehir’s broadcasts. ‘Will we ever see Sam again?’ he would ask, and with a shake of his head answer his own question: ‘Ah I don’t know’.
He was lucky enough to have seen the great Mayo team of the 1950s in action and come home with the Sam Maguire Cup, and to him few of those who have striven to emulate that success could compare with those icons.
But Walter, a native of Westport, lived in hope, and that flag would have been fluttering cheerfully from his window had he not died shortly before Mayo beat Cork in the quarter-final.
He was one of Mayo’s great supporters, as solidly loyal as he was to Mary, his wife of 59 years.
May that flag keep him warm and the sod rest lightly on his grave in Castlebar.

DOWN MEMORY LANE
GOALS GALORE IN THE SUMMER OF ’51


THERE was a swagger to Mayo football after the 1950 All-Ireland. Makeshift goalposts mushroomed in fields and gardens throughout the county, all of them full of young, eager Flanagans and Langans and Prendergasts.
The Sam Maguire Cup went on tour the week after the All-Ireland, taking in a different school and club each day. No corner of the county was omitted. ‘The celebrations went on until January when we finished up in Westport with Purty (Kelly) and Tommy (Hoban),’ said Tom Acton.
All Mayo was on a high, and for the county’s football icons with an eye to retaining the title moderation was a delicate balancing act. Any fears that they might have celebrated ‘not too wisely, but too well’ were cast aside, however, when they reached the final of the National League in the spring, losing to Meath by a mere three points.
It was a loss that would fortify them mentally against all pretenders to their title including the team to whom they had just lost in the league final. And for everyone watching and listening, the warning bells were rung when they beat Sligo in the Connacht semi-final at Ballymote by 3-7 to 1-5.
Galway, too, were clinically despatched, going down by 4-13 to 2-3, as Mayo claimed their fourth successive Connacht title, and for the second time in three years awaited a meeting with Kerry in the All-Ireland semi-final.
In that clash, the Munster champions seemed well on their way to avenging the ’48 hammering when leading by four points in what is now known as injury time. Mayo had kicked twenty-two wides, and all except those who placed faith in the instinctive qualities of Tom Langan, had given up on them.
The Dublin-based Garda was moved from left half to full forward in those final minutes where full-back Paddy Bawn Brosnan was having the game of his life. From a kick out by the big Kerryman, Eamon Mongey won possession in the middle of the field.
He had thought of lobbing the ball speculatively toward the square when he spotted Langan lurking on the periphery of the box. Mongey had plenty of experience of the workings of Langan’s brilliant mind, and he drilled the ball in the direction of the new full-forward.
The goalkeeper moved to intercept it. “With wonderful quickness of thought Langan, while still in mid air, seemed to change his mind,” said Mongey… “and with a flick of his hand, the ball was in the back of the net.”
Seconds later, Paddy Irwin, scored the levelling point, (1-5 apiece) which according to Willie Casey, Kerry people claimed was a mile wide.
Mayo won the replay by 2-4 to 1-5, and the hero on this occasion was Mick Flanagan who scored the two goals.
In the other semi-final Meath beat Antrim and set the scene for an historic final between the league finalists of a few months earlier.
The Mayo team for the final would be; Wynne; Forde, Prendergast, Flanagan; Staunton, Dixon, Quinlan; Mongey, McAndrew; Irwin, Carney, Mulderrig; Flanagan, Langan, Gilvarry.

Just a thought …
One county from Connacht in the All-Ireland senior semi-final, two in the minor semi-finals, and one already All-Ireland U21 title holders scarcely constitute, as some see it, a province in decline.

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