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Junior high for champions

Sean Rice
Pictured at the presentation of the Frank Reynolds Cup to Ronan Clarke, captain of Killala
KILLALA CROWNED CONNACHT CHAMPIONS Pictured at the presentation of the Frank Reynolds Cup to Ronan Clarke, captain of Killala who won the Connacht Junior Club Championship title last weekend were, from left: Orlaith Reynolds, Paddy Naughton (Vice-Chairman, Connacht Council), Ronan Clarke and Tina Reynolds (wife of the late Garda Frank Reynolds).

Junior high for champions

Sean RiceSean Rice

WE had not banked on this, a jewel of a match in the depths of winter. By half-time we felt Killala had left it all behind, their quest for a Connacht junior title gone with the wind in Ballina.
In the end we ourselves were left astounded that two teams could summon in the dying weeks of the year so much courage, so much strength and guts and character in the face of such harsh conditions.
Really, it was no day for football and you felt that football would have been the last thing on the minds of the players of Ballina and Clifden a couple of weeks from Christmas. Having watched this unforgettable encounter there was only one conclusion to be drawn  . . . that nothing other than football was on their minds.
This old game of ours has still a lot to recommend it. You could not take your eyes off a battle that raged from one end of the field to the other, in which each side in turn appeared set for victory only to have their hopes blighted by resurgent opponents.
The first signs of victory fell to Clifden. They had been playing against the wind – against a continuous gale and intermittent rain – and before we had settled they had stormed the Killala barricades, and rattled home two goals. All within six minutes.
Panic is not a word that enters the minds of the Killala players, it seems. Defeat might have flitted across their minds, but it did not deter them. They had a few aces on whom they could depend. In Rory Hannick they had something special, a leader, a motivator. They made full use of him at full-forward, pegging ball after ball towards him with the help of the high wind.
Hannick utilised that supply to the full. He won everything, and while he did not figure in the scoring his indefatigable work inspired most of the scores. His brother Marcus was equally industrious and scored a total of seven points, five of those helping to reduce the deficit in the first half. But although Kevin White, Brendan Garvin and Martin Farrell helped the home team to a lead of three points at the interval you wondered how long they would survive against the wind after the beak.
All the advantages were with Clifden: the wind, a slim deficit, and whatever psychological dent Killala carried with them from conceding those two goals. Thirteen minutes into the second half the visitors had raced into a lead of two points. Against a wind so strong that it even affected the ball in the short space between hand and toe Killala’s hopes were fading.
But from somewhere they found an inner strength to renew their conviction. They got their first score of the second half a minute into the last quarter. Kevin White was the provider, a left-footed reminder that all was not yet lost. Marcus Hannick followed up with another, and they were all square again.
It was a tremendous battle of wills between two sides that gave everything they had to the game. Despite the tough tackling, the goalmouth thrills on each side, the tension and the whimsical wind not an untoward incident occurred.
Clifden did not score after the 13th minute of the second half and Killala’s two points forced extra time. Legs soon reflected the ferocity of the exchanges in extra time with some players grounded by cramp. Injury, however, did not diminish the passion of the participants. But once again you felt that when they turned over for the final time the advantage lay with the visitors.
Killala, with the wind in the first ten minutes of added time, managed just one point . . . by Kevin White from a free. It seemed nowhere enough to get them through a further ten minutes of, if anything, stiffening wind. Nor would they, had it not been for the intervention of their manager Declan O’Dea and his selectors.
For the final ten minutes they re-energised the team with fresh legs, particularly those of their captain Ronan Clarke and Pat Bilbow. And the two had a profound effect on the outcome. Five minutes into the second half of extra time Clarke brilliantly set up Bilbow who dribbled the ball expertly into a shooting position. His shot lost its intensity and a Clifden defender scampered back to clear the ball away . . . but not before it had crossed the goal line.
It was heartbreaking on Clifden, yet Killala were worthy winners. Their capacity to keep going when all seemed lost owes much to their preparation, their strength of mind, and their mentors who pulled a masterstroke in the final minutes. The two clubs deserve the plaudits of everyone for their efforts.
The talent displayed, especially by the Hannick brothers and full-back Karl Dooher, is unlikely to have gone unnoticed by John O’Mahony’s scouts.

THE Frank Reynolds Cup presented to Killala on Sunday is named in memory of Frank Reynolds, a native of Aughavas, Co. Leitrim who played senior football for Leitrim and Mayo. Frank’s former colleagues in an Garda Siochana presented it to the Connacht Council. Frank was a detective garda attached to Castlebar at the time of his untimely death at the age of forty-seven in 1988.
He was a prominent member of the Aughavas Club, but also won two Westmeath senior championships with St Lomans, Mullingar. Transferred to Castlebar in the mid sixties, Frank won two county senior championships with Castlebar Mitchels and he also served as an officer of the club for a number of years. He also won a senior championship medal with North Mayo while on temporary transfer to the area.
Strong and agile, Frank was a tough but fair opponent with a prodigious kick. He was a prominent member of the Mayo Garda team,which he captained for a number of years, and will be remembered for his many tussles with one of Mayo’s great players, the late John Morley, who was attached to the Roscommon Garda team.
Frank was married to Tina, a native of the Hollymount area, and they had four daughters, Imelda, Orlaith, Carmel and Aoife. Tina, who lives at Lodge Road, Westport, was in attendance at the match on Sunday accompanied by Orlaith.

IN his report to the annual convention of Mayo GAA Board secretary Sean Feeney has hit out at what he called the ‘downtown black pudding’ type of debate about the coming and going of the Mayo management of Mickey Moran and John Morrison.
He said the prophets were predicting that in 2006 Mayo would win an All-Ireland senior title but it was not to be even though few thought we would reach one. “The appointment of Mickey Moran and John Morrison did not meet with universal approval and was debated ad nausea on local radio. It was again debated ad nausea when the partnership broke up and the officers of the board shook hands and decided to move on as was in the agreement.”
The secretary said there was no better county for debating issues on radio and in the press than Mayo but it would be great if there were a little more fact and accuracy, and less fiction. “We have too much of the downtown black pudding stuff, and a little more enlightened debate would lift the tone rather than feeding fodder to the vulgar who are always willing to bite.”
He said the All-Ireland defeat by Kerry was devastating and in particular since it happened within two years at the hands of the same opposition. “Perhaps we read too much into the victory over Dublin. Perhaps they, too, underestimated Mayo. That’s the beauty about sport, no one can predict with certainty.”
He said one thing was, however, certain . . . Mayo had a lot to do. “It is easy to talk about winning, but it’s a matter of making the necessary sacrifices to achieve it.”
The secretary makes one significant remark about the headaches which club fixtures cause in the middle of summer. “The restructuring of the league and championship qualifier system will create a few extra Sundays, but the problems will never be addressed fully unless and until all qualifiers are eliminated at minor and senior level.”

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