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Jack’s hat-trick beats Ballyheane


MAIN MAN Jack O'Connor, the hat-trick hero wrote his name into club folklore with his goalscoring heroics.

Ballyheane      1
Reilly-Doyle 5

Kiltimagh/Knock Utd    3
O’Connor 60 (pen), 83, 89

John Corless

THIS was by far the best Super League match of the season.
A second-half hat-trick by Jack O’Connor — against the breeze and against the odds — was enough to confirm Kiltimagh/Knock United (KKU) as a serious force in Mayo football, and has blown the title race wide open.
When Ben Edeh set up Nathan Reilly-Doyle to put Ballyheane in front after only five minutes, this match appeared to be heading down a very familiar path. It usually takes the champions fifteen minutes to get the measure of their opponents on any given day; on Sunday it looked like they had sussed KKU that bit earlier.
But O’Connor and his team-mates had other ideas.
Reilly-Doyle took his goal well. He took possession on the edge of the box and placed his low shot beyond the reach of Niall Walshe. It was Ballyheane’s first attack.  
O’Connor had a few chances to equalise before the break. He hit one wide and another over. He headed Gallagher’s cross wide on 34 minutes when he really should have equalised. Jack Mullarkey had a chance too, and Tommie Scahill in the Ballyheane goal stopped James McGrath’s header on his right-hand post.
At the other end, Edeh, Reilly Doyle and Rory Morris threatened, but Brendan Walshe and Dan Duffy at the heart of the KKU defence stood firm.  
The visitors put it up to the champions after the break. Despite facing a stiff breeze, they took control of the match with Ronan Mallee and James McGrath outstanding in the middle.
Ballyheane didn’t create as many clear chances as normal, but Jack Tuffy should have scored from Edeh’s cross after he had gone forward for a set-piece.
On the hour, the normally impeccable Darragh Ludden took Caulfield down in the box and O’Connor, the ex-Galway United and Sligo Rovers man, sent Scahill the wrong way from the spot to level it. Minutes later, Ballyheane’s great warrior, Seán Kilcoyne had to leave the field with a head injury.
Brian Gallagher found space for KKU on the wing but his cross was cleared and Ballyheane countered. It looked like Morris would restore Ballyheane’s lead but Walshe, in the visitors’ goal, had the measure of the young striker’s shot.
And then, in the 83rd minute, the visitors’ hard work paid off and O’Connor tapped in Darragh Hanlon’s pass to put KKU in front. It was no more than they deserved.
O’Connor’s third was a masterpiece. Behind 2-1, Ballyheane still had a point to play for. They pushed up. Duffy cleared. It fell to O’Connor inside the circle. Any other player would have headed for the corner flag to run-down the clock. O’Connor glanced-up, saw Scahill at the edge of his penalty area, and shot. This wasn’t a speculative blast.
It was a precise strike, judging the wind, the height of the ‘keeper and the location of the goal. When the ball sailed over Scahill, everyone knew it would dip perfectly under the crossbar, in the middle of the goal, without bouncing.  At 3-1, it was game over.
KKU were full value for their win. The played with skill and enormous passion.
They have some really excellent players and they have hit form at a great time in the season. Their coach, Paul Byrne’s influence can be seen all over the park. They play football, as do Ballyheane. The 200 or so spectators will rarely see as good a match in the Mayo League. This was the real deal. Ballyheane were good on Sunday, but just not good enough. O’Connor, with his hat-trick, was obviously The Mayo News man of the match.
But Duffy, Brendan Walshe, McGrath or Mallee, could have been too. Edeh, Reilly-Doyle and Morris tried really hard for Ballyheane, but their efforts weren’t enough.  

T Scahill, D Purcell, C Redmond, J Tuffy, D Ludden, S Kilcoyne, M Fahey, D Fadden, R Morris, N Reilly-Doyle, B Edeh.
Subs used: E Doyle, D Moran, L Morris, S Staunton, S Thomas, L Meldrum.

Kiltimagh Knock United
N Walshe, E Eaton, D Duffy, B Walshe, R Mallee, J McGrath, S Collins, J Mullarkey, J O’Connor, C Caulfield, B Gallagher.
Subs used: L Jordan, E Joyce, D Hanlon, M Leadbetter, D Webb, I Carty, D Smith.

Referee: D McGrath


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