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Club quality starts to shine through

Sport

HARD AT WORK Chloe and Emma Stagg from Hollymount were handing out the match programs in St Coman’s Park before last Saturday evening’s Mayo SFC match between Balla and Claremorris. Pic: Conor McKeown


Seán Rice

THE debate continues about where to play Aidan O’Shea. Breaffy have been starting him where they, like many others, believe he is most effective.
At full-forward he has been less prolific than might be expected of full forwards in general. But he makes scores for others and causes panic in defences.
Played properly he could become the full-forward we would all wish him to be. On Saturday only one suitably high ball was delivered to him which he won over the heads of two Belmullet defenders.
Other than that he went looking for the ball. Without it he becomes restless. He feeds on being part of the play in whatever corner of the field it is . . . as if otherwise he would seize up.
You get the impression that he will never be tied down at full-forward . . . unless provided liberally and appropriately.
O’Shea played a big role in securing Breaffy’s clean sweep in Group 3, and a place once more in the quarter-finals of the championship. There were occasions when they played championship winning football . . . other times when they were less convincing. Inconsistency still stalks an otherwise stellar strewn side.
They are not short of quality. With a bedrock of four county footballers, and many others who would not be out of place on the county team, they should be clear favourites to win the Moclair Cup.
While soaring to a six-points lead over Belmullet they uncovered all the qualities of a side bent on slaking their thirst for the coveted title.
But when big Fionnan Ryan cut their lead with the only goal of the game halfway through the second half, their composure took a nosedive. Their cohesion became unstuck. Their confidence splintered somewhat.
The big men held them together in those last shaky minutes as Belmullet, emboldened by that goal, put fierce pressure on a less than comfortable defence.
Fionan Ryan, all six-foot-four of him, caused most of the trouble, highlighting what a big man at full forward can contribute if the right ball comes his way. Even Aidan O’Shea might have picked up something from him.
The introduction of Ryan O’Donoghue in the 16th minute spurred the men from the north. After easing into the game the Mayo star became Belmullet’s inspiration, and helped them nearly to pull it off.
But for the performance of Mattie Ruane he might well have succeeded. The Mayo midfielder was outstanding, breaking up play, charging through the field and scoring four points all at crucial periods in the game.
There were also some sterling performances by Rob Hennelly, Michael Hall, Mark Dervan, Colm Kelly, Daire Morrin and Robbie Fadden, and Gareth Dunne and Tommy O’Reilly in the first half.
In full flow they had the look of a side determined and assured, moving the ball with purpose. But after Ryan scored Belmullet’s goal their security ebbed and they suffered many nervous moments right up to the final whistle.
They renew old rivalry with Ballintubber at the weekend in a quarter-final that will test their true standing.

Stephenites start to motor
THE versatility of Ballina’s Jack Irwin was a feature of the rout of Aghamore on Sunday.
Having starred at centre-back in their victory over Knockmore two weeks earlier it was surprising to see the big man line out at wing forward. But although he scored only a single point his performance in that position was equally impressive and is a testament to the variety of skills modern footballers have come to master.
Once you were a defender and nothing else. That’s not enough nowadays. As Lee Keegan has so frequently demonstrated you have got to be proficient at every level of play.
Irwin was all of those things and in no small way lent his weight to Ballina’s easy advance to the quarter-finals.
It was a bit too easy. Tougher opponents and a closer game would have provided them with more of an edge for Sunday’s quarter-final against Claremorris. That said, they looked like a side to trouble the best . . . if they themselves are not the best.
Outstanding teamwork inspired by Padraic O’Hora brushed aside the challenge of Aghamore to the extent that by halftime the match was to all intents and purposes decided.
All over the field they were dominant. When Dylan Thornton fisted the ball into the net in the 18th minute, following a centre by Frank Irwin ideally suited to a big full forward, the game lurched one way.
It was fitting that O’Hora, an attacking defender, nailed their second goal. He had run all the way from the defence to avail of the brilliant work of Jack Irwin and roll the ball into the Aghamore net with the side of his foot.
O’Hora was listed at centre back, but was everywhere, clearing, assisting, attacking in a massive display of selflessness.
They had dominant midfielders, too, in Sam Callinan and Frank Irwin, a free specialist in Evan Regan, a trojan worker in Mark Birrane, an elusive, weaving talent in Conor McStay and resolute defenders in Keith Tighe, James Doherty and Ciaran Boland.
And of course they continue to enjoy the consistency of David Clarke, the man in goal who seems to go on forever.
They led by 2-6 to 0-3 at the interval. Their two further goals came in the 42nd minute – a splendid pass from Evan Regan finished by Birrane; the other another classic four minutes from the end, this time by Luke Doherty set up by Sam Callinan.
Fergal Boland did pull one back for Aghamore in the 44th minute, but it was no more than a consolation, their opponents having become by then invincible.
They will be favourites against Claremorris in the quarter-finals. But the south Mayo men will be no pushover.
The outcome is by no means certain.

Carolan cuts loose again
HAVING led by six points with five minutes remaining Parke seemed destined for an easy entrance to the intermediate quarter-finals.
But in typical fashion Burrishoole crashed home a goal in the 55th minute and almost upset the applecart. In those rousing last minutes the Newport men got the margin down to a single point, but Parke held out somehow.
The late entrance of their injured captain, Adrian McManamon, got the goal, and if he had been there for the entire game might well have made the difference.
But Parke were the better side. Pacier and more alert to the broken ball, they won most of the kick-outs including those of their opponents. And they had in Ronan Carolan a player to grace any team standard.
The full forward’s hoard amounted to ten points and his play in general was worth a lot more to the Parke men.
Burrishoole, trailing by a point at the interval, raised the tempo after the break. Jason Doherty’s free-taking had kept them in the game in the first half. While less nimble than their opponents their physical strength often carried them through Parke’s defensive lines.
But their finishing was poor, and until the entrance of their captain did not look like close challengers.

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