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Ballina Stephenites back in Mayo senior decider



Ballina Stephenites 3-10
Ballintubber 1-13

Mike Finnerty

BALLINA’S ability to strike for goals proved decisive again as they advanced to the Mayo SFC Final for the first time since 2007 at Hastings Insurance MacHale Park in Castlebar on Sunday afternoon.
The Stephenites hit the Ballintubber net at crucial stages with goals from Evan Regan (20th minute), Frank Irwin (41st minute, from a rebound after his penalty was saved) and Luke Doherty (51st minute) propelling them to a deserved victory.
But Niall Heffernan’s charges were made to fight every step of the way by five-time winners Ballintubber, with Diarmuid O’Connor’s 57th minute goal setting up a grandstand finish.
O’Connor’s flicked finish past David Clarke left just three points between the teams, but the Stephenites held their nerve and points from the outstanding Padraig O’Hora and Mikey Murray cancelled out late efforts from the O’Connor brothers, Cillian (free) and Diarmuid.
Ballina finished the game with 14 men after O’Hora was sent off after being booked for a second time, while Cillian O’Connor’s last-gasp free flew wide of David Clarke’s goal, just before the final whistle sounded.
The Stephenites had led at half-time by 1-5 to 0-6 thanks to Evan Regan’s goal.
The sides had traded some fine scores early on with Ciaran Gavin and Bryan Walsh on target for Ballintubber and two Frank Irwin clipping two Ballina frees before the outsiders kicked on to make the running.
A string of unanswered points from Gary Loftus, Diarmuid O’Connor and Jason Gibbons saw the Abbeysiders lead by 0-5 to 0-2 after 14 minutes.
But Ballina never wavered from their game-plan and scores from Evan Regan (free) and the impressive Frank Irwin arrived before Regan’s well-taken goal.
It came after the former Mayo attacker pounced on a mix-up from a Ballintubber kick-out to hit Brendan Walsh’s net.
Regan tacked on a point in the 27th minute to extend Ballina’s lead before Stephen O’Malley landed ‘Tubber’s only score of the second quarter just before the interval to keep them in touch.
The second half kept the large crowd enthralled, but Ballina’s ability to strike for goals at crucial stages made the difference in the end.

B Walsh; J Walsh, B Murphy, F Bourke; G Loftus (0-1), D O’Connor (1-2), H Geraghty; D McHale, J Gibbons (0-1, mark); K McDonnell (0-1), C O’Connor (0-3, 3fs), B Walsh (0-1); C Gavin (0-2), S O’Malley (0-1), A Plunkett (0-1).
Subs used: S Burke for Walsh (inj); M Plunkett for J Walsh; M Kelly for Loftus; J Geraghty for Bourke.

Ballina Stephenites
D Clarke; R Tighe, D Tighe, J Doherty; C Boland, P O’Hora (0-1), K Tighe; S Callinan, F Irwin (1-5, 4fs); D Thornton, C McStay, J Irwin; N Feeney, E Regan (1-2, 1f), M Birrane.
Subs used: L Doherty (1-0) for N Feeney; M Murray (0-2) for J Irwin; K Newell for K Tighe; D O’Mahoney for R Tighe; R Morrin for Birrane.

Referee: K Connelly (Hollymount-Carramore)

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