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Ballyhaunis capture Mayo Intermediate crown


Mayo Intermediate Football Championship

Ballyhaunis 0-13
Kilmeena 0-10

Mike Finnerty

A FLYING finish propelled Ballyhaunis to the club’s fourth Mayo Intermediate championship title after they wore down Kilmeena at a rain-soaked Hastings Insurance MacHale Park in Castlebar on Saturday.
Inspired by a man of the match display from the outstanding Jack Coyne, the East Mayo lads shot four points in the last fifteen minutes to finally break Kilmeena’s resistance.
Last year’s Mayo Junior champions will rue a string of missed chances in the first half while they also saw three goal chances go abegging in the second half.
But Ballyhaunis were full value for this first Intermediate final victory in three attempts after coming up short against The Neale (2019) and Mayo Gaels (2021) in recent seasons.
They used all their experience, physical strength and guile in the closing stages to take control of the match with a string of scores from Jason Coyne (2 frees), Morgan Lyons and Kevin Byrne (2) seeing them kick for home decisively.
Kilmeena continued to press right to the bitter end, but having fallen five points behind all they could manage in the closing stages were two pointed frees from top scorer Darragh Keaveney.
The reigning All-Ireland Junior club champions had led at half-time by 0-6 to 0-5 after an opening half dominated by a swirling wind.
Ballyhaunis had come flying out of the blocks and two quickfire points from James Lyons and Adrian Philips (a ‘45) saw them take the initiative.
But wind-assisted Kilmeena quickly settled and with Jack Carney getting into his stride around the middle, the outsiders reeled off four points without reply from Carney, Darragh Keaveney (2, one free) and Joey Smyth (a mark).
The pendulum then swung in the opposite direction as Ballyhaunis hit three points from Adrian Philips (free), Morgan Lyons and Jack Coyne to lead by 0-5 to 0-4 after 19 minutes.
Coyne’s rasping effort which flew just over Paul Groden’s crossbar turned out to be Ballyhaunis’ last point of the half.
Despite missing some good chances, Kilmeena finally ended 17 minutes without a score when Jack Carney hit the target from close-range to level the game for the third time before Darragh Keaveney drilled a terrific score on the stroke of half-time to put John Reilly’s men back in front.
With the weather conditions deteriorating rapidly, the second half saw both teams endeavour to play good football despite the driving rain and strong wind.
Ballyhaunis used both elements to their advantage and two rapid scores from Morgan Lyons and corner-back Conor Freeley saw them leapfrog Kilmeena shortly after the restart.
A Darragh Keaveney free levelled things up for the fourth and final time on 37 minutes before Ballyhaunis began to take control around the middle and harness the conditions to their advantage.
Paul Jordan’s well-drilled troops went on to outscore Kilmeena by 0-6 to 0-1 over the next 20 minutes as the likes of Keith Higgins, Jack Coyne, Eoghan Collins, Kevin Byrne, James Lyons, Morgan Lyons and Jason Coyne became more and more influential.
Kilmeena’s cause wasn’t helped either by spurning three goalscoring chances with Joey Smyth touching the ball on the ground when in on goal; Jack Carney saw his flick towards goal saved on the line by Jack Coyne; and Darragh Keaveney hit Adrian Philips’ crossbar with a rasping, swerving effort from long-range.
On another day, had any of those chances gone in then Kilmeena may well have kicked on to win a first ever County Intermediate title.
Instead, Ballyhaunis held their nerve and used all their past experiences to push them on to a first victory at this grade since they overcame Hollymount-Carramore eight years ago.
Ballyhaunis captain Johnny Cunnane wrote his name into the record books after he lifted the Sweeney Cup and, credit to Kilmeena, they stayed on the field in the pouring rain until Cunnane had finished his acceptance speech.

A Philips (0-2, 1f, ‘45); C Freeley (0-1), K Higgins, D Cunnane; J Sutton, Jack Coyne (0-1), J Cunnane; K Kiely, K Byrne (0-2); J Lyons (0-1), E Collins (0-1), J Carney; A Sloyan, M Lyons (0-3), Jason Coyne (0-2, 2fs).
Subs used: E Philips for Sloyan; C Carney for E Philips (inj); L Herr for Kiely; D Murray for Jack Coyne (inj).

P Groden; J Mulchrone, J Keane, J Ryan; C Madden, S Staunton, C Kilcoyne; J Carney (0-2), K Ryder; L Moore, R O’Donnell, K Joyce; D Keaveney (0-6, 4fs), S Ryder, J Smyth (0-2, 1mark).
Subs used: J McGlynn for Moore; T Gill for O’Donnell; P Keane for J Keane; C Hastings for Staunton.

Referee: K Connelly (Hollymount-Carramore)

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