Another Ballyboden burner? Another Mayo malfunction?
A little from column A, a little from column B but on this occasion the victors deservedly wrote the history. Much like the Dublin final last November when they led St Vincents 1-7 to 0-3 at half-time, Ballyboden built this glory on a start of such potency that it literally stunned their opponents.
Castlebar’s collapse will easily, and perhaps lazily, be thrown onto the heap of Mayo final disappointments in Croke Park but nothing should be written or said to take from this masterclass of tactics and application from Ballyboden.
Declan O’Mahoney’s absence in midfield was hardly felt as they sized up Castlebar for coffins and proceeded to bury them. Castlebar’s attacking threat from the half-back-line in the form of Paddy Durkan was negated by Andy McEntee’s decision to assign onto him his own dashing wing-back Robbie McDaid.
To compensate for that, McEntee introduced previous substitutes in Stephen O’Connor and Shane Durkin to the wings, Aaron Waters moving into midfield where he more than compensated for the loss of O’Mahoney, setting up Colm Basquel’s goal after 90 seconds and delivering an exquisite long ball into Ryan Basquel, who should have done more with 10 minutes in.
Since, as we learned afterwards, Michael Darragh Macauley carried a knock into the game, on top of O’Mahoney’s unavailability, it made sense for Ballyboden to try and bypass an area where Castlebar looked to have the edge with Barry Moran. Indeed, Moran was conspicuous by his anonymity for long stretches.
Bob Dwan’s marking of Richie Feeney brought to mind last September when Philly McMahon outscored Colm Cooper, one point to no score. Here, Dwan registered three points to Feeney’s zero as the former Mayo player was left to rue another Croke Park final day two years after his early black card against St Vincents.
The changes in the Ballyboden half-back line, Castlebar co-manager Declan O’Reilly admitted afterwards, had them taken aback. “It didn’t help things,” he said.
“We knew about one change and there were two changes that weren’t announced and it took us a few minutes to get to grips with them. There was a bit of damage done at that stage. We had ball after that. I felt that we just lost our way a bit.”
By the 15th minute, the scoreline read 2-3 to 0-0 and Castlebar’s performance was already being dismissed as yet another no-show from the west. They looked rattled in their shooting and Ballyboden were preying on their lack of confidence.
The Dubliners’ second goal came in the 15th minute when Andrew Kerin was felled by Tom Cunniffe although the initial foul may have taken place outside the parallelogram. Kerin stepped up to find the net from the spot.
Castlebar threatened to hit back two minutes later when Paul Durcan did well to parry a Neil Lydon shot off the post and out for a 45, prompting Mitchels’ first score of the game. They added only two further points before half-time in comparison to the 2-5 Ballyboden had collected.
Worse was to follow for Castlebar in the second half as Dwan and Shane Clayton stomped out any fires they were threatening to start. Another Ballyboden goal chance went a-begging in the 36th minute but Dwan was on hand to make sure a point was converted and Durkin followed his example seconds later.
As Castlebar committed more men forward in desperation more than hope, Ballyboden were picking off scores on the counter-attack with ease. Conal Keaney and Ryan Basquel tagged on points to extend the margin to 12 by the 43rd minute.
Castlebar didn’t open their second half account until a minute later and while the gap was cut to nine with eight minutes remaining they mustered just one more score in contrast to the five points Ballyboden claimed, notwithstanding another goal opportunity which fell to Keaney.
After so many tight squeezes on their way to the final, it was natural for Ballyboden to feel a little disorientated by how easily this win had come to them. The simple fact was they turned up; their opponents didn’t.
“I wouldn’t say we expected to shut them out to seven points and win the game by 12 or 13 or whatever we won by,” said Ballyboden manager Andy McEntee, “but I did expect us to put two full halves together which is something we haven’t done all year and that was a challenge for us.
“We put in a good half against Vincents and didn’t back it up in the second half. We put good patches together here and there and the challenge for us on the biggest day on the biggest stage to put together a performance like that.”
Challenge posed. Challenge accepted. Challenge surmounted.
C Basquel, A Kerin (1-0 pen) (1-1 each); B Dwan (0-3); R Basquel, S Durkin (0-2 each); MD Macauley, S O’Connor, C Keaney, R McDaid, D O’Reilly (0-1 each).
N Douglas (1 45), A Walsh (frees) (0-2 each); N Lydon, P Durkan, J Durkan (0-1 each).
P Durcan; B Dwan, S Hiney, S Clayton; S O’Connor, D Nelson, S Durkin; MD Macauley, A Waters; D O’Reilly, C Basquel, R McDaid; R Basquel, C Keaney, A Kerin.
C Flaherty for D Nelson (blood 25-ht); S Lambert for MD Macauley (inj 35); S Molony for R Basquel, D Davey for D O’Reilly (60); D McCabe for A Waters (60+1).
R Byrne; T Cunniffe, A Feeney, D Newcombe; P Durkan, E O’Reilly, R O’Malley; G McDonagh, B Moran; S Hopkins, N Lydon, N Douglas; S Keane, D Kirby, R Feeney.
F Durkan for S Hopkins (25); J Durkan for R Feeney, C Costello for S Keane (both 37); R Burke for D Newcombe (51).
C Lane (Cork)