Ballintubber, winners of the Moclair Cup in both 2010 and 2011, tore Knockmore apart in yesterday’s second semi-final at MacHale Park, romping to a 20-point victory.
A one-sided affair finished 9-11 to 2-12, and the West Mayo side’s incredible tally included a hat-trick from Mayo star Cillian O’Connor, while his brothers Padraic (two), Diarmuid and Ruaidhri also hit the net at various stages on a very special day for the family.
Alan Plunkett also chipped in with two fine goals as Ballintubber ripped the Knockmore defence to shreds time and again.
The winners were six goals clear at half-time (7-6 to 1-6) with their entire tally in that opening period coming from play.
Knockmore’s consolation goal in that first half was a stunning strike by Darren McHale, but Nigel Reape’s side were left playing only for pride after the resumption.
Kieran Langan and Kevin McLoughlin were among those Knockmore players who tried to carry the fight to Ballintubber, but it was all to no avail.
Cillian O’Connor completed his hat-trick on 41 minutes and, despite the fact they were outscored by 0-5 to 0-3 in the last 20 minutes, Peter Ford and Tony Duffy’s side still freewheeled to a facile win.
Knockmore, who haven’t won a county senior title since 1997, had their miserable day compounded in the closing stages when Alan Loftus was shown a straight red card by referee Kevin Connelly.
Meanwhile, Castlebar Mitchels had to withstand a determined second-half rally from Garrymore in the curtain-raiser before booking their place in their fourth final in five seasons with a 1-14 to 1-11 victory.
Last year’s beaten All-Ireland club finalists bolted out of the blocks and shot the first five points of the match, allowing them to establish a half-time lead of 0-6 to 0-3.
One of the biggest talking points from the opening period was a colour clash of both side’s red jerseys, which for some reason was allowed to go unchecked for the first 30 minutes.
After a number of cases of ‘mistaken identity’ during the half, it was no surprise that one team changed during the break, and Castlebar Mitchels emerged in their second strip (white) after the restart.
An excellent fisted goal from Richie Feeney on 42 minutes left Mitchels ahead 1-10 to 0-5 and seemingly cruising to victory.
But Garrymore, who haven’t appeared in a county senior final since 1982, came roaring back into contention with an unanswered 1-3; the goal from a brilliantlydispatched penalty from Jimmy Killeen and some superb long-range points by Mark Tierney and Caoilean Crowe.
The margin had been sliced back to just two points at that stage with five minutes left, but Castlebar responded impressively as marauding wing-back Patrick Durcan, substitute Stephen Keane and Niall Lydon settled their nerves with a hat-trick of badly-needed scores.
Garrymore, to their credit, refused to throw in the towel and pegged back a few late points from Enda Varley and David Dolan to keep the contest alive.
But Castlebar kept them at arm’s length in the closing minutes to run out three-point winners.
New Mayo senior joint managers Pat Holmes and Noel Connelly were among the large crowd that turned out to watch these two fierce rivals book their place in yet anothercounty final on Sunday, October 19.
This will be the third time in five seasons that they will meet in the decider.