THREE late points propelled Ballintubber to their fifth Mayo SFC title after an absorbing final at a rain-soaked McHale Park, Castlebar this evening.
The reigning champions came out on top thanks to scores from Mayo’s all-time leading scorer Cillian O’Connor (2) and impressive substitute Keelan McDonnell, but they were pushed every step of the way by a Ballaghaderreen side who lost nothing in defeat.
In fact, had the challengers been more efficient in front of goal — they racked up 10 wides over the course of the game — they could have pulled off an upset.
But Ballintubber, who were winning this title for the fifth time in ten seasons, made all that experience count when the chips were down in the last quarter with man of the match, Michael Plunkett, Jason Gibbons and the O’Connor brothers, Diarmuid and Cillian, all playing leading roles.
The sides were level on five occasions in the opening period and by half-time the sides were also deadlocked at 1-6 apiece.
Cormac Doohan scored a spectacular goal for Ballagh’ in the 25th minute but that was cancelled out just four minutes later by a neat finish from Michael Plunkett at the other end.
The champions got back on level terms with a neat point from Stephen O’Malley to the leave the teams on level terms.
The third quarter was every bit as tight and tense with former Footballer of the Year Andy Moran, who finished as Ballagh’s top scorer with six points, and his former Mayo team-mate, Cillian O’Connor, trading points on a number of occasions.
A series of heavy rain showers in the last twenty minutes added to the drama and number of mistakes and unforced errors as both sides missed chances to take the initiative.
Their well-organised defence frustrated Ballagh’ time and again, while three counter-attacks yielded points for Keelan McDonnell and Cillian O’Connor to seal the deal.
Ballintubber manager Kevin Johnson, a native of Sligo, will now be turning his thoughts to a Connacht club quarter-final clash with Leitrim champions, Glencar/Manorhamilton on Sunday, November 3.
B Walsh; G Loftus, B Murphy, R O’Connor; D Coleman, M Plunkett (1-0), M Kelly; J Gibbons, D O’Connor (0-1); C Gavin (0-1), C O’Connor (0-7, 4fs), B Walsh; N Geraghty, A Plunkett, S O’Malley (0-3).
K McDonnell (0-2) for A Plunkett; J Geraghty for Kelly; P O’Connor for O’Malley.
P Sharkey; D Drake, S Cunniffe, P Kelly; D McBrien (0-1), O Jordan (0-1), S Akram; D Kelly, R Lynch; D Feeney, C Hanley (0-1), L O’Grady (0-1); C Doohan (1-1), A Moran (0-6, 3fs), K Callaghan.
A Lynch for P Kelly; T Carmody for Feeney; D McHugh for O’Grady.
J Henry (Castlebar Mitchels)