Breaffy are still waiting to win their first Mayo SFC title after Knockmore upset the odds in style to win their first Moclair Cup since 1997 at a sun-drenched Elvery’s MacHale Park in Castlebar.
The famous North Mayo club were claiming the senior title for the ninth time, with man of the match Darren McHale hitting 1-4 and Kevin McLoughlin exerting a major influence in the second half to leave Breaffy cursing their luck for the fourth time in eight seasons.
The winners are managed by former Mayo forward, Ray Dempsey, who was part of the last Knockmore team to win the championship 23 years ago.
Darren McHale’s goal in the seventh minute set Knockmore on their way and, despite trailing at half-time by a point, they got their running game going in the second half to kick on and take the initiative.
Breaffy had put themselves in a strong position at the halfway mark, but they faded out of contention in the closing stages and despite the best efforts of the O’Shea brothers and Matthew Ruane, they found scores almost impossible to come by.
Knockmore were at their best in the third quarter and, overall, they outscoring a beleaguered Breaffy by 0-10 to 0-6 in the second period.
The aforementioned Darren McHale shot four points during that time, with Peter Naughton (2), Aidan Orme, Keith Ruttledge, and Kieran Langan also landing crucial scores.
Breaffy found themselves behind by a goal heading into additional time, and tried everything to rescue the situation but all they could manage during six minutes of additional time was a pointed free from Conor O’Shea.
The game was played at a hectic pace and Knockmore, who were appearing in their first county final since 2016, came flying out of the blocks to lead by 1-1 to no score after seven minutes.
An early point from playmaker Keith Ruttledge got the ball rolling before the pacy Darren McHale palmed the ball past Rob Hennelly in the Breaffy goal after Peter Naughton’s penetrating run through the defence.
By the time the first water break arrived, Knockmore led by 1-2 to 0-3 with Colm Flynn, Matthew Ruane, and Tommy O’Reilly (free) pulling back scores for Breaffy.
The West Mayo side played their best football of the day in the second quarter.
In total they shot six points without reply during their spell on top, with four of them coming after the resumption of play as Tommy O’Reilly (0-2, one free), Conor O’Shea, and Ruane all hit the target.
Knockmore also lost key forward Aidan Orme to a black card in the 29th minute so when the half-time whistle blew, with Breaffy ahead by 0-7 to 1-2, it looked like it might finally be their day.
A point from Aidan O’Shea (who was double-teamed for most of the match by David McHale and Kieran King) just 46 seconds after the restart strengthened Breaffy’s resolve and their position.
However, it also seemed to snap Knockmore into life with Kevin McLoughlin becoming much more influential as he and his team-mates started to play the game on their terms.
Six quickfire points in nine minutes from Darren McHale (4), Peter Naughton, and Keith Ruttledge propelled the winners into a lead midway through the second half they never surrendered.
They were now ahead by 1-8 to 0-9 and had Breaffy right where they wanted them.
Peter Ford and Shane Conway got a chance to rally their troops during the second half water break and, to their credit, they kept pushing right to the bitter end.
But all they mustered up in the last 20 minutes were three points, two of them coming from frees, as Knockmore’s well-drilled defence frustrated Breaffy repeatedly.
Down at the other end, Aidan Orme (2), Kieran Langan, and Peter Naughton kept the scoreboard ticking over and was more than enough to keep Breaffy at arm’s length.
C Reape; S Holmes, David McHale, A Stadler; N Armstrong, K King, C Flynn; K McLoughlin, S McHale; P Ruttledge, Darren McHale (1-4), C Dempsey; P Naughton (0-3), A Orme (0-2, 1f), K Ruttledge (0-2).
K Langan (0-1) for Flynn; S Ruttledge for P Ruttledge; M Parke for Armstrong; C Hopkins for Ruttledge.
R Hennelly (0-1, 1f); D Cannon, J Minogue, K Mulchrone; D Morrin, M Hall, R Martyn; M Ruane (0-2), S O’Shea; R Fadden, C O’Shea (0-3, 1f), T O’Reilly (0-5, 3fs); G Dunne, A O’Shea (0-1), C Flynn (0-1).
B Murphy for Dunne; S McDermott for Flynn; M Dervan for Mulchrone; C Kelly for Cannon.
J Glavey (Aghamore)