September 4 2021
Mayo Senior Football League Division 1B
Castlebar Mitchels 0-10 Ballintubber 0-10
In many ways, this was a something of a throw-back to the heyday of our great rivalry which dominated Mayo club football for roughly a decade.
It wasn’t the greatest of matches, but the second half in particular evoked memories of the days when these two former giants arm-wrestled for the Moclair Cup.
Indeed, the fact that so many of the battle-scarred gladiators who starred in those classics were on display here only added to the nostalgia.
While the likes of Neil Douglas, Danny Kirby, Ger McDonagh, Donal Newcombe, Jason Gibbons, Damien Coleman, Alan Plunkett and Gary Loftus are still battling way, the generation who looked up to those men also made their mark.
Stephen O’Malley was once again Ballintubber’s leading marksman in Cillian O’Connor’s absence, while Finian Bourke, Jack Walsh and Noel Geraghty all continued to show promise.
For Mitchels, young guns like Paul Walsh, Seamus Touhy, Peter Basquille, Paddy Heneghan and Donnacha McHugh nicely complemented Mitchels’ elder statesmen.
With two evenly-matched teams, the occasional flair-up, and so many veterans still soldiering away, it felt a lot like the Ballintubber-Mitchels games we once knew.
In the end, a draw proved to be a fair result when the final whistle went in Jose Munnelly Park.
Both teams blended a running game with the occasional punt into the danger men.
Yet despite this attacking mindset, neither team mustered a goal chance worthy of mention.
Midfield proved a fascinating battle ground, with Donal Vaughan and Gavin Durcan going to war with Jason Gibbons and Joe Geraghty.
While proceedings were even for most of the game, it was one-way traffic for the first fifteen minutes.
In an impressive spell of play, the hosts went six points ahead through Neil Douglas (0-3, 1f), Donncha McHugh, Anthony O’Boyle and the electric Paul Walsh (0-1 each).
Ballintubber put a halt to the Castlebar steamroller when full-forward Stephen O’Malley pointed their opener just before the water break.
From here on, the we kept to the pace of the game, outscoring their opponents 0-5 to 0-1 for the remainder of the half.
O’Malley was on hand to hit a Maurice Fitzgerald-style screamer from the outside of the boot which brought the half to a close, with Ballintubber trailing by a point.
Another highlight was a 70-yard solo run from Jason Gibbons to set up Alan Plunkett for our second point of the evening.
While Mitchels introduced some fresh legs in the second half, we stuck to the 15 which started the game before being forced to withdraw the injured Finian Bourke and Noel Geraghty.
In scoring terms, the gap never expanded beyond a point, another enduring feature of the great battles which these two teams have produced over the years.
At one point, our lads produced what TG4 would call a ‘scór inspioráideach’ when Finian Bourke pulled off a ‘Superman’ block before the Abbeysiders swiftly moved the ball up the field to win a very scoreable free, which O’Malley duly dispatched.
Two points from Hugh and Noel Geraghty arrived either side of two Mitchels scores, with Ethan Gibbons’ late free levelling the game for the fourth time.
With both teams inclined to commit more bodies to defence after the water-break, we found it hard to break down the Mitchels’ defence for that decisive score. Liam Devenney eventually concluded proceedings, leaving us with three points from four rounds of League football.
Ballintubber team that lined out: (1)Frank Walsh (2)Gary Loftus (3)Brian Murphy (4)Finian Bourke (5)Myles Kelly (6)Damien Coleman (7)Jack Walsh (8)Joe Geraghty (9)Jason Gibbons (10)Hugh Geraghty (0-1) (11)Noel Geraghty (0-1) (12)Keelan McDonnell (13)Ciarán Gavin (0-2) (14)Stephen O’Malley (0-5, 5f) (15)Alan Plunkett (0-1)
Substitutions: Stephen Burke for Noel Geraghty (55 min, inj.), Gavin Roache for Finian Bourke (60 min, inj.)
Referee: Liam Devenney