November 4th 2018
Connacht Senior Club Championship Preliminary Round
Ballintubber 0-6 Tourlestrane 0-5
Well then... it certainly wasn’t one for the “purists”, whoever they may be.
In the end though our lads got the job done against a Tourlestrane outfit which could well guard Castlerea Prison with such an airtight defensive setup as was displayed today. Five frees from Cillian O’Connor and a solitary point from play from brother Diarmuid was enough to see us through to the semi-finals of the Connacht Senior Club Championship next Sunday.
Playing with an Atlantic breeze at our backs, Kevin Johnson’s home club put at least thirteen men behind the ball when we were in possession. What transpired was an intense but frustrating war of attrition which saw us spend the entire game trying to poke holes in the Tourlestrane blanket.
In a game which demanded such patient build-up play, Alan Dillon, Diarmuid O’Connor, Jason Gibbons and Michael Plunkett were excellent in holding and winning possession around the middle eight.
Our first point game came two minutes in when Cillian O’Connor landed the first of his five frees. Diarmuid then pointed our only score from play in the tenth minute, doubling our lead.
Another converted free from Cillian in the twentieth minute extended our lead to three, as Eamon O’Hara’s men had still yet to get a score of any description. Their only point of the half did come eventually when their centre-forward Cathal Henry swung over a lovely effort with the outside of the boot on the stroke of half-time.
With many neutrals bemoaning the poor footballing spectacle which had transpired, the score read 0-3 to 0-1 in our favour at the break.
With the breeze dying down, Cathal Henry pointed the first point of the second half from a free one minute in. This was cancelled out by a free which Cillian O’Connor struck from the ground in the ninth minute. Tourlestrane then landed two points either side of another Cillian O’Connor free, leaving us 0-5 0-4 ahead mid-way through the half.
The Sligo champions then had a man sent off for a high challenge on Ruadhri O’Connor, but we still couldn’t push ourselves comfortably in front. Our only real goal chance saw Cillian O’Connor’s close-range pile driver blocked after being set up by our captain Damien Coleman. The Mayo captain then pointed our final score in the twentieth minute with a free off his left boot.
The final ten minutes were very cagey for the Red and White as Tourlestrane’s Cathal Henry reduced the deficit to a single score with three minutes remaining. A few testing balls sent towards the danger zone kept our full-back line on their toes as injury time loomed.
While we never landed a clinching score, we held on to the football in injury time long enough to prevail by a single point.
It was a day to forget for the game of football, but we got the job done. Up next are Aughawillan in Carrick-on-Shannon. Baile an Tobair Abú!
Ballintubber team that lined out: (1)Brendan Walsh (2)Gary Loftus (3)Cathal Hallinan (4)Brian Murphy (5)Damien Coleman (6)Michael Plunkett (7)Ruadhri O’Connor (8)Jason Gibbons (9)Diarmuid O’Connor (0-1) (10)Ciarán Gavin (11)Alan Dillon (12)Alan Plunkett (13)Bryan Walsh (14)Cillian O’Connor (0-5, 5f) (15)Stephen O’Malley
Substitutions used: Jamsie Finnerty for Stephen O’Malley, Padraic O’Connor for Ciarán Gavin, Myles Kelly for Gary Loftus