November 11th 2018
Connacht Club Senior Football Championship Semi-final
Ballintubber 3-11 Aughawillan 1-8
Four years on from our all-conquering 2014 season our senior team are back in the Connacht Club Senior Football Final after a convincing victory over Leitrim champions Aughawillan. Having overcame Castlebar, Breaffy, and Tourlestrane by only a single point, our lads had this one wrapped up long before the final whistle when we netted three-goals in less than ten minutes mid-way through the second half. While a brave Aughawillan side did claw back a goal later on, a comfortable nine-point winning margin meant that this one was certainly easier on the nerves than the four cagey encounters which preceded it!
It did take a while for both teams to get going. A Cillian O’Connor free was the game’s solitary score after ten minutes of play, during which time we clocked up at least five wides. In this time the Mayo captain nearly raised a green flag when he rattled the crossbar with an audacious attempt in the ninth minute. Another superb dead ball from distance by the Cranmore marksman was responded to by a pair of scores from brothers Gary and Mark Plunkett, levelling scores for the first time.
Our Alan Plunkett then conspired to push us back in front, pointing two scores of his own before winning a free in front of the goal for Cillian O’Connor to dispatch. Our captain Damien Coleman got on the score sheet with a point from wing-back while Brian Walsh split the posts from a very tight angle. A fourth Cillian O’Connor free saw us lead by three in the half-time, with a spirited Aughawillan still well within touching distance.
We flew out of the traps at start of the second half with Alan Plunkett’s third point and a pair of Cillian O’Connor frees. Our usually sturdy defensive line had something of a systems failure six minute in when Aughawillan’s Sean Flanagan almost walked through us before fizzing a low shot to the right and wide of Brendan Walsh.
A free from Gary Plunkett reduced our lead to five points before Kevin Johnson sprung Jamsie Finnerty from the bench. Scarcely a minute on the pitch, Finnerty soccer-styled into the back of the net after the tireless Diamuid O’Connor carried the ball into the danger zone before the ball ricocheted of a number of players, with the opportunistic Finnerty eventually volleying it home.
The youngster from Ballintubber village bagged a second goal in the twenty-first minute when Brian Walsh turned over a ball before off-loading to Cillian O’Connor, who found Finnerty with a lateral hand pass which he palmed into the net.
Finnerty then turned provider less than a minute later when he set up Alan Plunkett to fire home our third three-pointer after a signature attacking run by Diarmuid O’Connor.
Leading by thirteen with ten minutes to go, the job was all but done. A brave and battling Aughawillan kept the heads up and didn’t yield another score to us in the time that remained. Their star man Gary Plunkett fired over a super point before beating Brendan Walsh with a low shot after getting on the end of a high ball.
Somewhat unusually given the nature of our last few games, the final whistle came as a formality rather than a relief, as we won out in impressive fashion against a courageous and determined Aughawillan side.
The greatest challenge in our 108-year history now lies ahead in the Connacht final in the form of All-Ireland champions Corofin. A shot at our first ever Connacht title against our old nemesis beckons once more on the November 25th. Baile an Tobair Abú!
Ballintubber team that lined out: (1)Brendan Walsh (2)Gary Loftus (3)Cathal Hallinan (4)Brian Murphy (5)Damien Coleman (0-1) (6)Michael Plunkett (7)Myles Kelly (8)Jason Gibbons (9)Diarmuid O’Connor (10)Ciaran Gavin (11)Alan Dillon (12)Alan Plunkett (1-3) (13)Brian Walsh (0-1) (14)Cillian O’Connor (0-6, 6f) (15)Stephen O’Malley
Substitutions used: Jamsie Finnerty (2-0) for Stephen O’Malley, Joe Geraghty for Gary Loftus, Padraig O’Connor for Cillian O’Connor, Declan Larkin for Myles Kelly, Noel Geraghty for Alan Dillon, John Kerrigan for Damien Coleman
REPORT BY OISIN MCGOVERN