October 13th 2018
Mayo Senior Football Championship Semi-Final
Ballintubber 0-16 Castlebar Mitchels 0-15
It took 160 minutes of blood, sweat, graft and adrenaline, and a scoring tally of 1-38 over the course of two Saturday evenings, but our lads finally slayed the Mitchels footballing machine in McHale this evening. What transpired this evening a contest so absorbing and tenacious that it will no doubt be remembered as one of the highlights of 2018 for CLG Baile An Tobair regardless of the result of the County Final.
The winning score was ultimately dispatched by substitute Joe Geraghty deep into extra time. Better known for his teak-tough defending than his scoring prowess, the man from Cartoonbower was the coolest customer in McHale Park when slotting over our 16th point with his right boot after being fed by Jason Gibbons.
Our victory this evening was as much of a testament to the character as it was to the footballing ability of this group of men. The sight of supporters gathered on the pitch for ten minutes or so after the final whistle despite there being no silverware in the vicinity will be remembered as a unique and surreal experience by all for years to come.
The Red and White jersey was honoured dutifully by every man that featured this evening. Brendan Walsh remained composed when called into action between the sticks while Brian Murphy and Gary Loftus were brilliant in curtailing the influence of Mitchels danger men Neil Douglas and James Durcan. Jason Gibbons and Diarmuid O’Connor battled valiantly in the engine room while the rest of our middle eight ran tirelessly throughout the eighty minutes while Cillian O’Connor’s superb free taking made up nearly half of our final tally.
It was clear from the opening exchanges that this was going to be yet another incredibly close contest. While a free-flowing shootout never materialised both teams were so evenly matched in terms of talent, fitness and physicality that neither team ever led by more than two throughout the eighty minutes.
While Mitchels pointed the opening two scores we responded with four unanswered points. A point each by Brian Walsh and Alan Dillon right at the end of the first half saw us lead 0-7 to 0-5 at the break.
A nerve-racking second half then got underway in which Mitchels hit their only real purple patch midway through. Punishing a few sloppy mistakes from our lads, the county champions hit four on the spin though Anthony O’Boyle, Patrick Durcan, Keith Hopkins and Neil Douglas. Indeed had Douglas kept his shot a few feet lower, we might have had a very different outcome to this game.
We came closest to grabbing a goal when Castlebar’s Rory Byrne nearly fumbled Diarmuid O’Connors point attempt over his own goal line in the 49th minute.
Such as was the nature of the game that trailing by two against this Mitchels team felt like trailing by six against lesser opponents. When David Stenson pointed a free four minutes from the end, it seemed like they would see out the win. However the heart and conviction of the Red and White saw Diarmuid O’Connor pointing in the 60th minute before we were awarded a free on the left hand side in the depths of injury time.
Up stepped Mayo captain Cillian O’Connor who then banished the demons of his missed frees in the 2016 and 2017 All-Ireland finals by sending it straight between the posts from an almost identical position as those two aforementioned dead balls.
With seat belts firmly fastened for extra time, brothers Cillian and “DOC” pointed the first two scores before David Stenson replied with a free, leaving the score at 0-14 0-13 in our favour at the breather.
Stenson missed a glorious chance to level matters by missing a very kickable free to which responded with a point from the elder O’Connor, Padraic.
The excellent Neil Douglas rattled off two quick scores to level matters once again as blood pressures spiked and nerves were on the brink of shattering among both sets of supporters.
With both teams running themselves to a standstill in making their final stand, it was the Boys from the Tubber that found the chink in the armour of the Mitchels Panzer tank. Jason Gibbons fisted into space to the newly introduced Joe Geraghty, who dealt the mortal blow.
The undisputed standard bearers of Mayo club football of the past three years summoned one final heroic charge in at the Ballintubber brigade, but the irrepressible Diarmuid O’Connor got a block on Dannu Kirby last-gasp effort which fell into the hands of Michael Plunkett.
John Glavey then blew the whistle, and the rest is history.
A county final against the next door neighbours Breaffy now beckons for Kevin Johnson’s men.
Onwards and upwards, Baile An Tobair Abú!
Ballintubber team that lined out: (1)Brendan Walsh (2)Gary Loftus (0-1) (3)Cathal Hallinan (4)Brendan Murphy (5)Damien Coleman (6)Michael Plunkett (7)Ruaidhri O’Connor (8)Jason Gibbons (0-1) (9)Diarmuid O’Connor (0-2) (10)Ciaran Gavin (11)Alan Dillon (0-1) (12)Alan Plunkett (20)Brian Walsh (0-1) (14)Cillian O’Connor (0-7, 6f) (15)Stephen O’ Malley (0-1)
Substitutions used: Jamsie Finnerty (0-1) for Alan Plunkett, Myles Kelly for Ruaidhri O’Connor, Padraic O’Connor (0-1) for Stephen O’Malley, Declan Larkin for Cathal Hallinan, Joe Geraghty (0-1) for Gary Loftus
County Senior Semi Final Replay
October 13th 2018