August 20 2022
Mayo Senior Football League Division 1 Relegation Play-Off
Ballintubber 1-12 Louisburgh 1-9
Division 1 football has been secured for another year as our seniors survived a second half scare to see off Louisburgh, who have been relegated to the second tier of the Mayo Senior Football League.
Enda Gilvarry started a highly experienced team that included five-time Moclair Cup winners; Cillian O’Connor, Jason Gibbons, Brendan Walsh, Alan Plunkett and Gary Loftus.
Every second of that experience was needed to steer us through the choppy waters created by the men from Clew Bay heading into the final quarter.
Playing on a rain-soaked home turf, we dominated our foes in possession and overwhelmed them on the kickout.
Solid but not devastating in our play, we ruled the middle third, particularly in the first half.
Cillian O’Connor, Stephen O’Malley, Ciarán Gavin and Alan Plunkett were at times telepathic in their link play, hitting all but two of our scores.
Former Mayo captain Cillian O’Connor bagged a superb goal while O’Malley and Plunkett once again played with cuteness and accuracy.
Our work around the middle was another big positive. On several occasions, Louisburgh attacks were snuffed out before they even got going.
With Diarmuid O’Connor tagging his former Mayo Minor teammate Padraig Prendergast, Jason Gibbons won a serious amount of ball at midfield and was at the heart of our best work.
Likewise, Keelan McDonnell had a huge amount of possession as we had the middle third to ourselves for long periods.
With just three points from play, our opponents simply couldn’t match our strength in depth.
The introduction of Bryan Walsh and Brian Murphy was a sign that our squad is almost back to full health ahead of our much-anticipated championship meeting with local rivals Mayo Gaels.
It had rained heavily all morning prior to the highly unusual throw-in time of 12 o’clock, creating the kind of conditions that might have suited a bigger team like Louisburgh.
Instead, our opponents made unforced errors, struggled to win and retain possession and were unable to get the ball to their danger men.
We hit 0-5 without reply in the first ten minutes, but Louisburgh were their own worst enemy on the kickouts.
Facing off against arguably the best midfield pairing in the county was never going to be an easy task.
But yet, the men of the west kicked an inexcusable amount of ball straight into our hands in the first half.
As a result, Gilvarry’s men made hay on a wet day around the middle, with Jason Gibbons catching several marks.
We hit five points before Louisburgh even raised a flag, with Cillian O’Connor, Ciarán Gavin and Stephen O’Malley all on the mark.
Our men landed a big blow when Cillian caught a lovely ball from Joe Geraghty before spinning away masterfully and rifling the ball into the net – something slightly reminiscent of Joe Canning’s dimension-bending goal against Kilkenny some years ago.
Louisburgh eventually 17th minute through a Dylan Prendergast free but didn’t score from play until the 34th.
The elder O’Connor hit a lovely free straight over the ‘black spot’ at the end of the first half to put us 1-5 to 0-2 in front at half-time.
Without setting the damp Clogher sod alight, we continued to trek along nicely in the second half.
Operating effectively at full-forward and centre-forward, Cillian O’Connor nearly put Louisburgh heads dropping when he drove an ambitious shot at Louisburgh goalie Shane Nallen mid-way through the half.
Things continued to look good when Diarmuid O’Connor hitting the kind of score that he has struck for Ballintubber and Mayo for many years.
We looked safe when the evergreen Alan Plunkett kicked us seven points in front in the 50th minute, but that was when Louisburgh hit their purple patch.
The spark was ignited when Martin Ball volleyed a loose ball past Brendan Walsh as the game entered the home stretch.
For the first time, Louisburgh were genuinely taking the game to us, but our ability to hold possession under pressure stood to us more than ever.
Two massive Louisburgh frees had them within two points of us, but we worked the ball up to Stephen O’Malley won a mark before directing the winning point over the bar in the 62nd minute.
All eyes now turn to September 4th, when we welcome our neighbours from Mayo Abbey to Clogher for a not-to-be-missed Round 1 Championship clash.
Ballintubber team: (1)Brendan Walsh (2)Gary Loftus (3)F Bourke (4)Jack Walsh (5)Keelan McDonnell (0-1) (6)Joe Geraghty (7)Hugh Geraghty (8)Jason Gibbons (9)Diarmuid O’Connor (0-1) (10)Noel Geraghty (11) Cillian O’Connor (1-3, 3f) (12)Stephen Burke (13)Ciarán Gavin (0-2) (14)Stephen O’Malley (0-3, 1 mark) (15)Alan Plunkett (0-2)
Substitutions used: Myles Kelly for Hugh Geraghty (42 mins), Brian Murphy for Gary Loftus (47 mins), Josh Mahon for Noel Geraghty (48 mins), David McHale for Jason Gibbons (51 mins), Brian Walsh for Stephen Burke (56 mins)
Referee: Sean McAndrew