7th October 2018
Mayo Senior Football Championship Semi-Final
Ballintubber 1-12 Castlebar Mitchels 1-12
After eighty minutes of high-octane, intense football our Senior team will have to do it all again next week. While this clash of the titans of Mayo club football didn’t live up to its box office billing an intriguing, tactical clash was served up from which either team could’ve emerged victorious. With both sides bedecked with a host of current and past representatives of various Mayo panels, neither team could gain a clear foothold in any area of the field. What emerged was a total war of attrition, during the course of which Diarmuid O’Connor in particular nearly ran himself off his feet in salvaging a hard-earned replay.
Such was the nature of the first half that only three scores were registered from play throughout the half hour. A miserly and tenacious Castlebar defence yielded only two points from Cillian O’Connor (one free) and a converted free from Ciaran Gavin before Michael Plunkett found the net in the twenty-third minute. Taking an incisive pass from Cillian, the Moorehall man drove through a rare crevice in the Mitchels’ defence before firing a shot into the far corner of Rory Byrne’s net.
That score would leave us 1-3 to 0-3 ahead before a pair of points from David Stenson brought the County champions back to within a point of us. Mitchels would be dealt a blow two minutes from the break when midfielder Aidan Walsh was sent off for a second yellow card, giving us an extra leg-up heading into the third quarter.
However, as is often the case, playing against fourteen men is far easier said than done. Mitchels signalled their defiance in the third minute, when wing-back Ray O’Malley rifled home a goal very similar to Plunkett’s earlier effort, pushing them two in front. With big Barry Moran despatched from his sweeper role to plug the gap in midfield, scores were as scarce as ever despite our numerical advantage.
With Mitchels massing bodies in defence at times, only Ciaran Gavin split the posts from play in the second half, with the rest of our scores coming from Cillian O’Connor’s free kicks. There were plenty of anxious moments in the final quarter, none more so then when a botched ‘Tubber kick-out went straight to Neil Douglas, who saw his shot saved by Brendan Walsh before settling for a point.
A single from the aforementioned Ciaran Gavin brought us back to within two points, as we went in desperate search of scores. With Mitchels appearing home and hosed in injury time, the irrepressible Diarmuid O’Connor won a free which brother Cillian duly converted. The Cranmore man pointed once again in the final minute of injury time from close range after former Mayo captain Alan Dillon was fouled in a last-ditch attempt to equalize.
Entering into two demanding periods of extra-time, Mitchels were now back playing with fifteen bodies. The county champions spurned a great goal chance when substitute Calum Kyne drove a shot high and wide. Substitute Jamsie Finnerty then poked us in front with a point from close range to leave the score 1-10 to 1-9 in our favour at the end of the first period.
We doubled the lead when Myles Kelly pointed having been introduced late on in normal time. However Mitchels responded with points from Neil Douglas, Anthony O’Boyle, and Barry Moran, putting them ahead by a single point. We equalized again with two minutes remaining when a final lung-bursting run from the heroic Diarmuid O’Connor resulted in a free from which Cillian pointed his eight point of the match. Time ran out eventually and a draw was probably the fairest result for both sides. We go again.
Ballintubber team that lined out: (1)Brendan Walsh (2)Gary Loftus (3)Cathal Hallinan (4)Brian Murphy (5)Damien Coleman (6)Michael Plunkett (1-0) (7)Ruaidhri O’Connor (8)Jason Gibbons (9)Diarmuid O’Connor (10)Ciaran Gavin (0-2, 1f) (11)Alan Dillon (12)Alan Plunkett (20)Brian Walsh (14)Cillian O’Connor (0-8, 7f) (15)Stephen O’Malley
Substitutions used: Jamsie Finnerty (0-1) for Stephen O’Malley, Myles Kelly (0-1) for Ruaidhri O’Connor, Declan Larkin for Gary Loftus, Padraic O’Connor for Alan Plunkett (Black Card), Stephen O’Malley for Padraic O’Connor
Report by Oisin McGovern