October 2 2022
Mayo Senior Football Championship Quarter-Final
Ballintubber 2-11 Breaffy 0-14
Another game, another championship victory over our local rivals.
Enda Gilvarry’s men proved their credentials as genuine Moclair Cup contenders with a quarter-final win that was vintage Ballintubber.
Although it was close at times, the stoicism and composure that won five county titles once again got us over the line with some to spare.
And they did all this after losing Jason Gibbons to a harsh red card in the 38th minute.
Instead of buckling, if anything we were galvanised by Jason’s dismissal.
Led by Stephen O’Malley and Cillian O’Connor, we were composed and clinical in attack while our opponents were often wayward and rudderless.
Indeed, Cillian and Stephen made the case for being the most formidable attacking partnership in the county by hitting 1-7 between them.
A 53rd minute Ciarán Gavin goal was typical of the ruthlessness we have come to associate with this Ballintubber team, who are into their first county semi-final since 2019.
“What are they going to do with Aidan O’Shea?”
That was the question posed to both sides before the ball was thrown in.
From the start, O’Shea was dispatched to the edge of the square, a place where he has caused havoc for our defence in the past.
On this occasion, he was no match for Brian Murphy, who fended away every ball sent in the direction of the Breaffy behemoth.
The decision to play Diarmuid O’Connor in a sweeper role proved a very shrewd one by Enda Gillvarry.
No better man in the country to cover acres of ground, D’OC provided valuable cover against Breaffy’s long ball tactics but was also able to help out in attack.
For long periods, this game was a real throw-back to the Breaffy-Ballintubber games of old.
The teams were rarely separated by more than a point until the 21st minute, when Stephen O’Malley sent a high ball into the square that was punched into the net by Cillian O’Connor.
Without setting the world alight, Breaffy kept nipping at our heels and were still very much in contention when they found themselves 0-7 to 1-6 down at half-time.
Disaster then appeared to be looming in the 38th minute when Jason Gibbons was given a straight red card for a high challenge.
Breaffy were able to level matters, but from then on, a fourteen-man Ballintubber were the dominant team.
Even with Gibbons as láthair and Aidan O’Shea at midfield, our lads rolled back the years by controlling possession and nailing their scores at the crucial moments.
The most crucial move of all could not have arrived at a better time.
It began when Cillian O’Connor fed the rampaging Jack Walsh, who then offloaded to Ciarán Gavin who drove the ball past Robbie Hennelly and sent Ballintubber four points into the ascendency.
Breaffy had the ball over our crossbar within a minute, but Diarmuid O’Connor cancelled it out with a massive ’45.
Our opponents reduced the gap to two in injury time, but by then many neutrals were already on the way home, full in the knowledge that Ballintubber don’t squander leads.
Our lads now face Ballina on Sunday week in a repeat of the 2018 county-semi final.
Ballintubber team that lined out: (16)Brendan Walsh (6)Finian Bourke (3)Brian Murphy (4)Jack Walsh (5)Myles Kelly (11)Diarmuid O’Connor (0-1, 1 ’45) (7)Hugh Geraghty (8)David McHale (9)Jason Gibbons (10)Keelan McDonnel (0-2) (12)Bryan Walsh (0-1) (13)Noel Geraghty (14)Stephen O’Malley (0-3) (21)Cillian O’Connor (1-4, 3f) (15)Alan Plunkett
Substitutions used: Ciarán Gavin (1-0) for Alan Plunkett (43), Gary Loftus for Myles Kelly (47), John Kerrigan for Finian Bourke (60, inj.)
Referee: Liam Devenney (Ballina)
Report by Oisin McGovern