July 14 2022
U-13 League Division 1 League Semi-Final
Ballintubber 2-11 Castlebar Mitchels 2-9
An Under-13 team full of future Ballintubber stars booked their place in the Under-13 Division 1 Final after an enthralling victory over Castlebar Mitchels on Thursday evening.
With arguably the two best teams in the competition going head-to-head, this was always going to be a thrilling affair.
Michéal Hoban's side were made to work for every inch of ground against an impressive Castlebar Mitchels team, who kept the game tight until the bitter end.
Páidí Ó Sé’s iconic phrase ‘a grain of rice is going to tip the scale’ would have been a sage assessment when the teams were tied 2-7 apiece at the second-half water break.
Mitchels pointed shortly after the restart before the excellent Conor Hoban kicked three inspirational scores, including a boomer from distance and a screamer from the right wing.
From then on, the momentum was firmly with the Red and White, who kicked the winning point through centre-back Finian Brady.
Overall, this game looked less like a weighing scale and more like a two highly energetic ten-year-olds on a see-saw.
Rarely did more than two points separate these two teams, who matched each other for skill, speed and fitness.
The mighty Mitchels announced their arrival almost immediately when they opened the scoring with a goal less than two minutes in.
To lesser team, being dealt such an early blow would have prompted a slackening of shoulders and a bowing of heads.
Not so with this determined and talented bunch, who responded with a point from Dermot Kelly before Cillian Donnelly volleyed in a goal after Conor Hoban dropped a dangerous ball into the danger zone.
Mitchels pressed on with the fire and ruthlessness that has characterised their underage teams for many years.
The lads from the county town kicked three more before Conor Hoban ended the drought with a free in the 18th minute, just after the water break.
Another Mitchels point was nullified by a good long-range effort from Hoban before Cillian Reilly knocked over his first, leaving the scores at 1-4 each at half-time.
Only a brave man would have called a winner at this stage, for a similar arm-wrestle ensued at the resumption.
Richie Finnerty hit the first score of the half before Mitchels hit three on the bounce.
Adam Burton proved inspirational when he reached for the sky to punch the ball into the net after another well-directed Conor Hoban free.
Having narrowly missed the target with a daisy cutter just seconds earlier, Burton made had amends by kicking one of the most pivotal scores in the game.
Our opponents reminded us once again that they weren’t going to be beaten until the final whistle when they produced Goal Number Two.
Cillian Reilly’s second point levelled the game for the fourth time just before Mel Kenny blew for the second-half water break.
The sos uisce allowed our lads to regroup, reorganise and ultimately plan a Conor Hoban-inspired counterattack that would see them out with two points.
Ballintubber now meet Westport in the Division 1 League Final, whom we overcame 3-8 to 0-10 in our last meeting in Westport.
Ballintubber team that lined out: Christopher Feeney; Cian Brady, Tiernan Walsh, Eoghan Lyons; James Staunton, Finian Brady (0-1), Noah Donnelly; Conor Hoban (0-6, 3f), Darragh Breslin; Conor Fahey, Cillian Reilly (0-2), Richie Finnerty (0-1); Cillian Donnelly (1-0), Dermot Kelly (0-1), Niall Spellman
Substitutions used: Adam Burton (1-1)
Referee: Mel Kenny
Photos by Oisín McGovern and Tom Quinn