August 24 2022
Under-19 League Division 3 League Final
Ballintubber 0-12 Ballinrobe 0-13
So close, but alas it was not to be.
Over an hour of toil, sweat and honest hard work wasn’t enough to see our Under-19s over the line in a game where they lead for nearly 50 minutes.
In the end, a one-point win was probably an accurate reflection of the difference between us and Ballinrobe, who produced a strong wind-assisted second half to seize victory in the final ten minutes.
One could find little fault in our performance. We weren’t to blame for the fact that we were up against a strong breeze in the second half, or that we were missing Nathan Gibbons and Darragh Joyce.
In every other regard, this was a display that did full justice to the red and white jersey that has been handed down to these youngsters by giants of men.
The work rate was top-notch, as were our match-ups and our intent on preventing Ballinrobe from breaking at speed.
In this regard, Ethan Lyons did a superb job in curtailing Mayo Minor midfielder Diarmuid Duffy, who grew into the game in the second half.
We defended in numbers, tackled with vigour, and attacked with purpose, with Josh Mahon and Stephen Burke leading the way on the scoreboard.
The senior and junior football experience enjoyed this year by Mahon, Burke, Sean Duffy, Cathal Flannery and Martin Fox stood to them against lads their own age.
In the end, Ballinrobe overcame their first half frustration to produce a more composed second half which they won 0-9 0-5.
Our defensive setup of massing bodies behind the ball was an unorthodox one, but a plan that worked to perfection for most of the game.
Ballinrobe were frequently forced into turnovers by a tigerish ‘Tubber defence, who transitioned defence to attack superbly.
Our opponents’ frustration was evident in some of the wild shots they took in the first half, where we were on top in most areas of the field.
Despite having less than half of the possession, our lads took the lead through Stephen Burke in the first minute and didn’t relinquish it until late in the second half.
Josh Mahon was excellent on the inside, landing four points in the first half with some eye-catching scores from frees and from play.
We defended well, but we also attacked with menace and sophistication.
With the wind at our backs, our lads raced 0-7 0-3 ahead and frustrated our opponents to the extent that they had barely left third gear by half-time.
Our best goal chance game just before the short whistle when the impressive Stephen Burke saw a rasper of a shot blocked by Ballinrobe’s Stephen O’Connor.
Three up at half-time, Ballinrobe’s wind advantage meant we were almost playing against sixteen men in the second half.
Still, we stuck to our tried and trusted tactic of big numbers in defence and swift counter attacks.
But through a combination of the breeze, better decision making and greater ball retention, Ballinrobe discretely worked their way back into contention.
Leading ‘Robe’s charge was their excellent centre-forward Adam Flannery, who kicked some inspirational scores when they were most needed.
After a quiet second half, Mayo joint-captain Diarmuid Duffy began to cut loose and was unlucky not to raise at least one green flag.
At one point he came within a coat of paint of hitting the back of the net, only to see his shot blast off the post and fly across the goalmouth.
On another occasion the able Matthew Coyne was called into action to deny Duffy a goal that would have put Ballinrobe ahead with eleven minutes remaining.
The crucial final quarter saw us go twelve minutes without scoring as ‘Robe hit four on the bounce to push themselves two in front.
The light of summer was fading, but Ballintubber sprits stilled burned like a beacon of hope.
A 59th minute free put us back within a point as we learned there would be two minutes of added time.
Every second counted, and not a second was wasted as our lads mounted one valiant final stand as the seconds ticked down in injury time.
Our efforts were rewarded when Michael Donnelly won an advanced mark shortly after coming on the pitch, but he directed the free mere inches wide of the post.
The final whistle was greeted with disappointment, but also a sense of pride from the Ballintubber faithful who had just seen the next crop spare absolutely nothing in pursuit of victory.
Ballintubber squad: Matthew Coyne, Ciaran Heneghan, Darragh Fahey, Ethan Lyons, Martin Fox, Jack Prendergast, Luke Biggins, James King, Cathal Flannery, Sean Duffy Josh Mahon, Sean Hynes, Cillian Joyce, Rory Cunningham, Dean O’Malley, Rory Óg McConnell, Brendan McNally, Stephen Burke, Gavin Murphy, Cathal Walsh, Michael Donnelly, James Ryan, Nathan Gibbons, Darragh Joyce
Ballintubber scorers: Josh Mahon (0-6, 4f), Stephen Burke (0-3, 1 ’45), Cathal Flannery (0-2, 1f), Dean O’Malley (0-1)
Ballintubber management: Donal Hallinan, Cathal Hallinan, Seanie Larkin, Paul Earley, Colin Derrig
Referee: Sean Tolan