The Junior football Championship final ended a short while ago and it’s Kilmaine who are the champions. They only just edged out a heroic young Kilmeena side, capturing the Pete McDonnell Cup on a scoreline of 1-13 to 1-12.
This was a real high quality decider played in perfect conditions in a sunwashed MacHale Park. The vantage point provided by Mayo GAA TV was perfect but I’d say for those watching the action from the concrete bleachers across from the stand it must have felt great to be at a game once again.
And what a game it was. Hot favourites Kilmaine started strongly, building up a four-point lead early on before Kilmeena got out of the traps at all.
When they did, though, the Westerners got going with purpose. A cracking goal from Joey Smyth pulled them level and by half-time they were in front by two points, the scoreline then 1-6 to 0-7. All of Kilmeena’s scores, bar a point converted from a forward mark, had come from play, with the accurate Adam Barrett notching four from frees for Kilmaine.
Early in the second half – by which time all six of Kilmeena’s starting forwards had scored – Kilmaine looked a bit at sea and an upset started to appear like a real possibility. Kilmeena, so full of running throughout, seemed to have a greater sense of purpose about them, while the favourites appeared devoid of ideas.
But then the contest turned again. Kilmaine drew level and then sub Michael Hession, introduced early in the second half, rattled the net to give them a bit of clear daylight. To make matters worse for Kilmeena, the shoot-on-sight approach that up until then had yielded scores now saw their wide count creep up as a number of good chances were spurned.
Kilmaine couldn’t, though, shake off their youthful opponents. Three points was as wide a gap as they were able to establish but with time running out it looked to be enough. But then back came Kilmeena one final dramatic time.
Their cause was helped when the ref played almost eight minutes of injury time. Kilmeena pared the deficit back to a single point in the dying seconds but then agonisingly just missed a late, late chance to draw level, the final whistle sounding on the restart.
It’s hard not to feel for Kilmeena. They put in a storming performance this evening and made their opponents fight every inch of the way. Kilmaine earned their win due to the simple fact that Kilmeena made sure that they had to. Commiserations to them, their day will surely come again.
So, after so many years being tagged as favourites to claim the Junior crown only for the title to evade them, Kilmaine at last have possession of the Pete McDonnell Cup and, with it, that precious ticket to Intermediate level in 2021. It’s their first Junior title since 1992. Well done to them.