It’s time to draw breath after another full-on weekend of club Championship action. Knockout football always has an edge to it and there were plenty of hard-fought clashes over the last few days. And a few shock results too.
Let’s start with the Senior football Championship where this weekend’s quarter-final results really did have the air of the changing of the guard about them. Ballina Stephenites (36 county titles), Ballintubber (five times Moclair Cup champions since 2010), Breaffy (four-time finalists since 2013) and Castlebar Mitchels (three-in-a-row champions 2015-17 and 31 titles in all) all bit the dust this weekend.
Defending champions Knockmore aren’t exactly the new kids on the block but they still have the air of a team only recently arrived at the top table, even though they’ll now be heavily favoured to claim back-to-back Moclair Cup wins. Garrymore have won it six times but the last time they did so was back in 1982 and they haven’t contested a decider since then either.
Neither Belmullet nor Westport have ever won the title at Senior level. It’s been a while since either of them reached the final too – 1991 in Westport’s case, 1981 for Belmullet – but one of them will do so this year, as they’ve been drawn to meet in the semi-final in two weeks time.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s rewind the tape and look back on the weekend’s action.
Westport were the first team into the last four when they edged out the Stephenites by a single point in the first of two televised quarter-finals from the Conancht GAA Centre of Excellence at Bekan. I was out umpiring at a game up here in the capital when that match was on but I gather that Fionn McDonagh bagged the decisive point for the Covies.
I caught a good bit of the second game, between Knockmore and Ballintubber. A superb Aiden Orme goal had the champions in the ascendancy at half-time and when the Ballintubber ‘keeper allowed Peter Naughton’s undercooked free to slip through his fingers and into the net it looked like curtains for the Tubber.
The dreadful weather conditions made it a real slog for both teams. When Jason Gibbons spilled the ball and then followed through on Kevin McLoughlin as he tried to retrieve it, it looked like an incident that might have been viewed benignly in light of the weather. It wasn’t, though, and the yellow flashed at Jason was his second one and so Ballintubber were down to fourteen.
To their credit, though, they kept battling. Three down deep in stoppage time, Diarmuid O’Connor was fouled on the 14-yard line and, with the entire Knockmore team lined up in the goalmouth, he opted to go for goal. His shot cannoned off one of the Knockmore players but the ref gave Ballintubber a penalty, presumably because some of the Knockmore team had advanced towards O’Connor as he readied to strike.
Now it was Diarmiud O’Connor against rookie sub-goalkeeper Ryan McDonnell, with extra-time in the offing if the spot kick went in. The young ‘keeper saved it superbly, though, with the final whistle sounding immediately afterwards.
I caught the second half of today’s clash between Belmullet and Breaffy on Mayo GAA TV. This was a dour and, frankly, low-quality encounter, with multiple handling errors, misplaced passes and endless fouling.
Belmullet had opened a three-point gap early in the second half but when Breaffy brought the match back level they looked like the team with the momentum. Then a moment of utter genius from Ryan O’Donoghue swung the contest decisively back in Belmullet’s favour.
It didn’t look like he’d even win the long ball pumped in but he did, turning towards goal as he caught it and wriggling clear into open space facing Robbie Hennelly. He lobbed the Breaffy ‘keeper with an effort that was as deft as it was outrageous, the ball ending up nestled in the net and ending too Breaffy’s hopes of further advancement.
In the day’s final match, Garrymore always looked to have Castlebar Mitchels’ number. Enda Hession bagged an eye-catching 1-2 from play before being withdrawn with an injury at half-time but in his absence, with sub Enda Varley to the fore after the break, the South Mayo team kept playing the better football. They were deserved four-point winners at the finish.
The draw for the Moclair Cup semi-finals was made this evening and this saw Knockmore paired with Garrymore while, as mentioned earlier, Westport will face Belmullet. Those ties will be played the weekend after next, with dates, times and venues to be confirmed later.
The other bit of business in the SFC this weekend were the two relegation play-off semi-finals. Davitts and Aghamore both secured their Senior status with wins over Kiltane and Balla respectively. Those latter two now meet in the relegation final in two weeks time.
Here are all the weekend’s results in the SFC:
- Quarter-final: Westport 0-13 Ballina Stephenites 1-9
- Quarter-final: Knockmore 2-9 Ballintubber 0-12
- Quarter-final: Belmullet 2-5 Breaffy 0-8
- Quarter-final: Garrymore 1-14 Castlebar Mitchels 0-13
- Relegation semi-final: Davitts 1-14 Kiltane 1-9
- Relegation semi-final: Aghamore 0-11 Balla 0-7
Onto the Intermediate, where the quarter-final winners were Louisburgh, who edged out Hollymount/Carramore, Kilmaine, who thumped Crossmolina Deel Rovers, Ballyhaunis, who put a stop to Parke’s hitherto impressive gallop, and Mayo Gaels, who negotiated their way through a tricky encounter with Bohola Moy Davitts.
In the semi-finals, it’ll be Kilmaine against Mayo Gaels and Louisburgh against Ballyhaunis. Both ties will be played the weekend after next.
Here are the weekend’s results from the IFC:
- Quarter-final: Louisburgh 1-12 Hollymount/Carramore 2-7
- Quarter-final: Kilmaine 1-12 Crossmolina Deel Rovers 0-5
- Quarter-final: Ballyhaunis 1-8 Parke/Keelogues/Crimlin 0-6
- Quarter-final: Mayo Gaels 0-13 Bohola Moy Davitts 1-6
- Relegation semi-final: Ballinrobe 1-11 Swinford 0-7
- Relegation semi-final: Ardnaree Sarsfields 1-8 Lahardane MacHales 0-4
Onto Junior where the weekend’s results were as follows:
- JFC A quarter-final: Kilmeena 1-12 Killala 1-3
- JFC A quarter-final: Islandeady 0-18 Ballycastle 0-7
- JFC A QF play-off: Cill Chomain 1-7 Achill 0-5
- JFC B quarter-final: Ballycroy 0-11 Moygownagh 1-4
- JFC B quarter-final: Tourmakeady 3-14 Kilmovee Shamrocks 0-5
- JFC B quarter-final: Eastern Gaels 0-20 Lacken 0-7