Classy Knockmore best Ballina

Photo: @MayoGAA

The weather was better today at MacHale Park than it was last night and so too was the Mayo GAA TV live stream which stayed up for the entirety of the two matches played this afternoon. The football was good too, with Knockmore and Balla securing very different kinds of wins in their respective county semi-finals.

Knockmore’s win was a pillar to post one. They were out of the traps against Ballina Stephenites like a proverbial rocket, building up a four points to no score lead inside seven minutes.

As Mayo GAA TV co-commentator Declan O’Reilly observed after the game, it was Ray Dempsey’s team that had learned most from their group stage meeting a few weeks back. In that game Knockmore had led most of the way, only to get pipped by a late Stephenites surge. Today’s game was similar to some degree, but Knockmore’s start today was more impressive and they were ready for Ballina’s surge when it eventually came.

Knockmore were dominant throughout the opening half. They flooded the backline with bodies, were extremely disciplined in the tackle and then, when they had the ball, broke forward rapidly with purpose. Ger Cafferkey was badly missed in the Ballina defence and in his absence Peter Naughton made hay, scoring freely from play and frees. He ended the day on seven points, five from placed balls.

Aiden Orme was also prominent in attack and he finished up with four points to his credit, three of them from play. Further out the field conducting the orchestra was the peerless Kevin McLoughlin, who repeatedly raided from deep, bagging three points from play and doing so much more besides.

By half-time Ballina were in deep trouble. Six points in arrears, they hadn’t got going at all and seemed mesmerised by the purpose and workrate being shown by their opponents. It could have been worse – the gap had been as wide as eight a few minutes earlier but Stephenites bagged the final two scores before the break.

Ballina’s mini-revival of sorts continued on the resumption but they struggled to cut the margin to fewer than five points. They butchered a clear goal chance when Luke Doherty intercepted a short kick-out, following an Evan Regan point from a free, but with a three-on-one situation facing the attackers Doherty chose instead to shoot on sight and he skied his effort wide.

The gap was still five points at the second water break but Ballina had taken some momentum into that stoppage, having got the last two points before it. They got the next two when play resumed as well, Jack Irwin converting a fine solo effort and then Evan Regan winning an excellent mark and firing over from distance.

With just three points now separating the teams, the game looked set for a grandstand finish. Ballina had come with a late charge in the group game, could they do the same again today?

Turns out they couldn’t. Their cause suffered a huge blow ten minutes from time when Mikey Murray was black carded for a body check on Darren McHale. It would be injury time before he came back on and by then Ray Dempsey’s lads were out the gap.

After Aiden Orme knocked over one from out on the right, sub Frank Irwin responded in kind. Orme, this time from a free, widened the gap to four but Conor McStay cut it back to three once more.

But it was too late – Ballina needed a goal to save the day and they were never going to be able to find a way through Knockmore’s resolute backline. The excellent Orme, fed by Connell Dempsey, had the final say, shooting from distance to seal victory by 0-17 to 0-13.

Photo: @MayoGAA

So a novel Senior final it’s set to be this year. While both teams have contested Moclair Cup deciders this decade – Breaffy in 2013, 2015 and 2018, Knockmore in 2016 – neither of them were able to claim the silverware. Breaffy, of course, have yet to win their first Senior county title while Knockmore won the last of their eight crowns as far back as 1997. It’s set to be an intriguing decider in two weeks time.

So too will the Intermediate final. Just ten minutes in the car on the R324 separate Kiltimagh and Balla, two towns nestled close to the squat, imposing bulk of Sliabh Cairn, and it’s these two near neighbours who are set to go head-to-head in a fortnight for the Sweeney Cup.

Photo: @MayoGAA

For long stretches in today’s IFC semi-final at MacHale Park it looked like Ballinrobe rather than Balla would prevail. They led by two at the break, in part thanks to an opportunistic goal palmed to the net by Peter Butler who connected to a high ball pumped in.

Balla were reduced to fourteen men for ten minutes shortly after the restart when JP Reilly saw black. By the time he came back on his side were five points in arrears, with Kevin Quinn crashing home an unstoppable shot to the corner of Mattie Flanagan’s net.

Ballinrobe should, in truth, have won it from there. It looked like they were going to too, as they still held a four-point advantage with just seven minutes of normal time on the clock.

But then Balla made their move and with effect. Two converted frees from sub Val Roughneen, as well as points from play by Ger Flanagan and Rian O’Connor, answered by a sole Eoin Gilraine score for Ballinrobe, brought this contest level as injury time beckoned.

Then came the match-winning breakthrough. The hero of the day was Balla’s Gary McHale, who won a long ball in and beat the ‘keeper, the goal putting Balla three points up. Ballinrobe pulled one back after that but Balla held out to win by 1-14 to 2-9.

The final line-up for the JFC was also settled today. Kilmeena caused a bit of a surprise by getting the better of Shrule/Glencorrib in this afternoon’s semi-final on a scoreline of 2-14 to 1-14. They’ll now take on Kilmaine in the Pete McDonnell Cup decider two weeks from now.

The other match contested today was the SFC relegation final where, as expected, Claremorris were too strong for Moy Davitts. Claremorris won that game at Gilmartin Park in Kiltimagh today with a good bit to spare, on a scoreline of 2-16 to 0-12.

The fixture details for the county finals were announced after the conclusion of today’s games. This year the JFC and IFC deciders will be played as a double-header, with the Senior final played as a stand-alone fixture the following day.

The JFC final between Kilmeena and Kilmaine will throw in at 5pm on Saturday, 19th September, with the IFC final between Balla and Kiltimagh getting underway at 7pm that evening. Both matches will be played at MacHale Park and, sadly, it’s all but certain that these matches will be contested behind closed doors.

The following afternoon the Senior final between Breaffy and Knockmore will be contested. The Moclair Cup decider is set to throw in at MacHale Park at 3.35pm that afternoon.

Finally, today also saw several LGFA Championship fixtures contested so here’s a quick summary of the action.

In the LGFA Senior Championship there were semi-final wins for Carnacon, who beat Hollymount by 3-13 to 0-4, and Moy Davitts, who got the better of Westport by 3-14 to 2-7. This means that the Senior final, between Carnacon and Moy Davitts, will be a repeat of last year’s decider.

In the LGFA Intermediate semi-finals MacHale Rovers beat Charlestown by 3-10 to 2-11 while Kilmovee Shamrocks finally saw off Castlebar after extra-time in a high-scoring encounter that finished 7-11 to 5-14.

In the Junior semis Kiltimagh had a 2-12 to 2-5 win over Tourmakeady while St Brigid’s beat Davitts by 5-9 to 5-6.

In the Senior Shield semi-finals Kilmoremoy beat Swinford by 3-11 to 2-12 and Burrishoole had a dramatic tie-breaker win, 6-5 on free kicks, over Burrishoole after the teams finished level on 3-18 apiece after extra-time.

In the Intermediate Shield semi-final Cill Chomain beat Claremorris by 2-14 to 2-4. Louisburgh got a bye in the other semi and so they’ll now meet Cill Chomain in the final.

48 thoughts on “Classy Knockmore best Ballina

  1. Congratulations to Knockmorec on winning the County semi final yesterday, they were fitter stronger, had a better game plan which they stuck to and they had Kevin McLoughlin and many more top class performers, that I would say James Horan will be
    looking at.
    They could have won by a lot more, and then on the other hand, had the Ballina player who went for the flashy goal instead of passing it to a better placed colleague, who knows what the result would be
    Ballina will learn from this, and not to be shooting from impossible positions and when the Stephenites captain is next asked for his opinion on upcoming opponents he should choose his reply more carefully, I don’t expect James Horan will be letting him near any microphones.
    I would say it was music to Ray Dempseys ears and used before going out on the pitch.
    Padraig Hora is a fine player and it was a pity that Ballina couldn’t afford to place him further up the field as they were lacking in strength in the forwards.
    What I was disappointed in was a the poor return from the Stephenites county players, Ray Dempsey did a good job and Enda Gilvarry and his selectors had no answer to it.

  2. Sets up a very interesting final. Knockmore are playing a really good brand of football. They look to hit teams on the break and can move the ball through the hands, or more direct with the foot. It’s a very cohesive system and Kevin McLoughlin knits the whole thing together. Breaffy rely much more on power so it will be a real clash of styles.

    Overall I thought the standard of football in the club semis (senior and intermediate) was more than decent. There were also plenty of promising young players on show.

  3. Well done to Knockmore, a tough result to swallow in Ballina I’m sure, would agree on the comments from Padhraig o Hora earlier in the season would have been reminded constantly in Knockmore. Sets up for a great final, Breaffy probably will be slight favourites but I feel will be a very close encounter .

  4. Padraig OHoras comments were refreshing. Close to 100% of GAA interviews are of no value. OHora will be driving on Ballina over the winter in part due to his statement.
    He stands forward fearlessly, good.
    Ye want Jonny Cooper “Carlow will be tough”.

  5. Strange game that even though Knockmore were the better team, Ballina could have taken it to the wire was if not for the silly black carding and the failure to capitalise on a Reape howler.
    Reape looks county potential, he is comfortable on the ball, just needs to eleminate the one error per game statistic. Young ballinrobe keeper also looks an excellent prospect.
    I am really pleased to see Shane McHale’s return to form. Wholehearted player who had an injury ridden spell with Mayo.

  6. Luke Jennings the Ballinrobe goalkeeper.
    Thanks WJ for links to match reports. You’re on the ball as always.

  7. JP to answer your question “Ye want Jonny Cooper “Carlow will be tough” – you’re referring to the man with 6 all Ireland medals…yes we want some of that mentality please. O’Hora is a fine player but there is a reason you don’t hear comments like that too often.

  8. Like James Horans comment after out league final win against Kerry last year “we should have won by 11-12 points”. We got our answer a few months later in Killarney in championship.
    You don’t give teams extra motivations with comments like that.
    Jim Gavin and Kerry with all thier success don’t come out with those kind of statements. They are experts at talking up the opposition – go out and hammer them then – and tell them afterwards they were a little unlucky. That’s the way to handle the media.

  9. Exactly SouthMayoExile – those comments from the manager were very ill-advised.

    People need to be cuter.

    I found it refreshing listening to O’Hora’s comment last month. Hindsight is great though and when you are brave enough (I’m giving him the benefit of the doubt here and not saying ‘naive’ instead) you really need to back it up on the pitch. Ballina did anything but that yesterday. Someone above mentioned that their county players were disappointing; with the odd fleeting exception it’s a long time since any Ballina player excelled for Mayo bar Clarke who has been outstanding and Ger Caff, but going back over 5 years now. There are numerous Ballina players on the fringes of the county set up, but other than O’Hora and Clarke I haven’t seen any county standard form from others. Irwin looks decent but quite a bit to go yet. Would like to see him progress to the next level, but county is a big step up from club.

  10. I agree mayonaze I thought Murray and Irwin were quiet. They’re 2 big men and they never got motoring. McLoughlin was very good though. Naughton has to get a chance with the county in the future. Has to be ahead of a lot of the forwards on the current mayo squad

  11. Wouldn’t read too much into what o hora said. Mixture of confidence and tongue in cheek. We need players to be confident and don’t think he’ll be too bothered about his comments more so about losing. Looking forward to all the finals especially see how kilmaine get on and can they prove they’re beating kilmeena last year wasn’t a one off.

  12. Do people honestly think Jonny Cooper patronizing Carlow, Louth etc. has any bearing on Dublin winning All Irelands? When O’Hora gave the interview, he said we’ll go out and beat Knockmore next week (in the group stage) and they went out and beat them.

    99% of GAA player/manager interviews are completely unwatchable because of this kind of narrative. The likes of Padraig O’Hora and Padraig Joyce for Galway give an honest opinion and get slated for it. Why is it not okay for these comments to be made in public?

  13. I am looking forward to the final.
    It will be interesting to see how Peter Naughton does against Breaffy.
    He is a fine player and should be getting a chance with the County Team.

  14. I agree, Padraig O Hora is a breath of fresh air, says it as he sees it, and I like that…in fairness I think allot of GAA interviews are pretty tepid, and almost meaningless…I don’t think his comments which reffered to a different earlier match, which Padraig in fairness predicted the result correct, has any bearing on the result last Sunday. Knockmore on the whole learning more from their previous defeat to Ballina, same as Breaffy learning more from their previous defeat to Westport, would have much more to do with it, in my opinion…I didn’t think that James Horans’ comments were wise after the National League Final at all..No1 It was hardly accurate to say that Mayo were 12 points better than Kerry in the League Final, we weren’t. ..No2, the game was over;.. Don’t think it had nearly as much to do with it, as our long and winding road, route to Killarney, including another visit to the Gaelic Ground’s in Limerick and a tough assignment versus Galway.. That heavy to Kerry last July has much more to do with our mistakes versus Roscommon in Castlebar earlier in the Summer, rather than unwise comments made in late March!

  15. Looking forward to the final – should be a great match. I think there was a sigh of relief all around with the announcement that TnaG were going to show it, even though I’m sure Mayo GAA could have done with the revenue from streaming it. There was a lot of anger and frustration on Saturday night as people have been cooped up and are missing going to the games and were depending on MayoGaaTV to get it right.

  16. I have no idea Catcol, but pace is crucial at senior intercounty, particularly at the business end of the championship. It’s something Darren Coen lacked last year; didn’t appear up to the the same level fitness/conditioning wise of his teammates – perhaps due him not being involved at that level for several years, but he showed glimpses of pure class, shooting and scoring from ridiculous angles, that makes you think if he could really work on getting fitter, shedding a few pounds and increasing pace over 10 yards that he would be a serious asset to the Mayo attack for another 3 to 4 years (given his age). It also makes you wonder why he wasn’t at the forefront of the Mayo attack in 2012 – 2017?? Kinda like Kevin O’Neill in 1996/7. Baffling stuff.

    I’m still concerned Mayo are not maximising our potential. We focus our eyes too much on looking at the senior club championship when considering talent for the Mayo senior team. I am sure there are young players in junior clubs (17-22 year olds) who are falling through the nets. The holes in the Mayo nets are certainly wider than those in Kerry. I can guarantee you that. I WOULD LOVE TO KNOW if the county board have any plans to rectify that! Statistically I am sure we are miles behind Kerry when it comes to the amount of players from junior clubs who make it to senior county level. Why is it years since a lad from Kilmeena, Islandeady, Tourmakeady, Eastern Gaels, Killala, Ballycastle, Ardnaree, Kilmovee featured at senior county level or even the likes of Louisburgh, Balla, Shrule/Gcb, Swinford and Kiltimagh. Is it cos they just don’t have a single player good enough – who has shown real talent at 16-18? Or is it because once they get to 20 they no longer play at a club level strong enough for them to maintain a certain standard/performance level and they just slip away, back into the pack of mediocrity?

    Maybe the CB are actively doing something about it and/or have real plans in place? I have no idea. The obvious solution is a return to the Divisional Teams of South, North, West and East Mayo who play in the senior championship (like Kerry!). It will allow the cream of talent from junior clubs to play at a higher level. It’s a win win.

  17. Cathal Horan is a prime recent example. Where is he now? Our man of the match in the All Ireland u20 final 2 years ago when he almost singlehandedly turned the game around for us. Showed everything you want to see in a defender. Has he been given a proper go at senior? I believe he was in some development squad but if he is operating at junior club level now with no access to anything higher how are his chances meant to improve. If he was with a big club you can be pretty certain he would be on the Mayo panel.

  18. Just on Coen, he showed more than glimpses of class. He won several matches for us. Think of what he could be like if he was fitter.

  19. I’d have to agree with Mayonaze’s points above, there are a number of very talented players at junior level clubs within Mayo that just vanish off the scene / don’t get a look in because they are not playing with ‘big clubs’. At junior level, the Mayo County Board need to look at including divisional teams in championships at a higher level. Good players at ‘smaller clubs’ will never get the chance to develop into better players because the level of opposition is not that high. For example, if you were to join up three / four junior level clubs and include the cream of their crop in the senior / intermediate championship, you would be exposing these players to a better standard of football which would in turn allow them to become visible to the county management team. The junior clubs could still enter the junior championship as their own team along with their players that get involved with the senior divisional side. I just feel that we are failing a crop of young players at weaker clubs because of the way the club scene is set up in Mayo. The next Ciaran McDonald could be playing away in Kilfian or Kilmovee, but because he plays for a ‘small club’, he”ll never truly get a look in. It’s wrong and it’s also holding us back at senior inter county level.
    Kerry and Mayo are very similar counties in terms of population, economics and geography. The big difference at GAA level is that they maximise the player pool that they have. For example, David Clifford (before anyone jumps in, I know he’s a one off player in terms of the talent he has) is from the club of Fossa. For those that know Kerry, Fossa is no more than a crossroad west of Killarney. It’s a small club and they play at Junior Level. Because Fossa and similar clubs in the East Kerry area are deemed to be weaker than the likes of Legion and Crokes, they pull all of the best players from all the smaller clubs in the east Kerry region and create a team that can compete and develop at senior level. To prove that this can work, East Kerry won the Kerry Championship last year. Would Clifford and similar players of his talent get the exposure / chance to develop up in Mayo if they were playing for an exclusive junior club, I highly doubt it. It’s here where we need to maximise what we have, there’s only one group that can improve this and it’s the County Board.

  20. Was it not the case that the clubs (rather than the CB) rejected the divisional sides competing in championship?

  21. James Carr and Oisín Mullin are junior club players and both have established themselves at county level. I’ve always believed the best players will get their chance regardless. There are several senior clubs that have nobody on the county team (Ballaghaderreen, Kiltane, Moy Davitts) so playing senior guarantees nothing.

  22. Is there evidence that Cathal Horan is not on the Mayo panel because he is from a ‘small club’. I don’t know the lad but maybe he was called in but couldn’t give the crazy commitment required because of work or college commitments. Maybe he hasn’t the drive or interest in giving that level of commitment. He was surely on their radar after the u20 competition

  23. I agree with Mayonaze. A few years back, Spoke to a member of the Mayo panel who spent 3 years or so on the fringes of the Mayo panel, from a small junior club. It was in the 2010s when we were going well. He said the difference in intensity between junior and Mayo senior training was light years (unsurprisingly). Reckoned playing junior club football was pointless in terms of developing an intercounty career. A county player at junior is the main man. With Mayo, you are just another cog in the wheel. Obviously he loved playing for his club but was under constant pressure from management and county board officials to move to a senior club if he was serious about a county career. That in itself is just wrong.
    Of course the Kerry lads do it better than us. But in Mayo, as far as I know, there is MASSIVE opposition from established senior clubs to the idea of amalgamated junior/intermediate squads playing senior championship. We used to have these sides in the early 2000s but they were removed then and haven’t been seen since.

  24. There been so few new performing senior players over the last ten years from all of Ballaghadereen, Charlestown, Swinford, Foxford and Kiltimagh is a concern. That pick at underage would win every age grade every year if it was a combined team.
    Yet, really only fringe players except for Andy Moran at senior level.

  25. Aidan Orme really suprised me with his athleticism. I knew he was agile and quick but he really got up and down the pitch with huge stamina also.

  26. With all due respect Larry, you could say that same story about 10 or 12 players in the last decade. Without getting into names, there were numerous senior club players on the county panel for a few years before being released without much game time.

    It’s just a reality that our county team was very hard to break into for a few years.

  27. Wide ball, the point is as a player from a junior your window of opportunity is up to the age of 20/21…because after that the highest level you can play at is junior. The standard of teammate and opposition is detrimental to your development. I accept that most decent level intercounty players will have been spotted by the time they are 20 but at senior club level you stay I the shop window for several years. Therefore as a junior player you are at a distinct disadvantage.

    There should be zero opposition to Divisional teams. It would improve the standard in junior clubs because youd have players that make divisional teams playing at a higher standard and bringing that level back to their clubs. It would give junior club players more hope and motivation. Ultimately it would maximise Mayos playing pool and absolutely increase our chances of landing Sam.

    I’m saying this for years. I genuinely cannot understand why more is not made of this from people in a far better position than me to voice opinion.

    Am I missing something???

  28. One of the problems with amalganations is to get the time to fit in all competitions. In Kerry now they play the junior and intermediate championship during the window in April. So by the end of April the junior and intermediate teams have effectively finished their year – except for the league. How many good junior and intermediate teams in Mayo would be happy with this – they are not happy with this in Kerry.
    The Kerry senior semifinals are on this weekend. There is one club team (Dr. Crokes) and three amalgamations left. There are players from 21 different clubs playing in the semifinals. Therefore, there are 20 club teams this weekend not playing football because they have one or maybe two players playing with their amalgamated teams. There are advantages and disadvantages with this.

  29. Jarlath Mullin from kilmaine an older brother of Oisín is playing very well at full forward. A real tigerish player and very accurate from play and frees. I have seen him score frees from over 50m.well worth a look at County level.

  30. SouthMayoExile….and how many All Irelands have Kerry compared to us? 😉

    I know which system I’d go for. In a heartbeat. For the good of the county and I know all about waiting months to play a club fixture.

  31. Accept your point South mayo exile but it’s not like mayo club players get regular scheduled games either. Often months pass without championship matches.

  32. Amalgamation is the way forward. Between castlebar and Ballina they must have half our titles. Let all play at senior level if good enough

  33. You’re missing the fact that Senior clubs are against this big time Mayonaze. Much better for them if they keep smaller clubs small. If a good lad appear there he can be poached easily helping the senior club keep the gap and their status. Also allowing divisional teams would make the championship more competitive. Struggling senior clubs also don’t want this because it might threaten their standing. God forbid a Senior club should go intermediate. Seen as a big drop down so they’ll do everything to keep that Senior status. even if it means they’re struggling big time at senior and have been for quite some period.

  34. There is a lot of critics of system in Kerry. East Kerry dominance and Kerry have won one All Ireland Senior Club title since 1995. Totally dominant at Intermediate and Junior because only 7 Senior teams. Pros and Cons, a lot of club players finished by April every year. Junior & intermediate players get a chance to play Senior ball but since 2009, Kerry have one won Senior All Ireland. The biggest advantage Kerry have is the Munster Championship, Realistically one game to make QF every year.

  35. Cork also have divisional teams in football and hurling yet they’ve been a mess in both for the last decade. It helps Kerry to win junior and intermediate all Irelands but has no effect on the senior intercounty team.

    Having huge amounts of junior and intermediate players with nothing to play for after April is a terrible system. There’s more to GAA than the elite players.

  36. Kerry have won 5 all Ireland minor titles in a row. This is down to good coaching and good development squads. Nothing to do with their structure in the senior county championship. Good development squads is the key for players from intermediate and junior clubs. There they will be given a proper strength and conditioning programmes that are been monitored and their progression is been monitored by members of the senior team management.

  37. Kerry have three strong schools who train their players on a very regular basis with expert coaching. That has fed into the minor strength also.

  38. Some good and fair points there.

    JPM, I definitely haven’t missed that fact. I’m fully aware that’s a stumbling block but that’s what a strong progressive and forward thinking CB executive should be for, putting the ‘betterment’ of the county first over the selfish narrowmindedness of clubs.

    I fully agree that underage development isnt where it should be and greater emphasis and time needs to be allocated to key schools. Mayo colleges have done better in Connacht in recent years but partly down Jarlaths and Mary’s no longer boarding AND the recent addition of the secondary school in Claregalway (who will turn into a powerhouse). So the talent in north galway is dispersed. As is that in Galway city and suburbs, where there are seven secondary schools for boys between Knocknacarra to Oranmore. Mayo’s recent success at schools level hasnt translated to county level, for the most part where Galway have had the strong upper hand for the bulk of the last 8 years.

    So, more needs to be done at underage level in Mayo at club and school level. And while I accept there may be lots being done the reality is sport is a results business.

  39. ..and a glance at results at underage county level have not been kind. At all. We dominated underage in the noughties, this set the basis for our strength at senior county level from 2011-present, but it will start to slip if the talent isnt coming through.

  40. The other problem in Mayo is the big town clubs with massive populations like Castlebar, Ballina , Westport and Claremorris who dominate the underage ‘A’ championships at Minor ,Under 16 and 14, then have big dropout rates after Minor and Under 21.The amount of talent that goes through these clubs at underage and they dont end up playing Senior football.
    In Tralee town there are 3 Senior teams Austin Stacks , Kerin O’ Rahillys and the amalgamated St Brendans side of Na Gaeil and John Mitchells , then in Killarney you have Dr Crokes , the Legion and the East Kerry amalgamation of Spa , Fossa and Kilcummin. Would you get alot more out of Castlebar if they had another club with Mitchels and divide the town evenly.You would have alot more younger players in the town playing competitive football.

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