Knockmore are the champions

Photo: @KnockmoreGAA

At the start of the summer you’d have got decent odds on Knockmore lifting the Moclair Cup this year. Indeed, as late as the quarter-final stage they were only one of six clubs with serious ambitions to lift the title. Tonight, however, they stand alone – they’re county champions for the first time since 1997, with this afternoon’s two-point victory over Breaffy landing them their ninth Senior crown.

It was a strange final in many ways. Knockmore won on a day when their talisman Kevin McLoughlin was far less prominent than of late, in a game where they went scoreless from the tenth minute of the first half until three minutes into the second.

Knockmore looked very vulnerable at half-time and you’d have been forgiven for assuming then that Breaffy’s far greater big game experience would prove decisive. Not a bit of it. When Knockmore finally sparked shortly after the break there was no stopping them and when they’d amassed what proved to be a title-winning score they defended it like demons ’till the end.

Knockmore’s passage to this year’s final has been aided by an ability to start games strongly. They did so again today, putting 1-1 on the board before Breaffy got going at all.

Keith Ruttledge posted the opener and the goal, on seven minutes, was a Peter Naughton/Darren McHale combination effort. Naughton, such an intelligent operator who plays all the time with his head up, spotted his team-mate as he bore down on goal and McHale dived to meet the pass and punch it to the net.

Breaffy looked momentarily rocked but not for long and they were back on level terms shortly after the water break. Colm Flynn bagged their opening score and, after Peter Naughton replied for Knockmore (a point that proved to be their final one of the half), scores from Matthew Ruane, Tommy O’Reilly (two frees) and Conor O’Shea hauled Breaffy level.

Now it was the turn of the North Mayo lads to look a bit rattled. Aidan Orme’s missed effort after Breaffy’s leveller was their fifth wide of the half and Darren McHale screwed another one awry a few minutes later.

By then Breaffy had hit the front. Mattie Ruane cut inside and curled a delicious shot over the bar and he then turned provider, feeding Tommy O’Reilly who, with a goal chance on, blazed the ball over.

The TG4 coverage now came on so the laptop, on which I’d been watching the YouTube stream, could be put away. On the TV the pictures showed Aidan Orme getting a black card for dragging down Seamus O’Shea. Knockmore now looked in real bother.

Breaffy should have extracted punishment with the one-man advantage, a ten-minute period that straddled the break. But they didn’t – they led by two when Orme was sent to the sin-bin but that lead was down to one by the time he came back on.

By now Darren McHale had started to clear his throat. He bagged their first score since the 10th minute shortly after the resumption, replying to a Breaffy score right after the throw-in, a solo effort from Aidan O’Shea.

McHale then followed up with a cracking strike off his left from out on the left. With Orme back on and Knockmore now over their mini-wobble, this final suddenly took on a very different complexion.

Peter Naughton claimed a forward mark and was unerring from the dead ball, the score levelling the contest. It didn’t stay level for long, though, as Tommy O’Reilly shot smartly from an Aidan O’Shea pass to put his side back in front.

Another Naughton/McHale combo effort squared it up before Keith Ruttledge, pouncing on a loose ball after a messy passage of play in the middle of the field, scampered forward and fired it over. Darren McHale – a man on fire now – found himself unmarked and in possession well within range. You can guess the rest.

Another Tommy O’Reilly free cut the gap back to one but at the second water break it was Breaffy who were now the team with questions to answer. A match they looked well in control of was now threatening to slip its moorings. Could they deploy their greater experience or was Heartbreak 4.0 on the way for them?

We got our answer soon enough. Aidan Orme, fed by Darren McHale, pushed Knockmore two ahead. Then sub Kieran Langan fired over from distance into the bacon factory end. The winning post now in sight, the North Mayo lads were upping the gears and hitting for home.

A booming Robbie Hennelly free, from well the far side of the ’45, sailed over to cut the gap back to two. But then Breffy were penalised a bit harshly down the other end and the free was moved up for dissent, leaving Aidan Orme with the simple task of tapping it over.

Tommy O’Reilly, so reliable from dead balls all day, then shanked a free from a good position wide. I think that may have been the moment that the horror of what was about to happen dawned on the Breaffy lads.

But they weren’t going to go down without a fight. Seamie O’Shea burst forward, lost the ball and won it back before feeding Mattie Ruane who clipped it over. At the other end, though, Peter Naughton curled over an absolute peach of a score, one that really had the appearance of the grace note.

It was – that one was the winners’ final score. Six minutes of injury time were called and the ref played a further minute on top of that. Breaffy tried to break through Knockmore’s defence with a series of short handpasses but these moves repeatedly broke down, as the deep-lying rearguard of the champions-elect held firm.

A Conor O’Shea free in stoppage time was the day’s final score. When the final whistle sounded Knockmore were the champions on a scoreline of 1-12 to 0-13.

Photo: @MayoGAA

What an achievement this is for Ray Dempsey and his young charges. There’s no question that they’re deserving winners of the Moclair Cup this year, given that – as Ray’s old team-mate John Casey pointed out afterwards – they took out champions Ballintubber, fancied Ballina Stephenites and now Breaffy to land the spoils.

With their age profile, it’s tempting to think too that this could be the start of a run of success for Knockmore. Tonight, though, it’s best to park those thoughts and let Ray and his team celebrate this one on its own merits.

What can you say about Breaffy? Today’s defeat brings to four the number of county final losses they’ve suffered in just eight years. For Aidan and Seamie O’Shea, those four defeats stand in macabre symmetry with the four All-Ireland defeats they’ve also had to endure at inter-county level within the last decade. For players who have given so much to club and county that’s simply heartbreaking.

As they say, however, history is written by the winners. Today those doing the writing were a tenacious and hard-working Knockmore team whose performances this summer have capped what’s been a hugely entertaining Mayo Senior football Championship. More power to them.

31 thoughts on “Knockmore are the champions

  1. What with local club affairs I only saw snatches of the Mayo final but Knockmore seemed the hungrier side. With all their heartbreak in the last decade I expected Breaffy to be the hungrier side but when the ball was to be won there was always a yellow jersey arriving into the TV picture from nowhere and usually making the difference. Congrats to them and commiserations to Breaffy.

  2. Well done Knockmore. Superb performance. RAY Dempsey had them well tuned in today and all summer. Surely a call up to county squad awaits for a few of these players. Hard luck again to Breaffy. Their day will come.

  3. Super advertisement for club football in Mayo . Wasn’t too bothered who won but unfortunately Breaffy were quick to go down again today , holding heads trying to get players booked. So happy Knockmore prevailed .

  4. Cant agree with that @myball.
    I was at the game and Knockmore were going down every time they deemed necessary to break Breaffy momentum or especially to run down the clock on the black card.Of course Breaffy would have done the same thing.

  5. Knockmore were the more efficient at finishing and that was the difference. There will be calls for more Knockmore players to be included in the Mayo squad. However it is difficult for many good club players who are farmers, trades people, labourers and people who own their own business to commit to the county cause. That is a sad reality. Tough on Breaffy.

  6. Congratulations to Knockmore. A long time coming. Tough for the O’Shea brothers and all the rest of the Breaffy team. Hopefully they will come back stronger next year.

  7. Was it a case that this was won on the side line as much as on the field? Knockmore have been impressive and have developed over the last few years.
    I think that Breaffy have not really developed and almost seemed to hope that this would be their year. It seems a waste that given their players that they have not been able to get that first win. Their time may have passed unless they bring something new to the table, Knockmore may not have the same big names (as of yet) or experience but demonstrated more teamwork and exuberance. Well done to them.

  8. Great win for Knockmore and fully deserved. Awful disappointing for Aiden and Seamie – all them losses at club and county – it tough. I wish today was a ‘wrap’ and no more football until 2021. Cases rising. Games called off in Galway today. A positive test in the Donegal camp and all now isolating. How are the Mayo players based in Dublin going to be get down for training. How bad will things be end of October…

  9. Congrats to knockmore, worthy winners of a most enjoyable club championship.
    They were much the better team today and deserved to win by more, so much work done off the ball and running at angles and speed, the 3 mchales outstanding, naughton very classy as always too.

    Breaffy flattering to deceive in a final again, they went for the battering ram approach but not much subtlety or variety in their game. With Castlebar and tubber gone early this year was their chance. I feel its gone from them now.

  10. Tradition can never be underestimated, we in Mayo should know this Breaffy day will come as Simmonstowms day came in Meath

  11. Breaffy had four county starters on the team. They never stamped there authority on the game. I expected more from the big time player’s.

  12. Really enjoyed the day game today. Knockmore the better team and deserved the win. I hope Naughton and Darren McHale get a call up for mayo, stand out players today and over 2020 club championship.

  13. Senior Club championship Team of the Year
    1.Colm Reape Knockmore
    2.David McHale Knockmore
    3.David Drake Ballaghadereen
    4.Alan Stadler Knockmore
    5.Lee Keegan Westport
    6.Padraig O’Hora Ballina
    7.Kieran King Knockmore
    8.Kevin McLoughlin Knockmore
    9.Aidan O’Shea Breaffy
    10.Conor O’Shea Breaffy
    11.Darren McHale Knockmore
    12.Mark Moran Westport
    13.Evan Regan Ballina
    14.Aidan Orme Knockmore
    15.Peter Naughton Knockmore POTY
    Connell Dempsey Young player of the year
    David Clarke Ballina
    Paul Towey Charlestown
    Colm Flynn Breaffy
    Conor Diskin Claremorris
    Jack Reilly Charlestown
    Cian Hanley Ballaghaderreen
    Bryan Walsh Ballintubber
    Simon Leonard Ballina
    Killian Kilkelly Westport

  14. Kevin mc might have had a quiet enough day but when the game was there to be won he really stood up. But today wasn’t about County players or their performances. It was about a great team performance by a relativly unknown knockmore side who had star performances all over the pitch.
    For a young side they showed massive composure and seemed to be completely confident in their own abilities.
    When a team wins, managers can get overly praised. In this case I think Ray dempsey deserves all the praise he will get. He has developed a fine team from almost nowhere, got a game plan to fit them and executed it week in week out in the championship, to final glory yesterday. Ray and management team, take a bow.

  15. Well done Knockmore they are waking up today as champions and are a breath of fresh air in Mayo football and deserved their win congratulations to all involved. I feel sorry for Breaffy and particularly the O Shea’s Hennelly and Matty Ruane. I don’t know what Breaffy need to do to win a county title at this stage they are like our county team close but no cigar no one would begrudge them their day in the Sun but we will all be out to beat them and Knockmore next year.

  16. Just as an aside if I was involved in Breaffy I’d be trying my best to get Liam Irwin back involved in football and get him fit. A fully fit Liam Irwin could have being the difference yesterday. I don’t know Liam’s circumstances but I know he is a very talented forward and could be a great addition to club and county

  17. Well done to all winners this weekend and tough on all losers especially as games were so close, what a positive for Mayo football. Perhaps a little unfair to pick one lad out of so many quality performers but Darren McHale surely deserves inclusion in county panel for a stretch. And don’t be minding all that blah about good club lads not cutting it at county level. He has more ball skills than half the county forwards in the country, he is a great man to position himself at the right time in the attack movement, has tonnes of stamina, power, and a winners attitude. The club scene suggests a bright and challenging future lies ahead for the Mayo management team.

  18. Fair play to Knockmore, had the better quality when it mattered most.
    This will be extremely hard for Breaffy to come back.
    The missed 45s in the first half were key I felt, and they just never got a grip on the game.
    Possibly a new voice needed now in the changing room but with Castlebar , Ballina, Westport etc all stronger next year I feel this was their big chance..

  19. Can someone explain the Knockmore system of play that Ray Dempsey has developed? Haven’t got to see much of them this year.

  20. Ray Dempsey deserves huge credit, had them playing a very quick, energetic style where everybody knew their roles and player for each other.
    I must confess, i knew knockmore were a coming team but thought it would be another 3/4 years before they reached the promised land, would have had them around 6th favourites before champ started so its a fantastic achievement to get it done this soon

    From a county point a view, the main takeaway for me following the championship is that several lads who impressed on the club scene need to be injected into senior squad asap to give it some fresh impetus, i know the step up is big but there were several players who looked to have the speed and physical conditioning,

    On the flipside there are several of the old guard county players still in panel who i seen in championship who looked way off the pace, all great servants so i wont mention names but definitely 4 or 5 who should be thanked for their service and dropped.

  21. Knockmore look well set up to win another title in the next couple of years. Westport should improve again next year. Castlebar won’t be down for long. Ballina will be there or thereabouts. Ballintubber could do with some new blood in defence. Ballaghaderreen have a strong team but Andy Moran is still key for them.

    Apart from Seamie O’Shea, Breaffy are still a relatively young side. A fresh management team and a couple of new players could reenergise them. Oisín Tunney the 2019 mayo minor full back would be a good addition for them.

  22. In case anyone is interested, I was on the Peil Adore podcast again this week, chatting with the lads about yesterday’s county final. The link for that is here.

    If you haven’t listened to it yet, by the way, our own podcast reviewing the Intermediate and Junior finals is a great show. The Senior final review episode will be up later on tonight.

  23. Well done to Knockmore on their final win. A shame they won’t get a go at the Galway lads as I think they would give them plenty to think about. I think this Knockmore team will be there or there abouts for the next 6 or 7 years if they can keep the hunger. They’ll give the pubs a much needed twist for the next few days I’d say.

  24. Castlebar Minor Team looked absolutely deadly yesterday. I’d expect to see a few of them to be involved in the Mayo u20s. Castlebar might be heading towards u14, u16 and u18 A glory

  25. Watched it yesterday, but I have to say straight off that I stayed with the Tipp hurling final. It was unbelievable stuff, getting better and better as the game progressed. Some of the scores had my son and I laughing such was their audacity. By full time I was completely gripped. Then did the stupid thing and put our final on the iPad and kept the hurling extra time going.

    Anyway on to the football. Are Breaffy really the second best team? Ballagh should have beaten them if Cian Hanley had stayed on the pitch and David Drake hadn’t picked up that injury, whereas Knockmore had beaten teams of greater quality. Nevertheless, it was there for Breaffy, all the way through really. They swatted Knockmore aside in the first half once they got going and they had a grip in the second half and even when Knockmore went three ahead, they didn’t kill them off. Robbie really has to look at himself. Three howlers over the side line, which Knockmore punished mercilessly, not to mention the two 45 misses, in perfect conditions.

    Knockmore were very pacey and intelligent, but they still could have missed out – they need to work on that killer instinct, though it won’t matter this year.

    Lots of promising players for Knockmore – posters have already mentioned them. I would have no problem adding Colm Reape, Kieran King, Aidan Orme, Darren McHale, and Peter Naughton to the panel. I know some of them have been in an out. Forced to narrow it down, I would go for Reape, McHale, and Orme, but other posters would know them better.

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