The first two county finals of the weekend were played this afternoon. Both went to form, with strong favourites Kilmeena finally sealing the deal in the Junior decider while more narrow favourites Mayo Gaels prevailed in the Intermediate final.
Kilmeena were strong fancied to get the better of Cill Chomain in the JFC final, played today at Crossmolina, but, as the lads had pointed out on the podcast, being the strong favourite going into a title decider has its drawbacks, giving as it does a free shot to its opponents.
The goal bagged by Cill Chomain in the first quarter was just what this contest needed. Kilmeena had run up big scores in all of their previous matches in this year’s Championship but, trailing by a point at the first water break, it was obvious even then that this wasn’t a match they were going to win at their ease.
By half-time, though, the west Mayo outfit had reasserted themselves. They led then by four points, 1-6 to 1-2, and they were on top from there to the finish. At the second water break there was three points between the teams and that was the gap as well at the finish, with Kilmeena winning out by 1-10 to 1-7.
So, after missing out last year to Kilmaine, today was Kilmeena’s day as they claimed their first Junior title in nineteen years. As Ger Flanagan observed on the podcast earlier in the week, this is a young, talented team who are going places and you can be sure that, with the Pete McDonnell Cup now won, they’ll now be fixing their gaze on loftier targets. More power to them.
There was a similar enough vibe to Mayo Gaels’ success in the Intermediate final. The lads from Mayo Abbey were fancied to do well in the IFC this year and they were narrow favourites to prevail over Ballyhaunis in today’s Sweeney Cup decider, played at Fr O’Hara Park in Charlestown.
It was, though, Ballyhaunis who made the early running in this one. They led by four at half-time, 0-8 to 1-1, with Keith Higgins storming forward to bag two points from play. Given the famed stickiness of the Ballyhaunis backline in previous matches, the Gaels had their work cut out at that stage.
Things were no better for them at the second water break. They’d clipped the Ballyhaunis lead back to a single point but then the East Mayo lads nabbed a goal to re-establish their four-point advantage at the end of the third quarter.
Mayo Gaels now needed a huge final push to claim the honours. And, in fairness, that’s exactly what they found within themselves, as they roared back to win it. They scored seven of the game’s final eight points to win the title decider by 1-11 to 1-9.
It’s tough on Ballyhaunis, whose hurlers lost out last weekend to Tooreen and who had a number of players who were in action then as well as today. Today, though, belonged to Mayo Gaels, who claimed possession of the Sweeney Cup for the first time since 1998 and who will now ply their trade at Senior level in 2022.