Photo: The Score/INPHO
On the two previous occasions that Ballintubber won the Moclair Cup they failed to make an impact in the Connacht club championship but they sure did today where, at MacHale Park, they brushed aside last year’s All-Ireland champions St Brigid’s of Roscommon on a scoreline of 3-10 to 1-13 to book a first ever Connacht final appearance. They’ll now face Galway champions Corofin in the decider, also at MacHale Park, in a fortnight’s time.
The Tubbermen have developed a happy knack this year for scoring goals at just the right time and today was no exception. Padraic O’Connor bagged their first to put the Mayo champions into the driving seat in the first half and Alan Plunkett kept them on top when he scored their second shortly before half-time.
The Abbeysiders led by three at the break but Brigid’s pegged them back in the second half and when Karol Mannion goaled for them it looked as if the Rossie lads’ big-match experience would see them home from there. Ballintubber have plenty of big men too, though, and none bigger than the talismanic Cillian O’Connor who lashed home his team’s third goal of the afternoon with ten minutes left. Brigid’s battled bravely to the end but the Tubber lads were full value for their three-point margin of victory.
I was at O’Moore Park myself this afternoon to see my local club St Vincents begin their defence of the Leinster club title against Portlaoise. The two sides played out a classic Leinster final last December in Tullamore and so although today’s clash was only a quarter-final tie it was one that would leave the winners on the high road to provincial success this year.
Up until their nervy victory over Plunketts in the Dublin final, Vincents have used the same template for success in this championship campaign, which has involved a flat enough first half showing followed by a turbo-charged third quarter. The Plunketts match on Bank Holiday Monday broke this mould, as the third quarter surge never materialised and Vinnies only just managed to scrape home by the minimum margin. Today, however, the turbo engine was back in action and it blew away the home side’s challenge after the teams emerged from their half-time break.
The defending All-Ireland champions should, in fact, have had this one wrapped up by half-time but they lost their way after a bright opening that had seen them 1-2 to 0-0 up after ten minutes, the goal created by Diarmuid Connolly (who was excellent, yet again, today) and bundled to the net by Mossy Quinn, who also ended in the net with the ball. With Portlaoise on the rack, Vinnies then spurned a number of easy chances for points with the resultant goal attempts not coming off. Eventually the home side roused themselves and cut the gap back to a single point at the break.
There was only one side in it on the resumption, though, and two goals from Shane Carthy effectively killed the game off. The fight pretty much went out of Portlaoise when Carthy walked his second goal into the unguarded net and the Marino lads sauntered to a ten-point win from there, on a scoreline of 3-11 to 0-10.
On the same day that Ballintubber square up to Corofin in the Connacht final, Vincents will be meeting Westmeath’s Garrycastle at Parnell Park in the Leinster semi-final, with the winners of that one then up against either Rhode or Moorefield in the final a fortnight after that. There are, I know, a few bridges to be crossed both sides of the Shannon yet but the prospect of another Mayo/Dublin club championship clash (which, if it occurs, will happen at the All-Ireland semi-final stage in February) is once again starting to swing into view. Have they no consideration for me, at all at all?