Wednesday, 27 October 2010 14:20
Four years in the making, as James Horan put it, Ballintubber have finally arrived and they did what it said on the tin. I was one of the doubters but the bookies got this one all wrong, as indeed did most of the fourth estate, the odds-on favourites tag proving more than a burden for some of the young shoulders of Castlebar Mitchels to carry. It was a strange county final in many ways and although the autumnal sun covered a splendid looking McHale Park in a blanket of warmth, the game itself never took off and stuttered only occasionally to life, the first half being particularly forgettable
for the poor finishing from both sides.
In the end James Horan has to be given credit for his tactical approach to the game and the manner in which he closed down the supply lines to a Castlebar attack that was largely unemployed for the hour.
Horan's style of football may not be pretty but if it gets these kinds of results there will be few complaints and it looks like Mayo will be undergoing a change in style and not before time.
His dilemma now is bringing Ballintubber a stage further while also planning ahead for his stint as Mayo team manager, which will be getting underway inside another month or so when the FBD Connaught League kicks in.
The final itself came in for more national scrutiny than normal given the tragic circumstances that cast such a long shadow over it.
Pity it did not live up to the pre-match billing as both these sides have football in them and I don't buy into the line that it was a reflection of the poor state of Mayo football.
We've had countless numbers of bad county finals. Yes, it was a dreadful game, but finals are not always about pretty football. At times you have to play ugly to win and Ballintubber just suffocated the football life out of the Mitchels.
Peter Ford will be disappointed that his charges did not respond to the occasion. He will also be disappointed with his own performance and the gamble he took that certain players would deliver on the day.
It didn't happen but given the youth of the Castlebar team they will return if they have the resolve to do so and I genuinely believe they have.
For Ballintubber, the big step now is into the turbulent water of the Connaught club scene where Roscommon champions St. Brigid's are already being touted as odd-on favourites.
The underdog tag will suit Ballintubber and those who may not have backed them for the county title, and I include your humble scribe, might retrieve some of their losses by placing a small wager on them adding the Connaught title to their first ever county title.
The boys from Killererin will have a say first as Ballintubber travel to Tuam in two weeks time but, for the moment, let Ballintubber enjoy their moment in the sun.
Ballina showed a touch of class to claim the minor title but Charlestown might have produced a shock if they had shown a bit more confidence and composure up front.
They certainly created the chances but, at the end of the day, Ballina just had that look of quality about them and in the attack they had an ace in Evan Regan, whose cracking goal in the second half ultimately swung the contest in favour of the Stephenites who have a very good backroom team and deserve a lot of credit for the work that is being done at underage level in the club.