Sunday 22 October 2017

Lure of rare Mayo treble may push Ballintubber over line

Colm Keys

Colm Keys

Such has been the competitive nature of Mayo club football over the last few decades, no team has been able to grab the local championship in a vice-like grip and pin it down for any sustainable period.

Not since Garrymore, between 1974 and 1976, has a club managed to reel off three successive titles.

But Ballintubber can emulate that feat as they defend the Moclair Cup for a second time against Ballaghadereen tomorrow.

It is quite a period for the club who only landed their first title with victory over Castlebar Mitchels in the 2010 final.

Should they win, it would represent a unique achievement in that all three triumphs would be claimed under different management. Ballintubber's initial victory was the platform for James Horan to progress to greater things with Mayo, while Anthony McGarry stayed just one year before departing for Ballina.

Now it's the turn of Peter Ford, a much travelled manager who has stepped off the inter-county carousel since his time with Galway ended in 2007.

Ford was in charge of Castlebar for the previous two seasons -- both culminating in defeats to Ballintubber. After stepping away from managing his local club, the opportunity to manage the champions was too good to turn down.

Mayo clubs have endured a relative famine in the provincial championship and are without champions at the last four attempts, with Galway's Corofin (2008 and 2009) and St Brigid's (2010 and 2011) dominating.

Both Ballintubber and Ballaghadereen come into the match without key players.

Andy Moran's cruciate ligament travails have been well documented, robbing Ballaghadereen of their most functional asset, while Cillian O'Connor missed the semi-final with a shoulder injury and is not expected to play tomorrow.

Ballintubber haven't shown great form in the lead-up to this final and might well have coughed up their title in the previous two games to Castlebar and Crossmolina. But they have an uncanny way of getting their heads in front at just the right time.

The pivot for their attacks will be Alan Dillon, who doubles up as creator and finisher to telling effect.

In Moran's absence there has been no shortage of leaders, with Ballaghadereen bidding for a first county title since 2008.

Barry Regan has demanded more responsibility while James Kilcullen has shown glimpses of the promise John O'Mahony saw in him a few years ago.

The sides don't have much of a history to hang trends of a rivalry on but, with another milestone in their grasp, the champions' instinct for the winning post may just be the difference.

Irish Independent

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