Tourlestrane (Sligo) 0-5 Ballintubber (Mayo) 0-6
Mayo star Cillian O’Connor bagged five pointed frees as Ballintubber qualified for the Connacht Club SFC semi-final – they’ll meet Leitrim’s Aughawillan – after a tense one-point win over Tourlestrane at Quigabar.
Tourlestrane, who completed their county three in-a-row at this west Sligo venue, came into this fixture with a disappointing record at provincial level, having never won the Connacht trophy and making their exit in the last two years to Castlebar Mitchels.
The Sligo champions were dealt a blow as they had to start without key forward Liam Gaughan due to a hamstring problem.
Ballintubber, meanwhile, won a competitive Mayo Senior Championship with a narrow victory over Aidan O’Shea’s Breaffy. They, too, have never won a Connacht title but were provincial runners-up in 2014.
The Mayo men played with the strong breeze in the opening half and were first on the scoreboard when their talisman Cillian O’Connor landed a third-minute free from 50 metres.
O’Connor’s pointed free was the only score of the opening 15 minutes as both sides were content to be patient in possession and pack the defences.
Man of the match Diarmuid O’Connor’s superb point from play put the Mayo side two points clear, 0-2 to 0-0, by the 16th minute but they also failed to exploit possession when kicking four wides in the opening exchanges.
In a low-scoring yet absorbing first-half, Ballintubber edged three points up through Cillian O’Connor’s second pointed free after 22 minutes.
Tourlestrane, whose defensive work was admirable, finally got off the mark in the first minute of first-half stoppage time when Cathal Henry kicked a stylish point from play.
Ballintubber, managed by Sligo native, Kevin Johnson, were just two points up at the break, 0-3 to 0-1, and had to play into the strong breeze for the second-half.
Cathal Henry’s pointed free at the start of the second-half brought the wind-assisted Tourlestrane to within a point of their opponents, 0-3 to 0-2. But Cillian O’Connor’s third point of the day – he took this effort from the ground – erased that score.
Tourlestrane, however, made it a one-point game when wing-back Oisin Kennedy landed a superb point from the right wing.
Then Cillian O’Connor shot his fourth pointed free to give Ballintubber some breathing space, 0-5 to 0-3, after 43 minutes.
Shane Dunne kept Tourlestrane in it with a marvellous point but the veteran was red-carded in the 46th minute after a challenge on Ballintubber’s Ruaidhri O’Connor.
After a fifth point from Cillian O’Connor, which put Ballintubber 0-6 to 0-4 clear, Tourlestrane took a gamble by bringing on Gaughan.
Cathal Henry’s third point, a classy effort from play, brought a dogged Tourlestrane to within a point of the Mayo kingpins, 0-6 to 0-5, with two minutes of normal time left.
In added time, with Ballintubber playing keep ball and holding on, Tourlestrane had a second player dismissed when Adrian McIntyre picked up a second yellow card.
Tourlestrane (Sligo): Adam Broe, Colin Neary, Barry Walsh, Brian Kennedy, Oisin Kennedy (0-1), Adrian McIntyre, James Leonard (c), Stephen Henry, Pat Harte, Alan Dunne, Cathal Henry (0-3, 1f), Shane Dunne (0-1), Gary Gaughan, John Marren, Johnny Kelly
Subs used: John Quinn for Gary Gaughan, 8; Cian Surlis for John Marren, 45; Liam Gaughan for John Quinn, 54; Conan Marren for Stephen Henry, 56
Ballintubber (Mayo): Brendan Walsh, Gary Loftus, Cathal Hallinan, Brian Murphy, Damien Coleman (c), Michael Plunkett, Ruaidhri O’Connor, Jason Gibbons, Diarmuid O’Connor (0-1), Ciaran Gavin, Alan Dillon, Alan Plunkett, Brian Walsh, Cillian O’Connor (0-5, 5f), Steven O’Malley
Sub used: Jamsie Finnerty for Steven O’Malley, 51; Padraig O’Connor for Ciaran Gavin, 58; Myles Kelly for Gary Loftus, 60
Referee: Paddy Neilan (Roscommon)