Ballintubber 3-11 Aughawillan 1-08
Second-half substitute Jamsie Finnety scored two goals as Ballintubber advanced to their second Connacht final with an nine-point win over Aughawillan at Páirc Seán Mac Diarmada in Carrick-on-Shannon.
It’s a first provincial decider for the Mayo champions since Corofin beat them in 2014 and Ballintubber were 0-08 to 0-05 ahead at half-time. But Finnerty scored twice after his introduction and Alan Plunkett added a third goal.
Former All Star Cillian O’Connor also tagged on six points while Ciarán Gilheany scored Aughawillan’s consolation.
Kevin Johnson’s team claimed their fourth Mayo county title with victory over Breaffy and they beat Tourlestrane in the Connacht quarter-final. Now they face the reigning All-Ireland champions from Galway in the decider.
Aughawillan often played with 15 men behind the ball, against the breeze in the first half, but O’Connor put his side in front with a fourth minute free. He had also misfired with an earlier chance.
He almost scored a goal in the ninth minute but blasted his shot off the crossbar. And despite not having a shot in the opening quarter Aughawillan only trailed by 0-01 to 0-00.
O’Connor scored his second free but Aughawillan hit back emphatically with brothers Gary and Mark Plunkett on target. Gary Plunkett scored from long range on the right in the 14th minute and from the kick-out Mark Plunkett landed another stunning score.
The Aughawillan passing was erratic and they conceded possession in the lead up to O’Connor’s third pointed free. However, Ballintubber weren’t much better with ball in hand and Gilheaney was gifted a third score for the Leitrim champions.
Ballintubber captain Damien Coleman scored unopposed to put them 0-06 to 0-03 in front, but Gary Plunkett cancelled that out. That point gave his side confidence but Aughawillan didn’t build on it and points from Cillian O’Connor (free) and Brian Walsh handed Ballintubber a four-point lead.
Aughawillan still hadn’t struck a wide and Pearse Dolan reduced the arrears with an inspirational effort. Gary and Mark Plunkett missed two scoring opportunities before half-time but Aughawillan were still only 0-08 to 0-05 behind at the interval.
The home side looked rejuvenated coming out after half-time but Alan Plunkett quickly put them on the back foo, and two Cillian O’Connor frees left a big 0-11 to 0-05 gap between the teams.
Sean Flanagan had already made an impact for Aughawillan in the Leitrim championship, but he drove a one-on-one goal chance wide in the 37th minute.
Gary Plunkett tapped over a free but Ballintubber were five points clear with just 20 minutes of normal time remaining.
The crucial score of the game came in the 44th minute when Pearce Dolan gave away a free for over-carrying. Plunkett drove at the Aughawillan defence from deep and after the ball broke in the area Finnerty bundled it the ball into the net.
Finnerty had only been on the field one minute, after he replaced Steven O’Malley, and that gave Ballintubber a 1-11 to 0-06 lead.
Finnerty finished off a second goal after a pass from Cillian O’Connor in the 51st minute and moments later Plunkett scored a deserved goal. Gilheany found the net in the 59th minute but Ballintubber had done enough.
Ballintubber: Brendan Walsh; Brian Murphy, Cathal Hallinan, Gary Loftus; Myles Kelly, Michael Plunkett, Damien Coleman (0-01); Jason Gibbons, Diarmuid O’Connor; Ciaran Gavin, Alan Plunkett (1-03), Brian Walsh (0-01); Steven O’Malley, Cillian O’Connor (0-06, 0-06f), Alan Dillon.
Subs: Joe Geraghty for Loftus (43), Jamsie Finnerty (2-00) for Steven O’Malley (43), Padraig O’Connor for Cillian O’Connor (55), Declan Larkin for Myles Kelly (55), John Kerrigan for Damien Coleman (59), Noel Geraghty for Alan Dillon (59).
Aughawillan: Colin Maguire; Declan McGovern, Fergal McTague, Michael Quinn; Seán Quinn, Rory McTague, Barry Prior; Pearce Dolan (0-01), Mark Plunkett (0-01); Stephen Gilheany, Gary Plunkett (0-05, 0-02f), Morgan Quinn; Niall Beirne, Noel Plunkett, Ciarán Gilheany (1-01).
Subs: Sean Flanagan for Stephen Gilheany (35), Gerard McGovern for Niall Beirne (58), Christy Prior for Seán Quinn (59), Fionnbarr Quinn for Rory McTague (62).
Referee: James Molloy (Galway).