Ballintubber 1-14 Ballaghaderreen 1-11

Defending champions Ballintubber had to dig deep to retain their Mayo SFC title under the floodlights at MacHale Park, Castlebar this evening.

The holders were pushed to the limit by Ballaghaderreen all through a rain-soaked contest, but two late points from Mayo's all-time leading scorer Cillian O’Connor and one from impressive substitute Keelan McDonnell saw the Abbeysiders prevail.

This was Ballintubber’s fifth time to claim the prestigious Moclair Cup, with all of their title wins having come since their breakthrough victory in 2010. 

Eleven of their squad were winning their fifth Mayo SFC medals, and that experience proved crucial in the closing stages as the outcome hung in the balance.

The sides were level on five occasions in the opening half, and it was a similar story during the third quarter as Ballaghaderreen, powered on by brother-in-laws David Drake and Andy Moran, gave as good as they got.

By half-time the sides were deadlocked at 1-6 apiece.

They had been trading points evenly throughout the first 20 minutes, but the match was blown wide open in the 25th minute when Cormac Doohan scored a spectacular goal to propel Ballagh' into the lead.

Last year’s TG4 Underdogs forward had a lot of work to do when he gathered a long delivery, but he rounded Ballintubber goalkeeper, Brendan Walsh, before cracking the ball to the net from a tight angle.

He also tagged on a point to leave the outsiders ahead by 1-6 to 0-5.

Michael Plunkett goals for the victors

But Ballintubber never panicked and they hit hit back with a well-worked Michael Plunkett goal four minutes later to give their huge crowd of supporters something to shout about.

The champions got back on level terms with a neat point from Stephen O’Malley to the leave the teams inseparable at the interval.

The third quarter was every bit as tight and tense with former Footballer of the Year Andy Moran, who finished as Ballagh’s top scorer, and his former Mayo team-mate, Cillian O’Connor, trading points on a number of occasions.

A series of heavy rain showers meant that the conditions took a turn for the worst in the last twenty minutes, and both sides missed chances to take the initiative.

Ballintubber, who were appearing in their seventh final in ten seasons, used all their experience in the last quarter with midfielders Jason Gibbons and Diarmuid O’Connor, along with substitute Alan Dillon and the aforementioned Cillian O’Connor, all getting on the ball.

Their well-organised defence frustrated Ballagh’ time and again, while three counter-attacks yielded points for Keelan McDonnell and Cillian O’Connor to seal the deal.

Ballintubber: B Walsh; G Loftus, B Murphy, R O’Connor; D Coleman, M Plunkett (1-0), M Kelly; J Gibbons, D O’Connor (0-1); C Gavin (0-1), C O’Connor (0-7, 4fs), B Walsh; N Geraghty, A Plunkett, S O’Malley (0-3).

Subs used: K McDonnell (0-2) for A Plunkett; J Geraghty for Kelly; P O’Connor for O’Malley.

Ballaghaderreen: P Sharkey; D Drake, S Cunniffe, P Kelly; D McBrien (0-1), O Jordan (0-1), S Akram; D Kelly, R Lynch; D Feeney, C Hanley (0-1), L O’Grady (0-1); C Doohan (1-1), A Moran (0-6, 3fs), K Callaghan.

Subs used: A Lynch for P Kelly; T Carmody for Feeney; D McHugh for O’Grady.

Referee: J Henry (Castlebar Mitchels)