Declan McGovern tackles Ballintubber's Alan Dillon and Alan Plunkett. Photo by Willie Donnellan
A clinical Ballintubber ended Aughawillan’s dreams of Connacht glory in devastating style with three goals in an eight minute spell during the second half of Sunday’s AIB Connacht Club Championship Semi-Final.
The final scoreline in Avantcard Pairc Sean Mac Diarmada might indicate a cakewalk for the Mayo champions but this game was far from that as Aughawillan really took the game to their All-Star laden opponents.
That Ballintubber was the better team is no in dispute as they dominated the middle of the park and kept the scoreboard ticking over regularly, their second half mastery against the wind something Aughawillan couldn’t counter.
But Aughawillan gave them their fill of it in this game, playing far better than they did in their 2014 & 2018 semi-finals and really causing concern for the eventual winners. They definitely went down fighting even as much as the final scoreline will hurt their pride.
A series of errors from poor passing, over-carrying and mishandling hurt them badly but there was spirit too and a succession of quality scores in the first half, efforts that had Ballintubber supporters mummering in appreciation along with the Aughawillan cheers.
Sean Flanagan drives a shot wide for Aughawillan early in the second half. Photo by Willie Donnellan
Ballintubber, playing with the wind in the first half, started strongly but had four wides, a penalty appeal and one shot off the crossbar in the first ten minutes with only a Cillian O’Connor free to show for their dominance.
O’Connor would add a second on 12 minutes but then came two scores from the Plunkett brothers inside 60 seconds. First Gary’s solo effort got the crowd going before Mark gathered the kickout and blasted the ball back over from 45 yards.
Ballintubber responded with two Alan Plunkett points before O’Connor tapped over a free. Ciaran Gilheany responded with a lovely point on the turn but Ballintubber captain Damien Coleman responded immediately.
Pearse Dolan’s good run led to a Gary Plunkett point but Ballintubber continued to pull ahead with a point each from O’Connor and Brian Walsh. The half ended with a great point from Dolan to leave Aughawillan trailing 0-8 to 0-5 at halftime.
The Leitrim champions would have the wind in the second half but Ballintubber delivered a masterclass in the opening five minutes as only one Aughawillan player touched the ball and that was Colin Maguire who kicked the ball out after Alan Plunkett’s point inside a minute.
Ballintubber then played keep-ball for over four minutes before a foul allowed O’Connor a simple tap over, following up a minute later with another after a quick kickout went awry and suddenly the gap was now six points.
Aughawillan had a chance to cut the gap in half when a mazy Sean Flanagan run saw him cut through the Ballintubber defence but the sub pulled his shot well wide. Dolan had a wide before Gary Plunkett put over a free.
However, the game was as good as over 13 minutes into the second half when Pearse Dolan was called for over-carrying.
A quick free to Alan Plunkett saw the half-forward solo 50 yards before finding Cillian O’Connor. He then passed to his brother Diarmuid who saw his initial shot blocked but in the scramble to clear the ball, sub Jamsie Finnerty managed to diver the ball to the net for a killer goal.
Gary Plunkett tapped over a free on 16 minutes but with ten minutes, Ballintubber killed off the game. Brian Walsh dispossessed a defender and found Cillian O’Connor who passed across the goal for Finnerty to palm home a second goal.
Aughawillan players and supporters on the field after Sunday's game. Photo by Willie Donnellan
A quick kickout may not have been the wisest as Ballintubber won the ball back and suddenly Finnerty was setting up Alan Plunkett for an easy goal.
Aughawillan almost had an instant response when Niall Beirne was found in behind the defence but his shot was high and wide, a great chance missed. Gary Plunkett fired over a brilliant point from the wing five minutes from time.
Aughawillan got some reward for their efforts when a high ball into towards the goal broke off Noel Plunkett and Ciaran Gilheany finished emphatically to the net for a goal that was the least Aughawillan’s performance deserved.
Scorers: Gary Plunkett 0-5, 2f; Ciaran Gilheany 1-1; Pearse Dolan & Mark Plunkett 0-1 each
Team: Colin Maguire, Declan McGovern, Fergal McTague, Michael Quinn, Sean Quinn, Rory McTague, Barry Prior, Pearse Dolan, Mark Plunkett, Stephen Gilheany, Gary Plunkett, Morgan Quinn, Niall Beirne, Noel Plunkett, Ciaran Gilheany. Subs: Sean Flanagan for S. Gilheany (34), Gerard McGovern for Beirne (57), Fionnbarr Quinn for R. McTague (61)
Scorers: Cillian O’Connor 0-6, 6f; Alan Plunkett 1-3; Jamsie Finnerty 2-0; Brian Walsh & Damien Coleman 0-1 each
Team: Brendan Walsh, Gary Loftus, Cathal Hallinan, Brian Murphy, Damien Coleman, Michael Plunkett, Myles Kelly, Jason Gibbons, Diarmuid O’Connor, Ciaran Gavin, Alan Dillon, Alan Plunkett, Brian Walsh, Cillian O’Connor. Steven O’Malley. Subs:Joe Geraghty & Jamsie Finnerty for Loftus & O’Malley (42), Padraig O’Connor & Declan Larkin for C O’Connor & Kelly (54), John Kerrigan & Noel Geraghty for Coleman & Dillon
Referee: James Molloy (Galway)