David Clifford scoring a goal for East Kerry in the Kerry senior football championship final at Austin Stack Park, Tralee, on Saturday. Ireland GAA coverage begins on Page 26. INPHO/JAMES CROMBIE
By P.J. Cunningham
All good things must come to an end but few expected Corofin’s demise to come so swiftly and so emphatically as occurred on Sunday when Mountbellew-Moylough ended their opponents’ seven-year dominance of Galway, and latterly All Ireland, football in Salthill.
Having won the last three All Ireland club championship, the stars in green and gold were expected to make it eight in a row in their own county at the semi-final stage on Sunday.
Even when the sides were level at 1-8 to 0-11 half-way through the second half, there seemed little warning of what was to follow.
The M-M side kicked for home with an impressive 1-5 as all their much vaunted opponents could muster in that run in was a solitary point.
After Patrick Kelly netted four minutes after the changeover, Corofin moved up a gear to level but once Paul Donnellan got in for a second green flag, it was like a boxer having no answer to a big punch.
The losers battled gamely to the end but it is now Mountbellew-Moylough who qualified for their county final appearance over the past six years.
Ballymun hits the heights
Ballymun Kickhams 1-19; Ballyboden St Enda's 0-8
This was billed as a ‘first among equals’ contest but as it turned out, nothing could be further from the truth at Parnell Park on Sunday as Ballymun won pulling up by 14 points against the holders.
And so ends a bad week for Ballyboden who now have lost both senior hurling and football finals in the space of seven days, having bowed the knee to Cuala in the hurling the previous Sunday.
With Dublin sharpshooter Dean Rock leading he way among six Dublin stars in the ranks, Kickhams went 0-7 to 0-4 in front by the water break and a Fiach Andrews point on the resumption before rocked reeled off three points from play.
There was no let up to the interval by which time Ballymun kicked 10 points without any Ballyboden reply to lead 0-14 to 0-4.
Ballyboden’s two points on the resumption was a blatant case of flattering to deceive as Ballymun kept possession well for the rest of the half without trying to pull up trees. Then man of the match Rock slotted home a penalty in injury time to put the tin hat on proceedings to complete his personal tally of 1-8 on the day.
Clifford Kills Off Mid Kerry Hopes
East Kerry 2-15; Mid Kerry 0-09
Goals win matches they say, and when David Clifford scores one in a final, you can be sure it is the decisive moment of the game.
His special delivery came shortly after the second half had commenced and at a time that Mid Kerry still had high hopes of winning themselves at Tralee on Sunday.
However Clifford moved onto Dara Moynihan’s well-worked pass, time stood still for a moment as the Kerry ace looked towards goal before dispatching a rocket into the top corner of the net.
It brought the few people allowed into the game to their feet – they had seen a moment for the ages but they also knew the game was spent as a result.
Mid Kerry were hungry to bridge the 12 year absence of wearing the Kerry crown but Clifford was even hungried, having missed the semi-final through suspension. His goal and four points gave East Kerry the muscle to push for victory and gave him the Man Of The Match award for his efforts.
Alex Morey of Sixmilebridge makes the catch ahead of O'Callahan Mills' Conor Cooney. INPHO/JAMES CROMBIE
Bridge Too Far For Mills
Sixmilebridge 0-20; O’Callaghan Mills 0-12
Sixmilebridge completed an unprecedented fifth Clare Senior Hurling crown in eight years after expertly keeping neighbors O'Callaghan's Mills at arm's length in Cusack Park, Ennis.
While it was the 'Bridge's 15th title win since 1977, more significantly Sunday's success copper-fastened the club's most fruitful period, with biennial victories in 2013, '15, '17 and '19 finally broken by only the second title retention in their history.
Remarkably, Sixmilebridge reached their latest pinnacle without scoring a single goal throughout the condensed five match series.
However, it was at the other end that the lack of goals proved decisive as O'Callaghan's Mills' path to a first county final in 27 years was highlighted by a two-goal average but the Fireballs were crucially prevented from replicating that form in the decide.
The Bridge's vastly superior experience also told in terms of assurance and decision-making as once hitting the front in the sixth minute through man-of-the-match Cathal Malone amidst a four-point unanswered rally, the defending champions would never be caught.
Try as they might, the Mills couldn't find the spark that got them to this lofty stage as aside from razor-sharp chief marksman Colin Crehan who raided for five first-half points, one always felt that the newcomers needed a goal to ask any serious questions of the holders.
In contrast, it was business as usual for a well-oiled 'Bridge machine as Alex Morey's unerring free-taking allied to a hat-trick of points for Cathal Malone and Brian Corry powered their side to a 0-13 to 0-07 half-time advantage.
The Mills did regroup and re-arm for the new half but successive points for Sean Cotter (2) and Aidan Fawl were matched by as many wides at 0-13 to 0-10 by the 35th minute.
Having weathered the inevitable storm, Sixmilebridge quickly wrestled back full control as six different scorers contributed to a triumphant finish that saw the holders outscore their increasingly desperate neighbours by 0-07 to 0-02 in the final 20 minutes.
It was Sixmilebridge's first successful title defence in 27 years, with their first back-to-back milestone in 1993 also ironically coming at the expense of O'Callaghan's Mills when current coach Davy Fitzgerald manned the goals for his third of six county medals.
The current crop now have five titles under their belts and in an era when the race for the Canon Hamilton Cup has thrown up ten different winners in 17 years, it's an accomplishment that simply has to be applauded.
Kilmurray-Ibrickane Rule Roost
Kilmurry-Ibrickane 1-12; Cratloe 0-12
There is no better medicine after losing a county final than to bounce back and win one. Such was the fate of Kilmurry-Ibrickane in Clare as they emerged victorious against a very game Cratloe side at Cusack Park, Ennis on Saturday afternoon.
These side have met no less than 12 times in the past 11 seasons and it was the little bit of big game nous that stood to the winner in winning the Jack Daly Cup.
Mark Killeen's goal in the 9th minute ended up being the score that separated both teams at the long whistle and it also negatived Cratloe’s bright start where they threatened to run away with the decider by scoring three of the first four points. The full-back managed to get on the end of a flowing counter-attack move to cooly finish and wipe out their opponent's brighter start.
Conal O'Hanlon, Podge Collins and Diarmuid Ryan's early scores were undone by Killeen's goal and it was the spark that the Bricks required to quickly move through the gears and seize full control.
A five-point unanswered rally, led by braces from the ever-impressive Keelan Sexton and Noel Downes, cemented a seven point turnaround on the 2016 and '17 winners' way to a 1-6 to 0-5 interval lead.
It was an all-too familiar position for Kilmurry-Ibrickane who, thanks to Sexton's heroics would stretch their cushion to six by the two-thirds mark before Cratloe finally rediscovered their groove.
At the turn of the final quarter, Conal O'Hanlon's back post flick to the net was ruled out for a square ball but did seem to motivate Cratloe to new heights.
Led by the Collins brothers, Sean and Podge, they kicked four points without reply, two from O'Hanlon frees, to cut the deficit to just two, entering the last ten minutes at 1-09 to 0-10.
That was as good as it would get, however, as without an elusive Cratloe goal, the 'Bricks expertly soaked up any pressure to pounce on the counter. It resulted in three of the last five points, fittingly implemented by first-time winner Daniel Walsh (2) and Michael Hogan, who completed his ninth county success.
Captain Hogan, along with late replacements Enda Coughlan and Michael O'Dwyer, have been involved in all nine crowns since 2002. There's no substitute for experience it seems.
Saints Find That Little Extra
St Loman's 0-17; Tyrrellspass 2-9
St Loman’s were crowned Westmeath Senior Football Champions following a two-point victory over Tyrrellspass after extra time, in TEG Cusack Park.
Loman’s were ahead for the vast majority of the second half, though Tyrrellspass found the net in stoppage time to put themselves in front and they looked on course to claim their first title in 13 years.
Loman’s had other ideas however and they were definitely the better team over the course of the game, as they squandered many goal chances that could have killed off the contest earlier.
Tyrrellspass opened the scoring with a free from Ger Egan, though Loman's responded superbly and three points from John Heslin left them two points ahead at the water break.
Tyrrellspass were awarded a penalty after 18 minutes, when Kieran Geraghty was fouled and Egan made no mistake with the resulting spot-kick to give his side the lead.
Loman’s almost had a goal immediately afterwards, though Fionn O’Hara’s effort was cleared off the line.
Aaron O’Brien opened his account, to double his side’s advantage, before successive scores from Heslin levelled proceedings.
O’Hara and O’Brien then exchanged scores, as the teams went into the interval level, with all to play for in the second half.
David Lynam of Tyrrelspass and Fola Ayorinde of St Loman's Mullingar battle for possession
Egan opened the second half scoring, before Ronan O’Toole equalised for Loman’s, though successive scores from Peter Foy (2) and Sam McCartan gave St Loman’s a three point advantage.
Egan and Kelvin Reilly then traded points, before a free from the former left two between the teams late on.
Evan Connell found the net for Tyrrellspass in stoppage time, to send their support into raptures, as they went ahead with very little time remaining.
Loman’s were then awarded a free late on, after Conor O’Donoghue was fouled and Heslin showed nerves of steel to point the place-kick and send the game into extra time.
It was tit for tat at the start of extra time, with both sides cancelling each other out, though a point for Kevin Regan left Loman’s a point up at half-time in extra time.
Heslin then added a point, though Tyrrellspass had appeals for a penalty turned down in the 75th minute and Loman's then responded down the other end with a point from O’Toole.
A late free from Ger Egan was no more than consolation, as Declan Kelly’s side held on for a two-point win, to claim their first Championship since 2017.
Shamrocks Bloom in One-Sided Decider
Ballyhale Shamrocks 5-19; Dicksboro 1-10
Other than recording a 21-point triumph by holders Ballyhale, this game had little to commend itself to the neutral as the winners hardly had to break sweat against a clearly inferior Dicksboro outfit in Nowlan Park on Sunday.
With James O’Connor taking over the baton as manager from Henry Shefflin, there was the fear of slippage but if anything, this group become even more obsessive about not just beating opponents, but burying them as part of the winning ritual.
Shamrocks completed their hat-trick of title successes in a row and their 18the in all on a day when Eoin Reid notched 2-2 as Colin Fennelly (who else?), Brian Cody and Eoin Cody also got among the goals.
TJ Reid “only” scored eight points on this occasion but his work-rate was voracious and it was little surprised that he ended up with the man of the match award.
New Kingpins In Wee County
Naomh Mairtin 1-13
Ardee St. Mary's 1-09
Naomh Mairtin picked up their first ever Louth senior title at the expense of Ardee St.Mary’s in the Louth Centre of Excellence in Darver.
Having lost the previous two finals in a row, the Monasterboice outfit learned from the heartbreak to finally compose themselves over the line. Sam Mulroy was the orchestrator, his ice cool place kicking provided the platform for their historic success.
Both sides shared the last four minor titles between them yet nerves were a real issue as Ardee missed two early free’s and Naomh Mairtin struggled to build any sort of attack. Eoghan Callaghan did eventually open the scoring with a neat finish.