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Mayo Intermediate Football Championship Final Reaction 2000

November 7, 2018

And then they clicked....

 

THE Sweeney Memo-rial Cup has rarely been handed out in such circumstances.


 A crowd of hundreds clustered around the stand at Fr. Gibbon's Park,

Claremorris as Tony Walkin punched the air with the old trophy. In the far

corner of the field the scoreline was burnt onto charred timber: 1-21 to

0-6; this had not been a match, it was more of a massacre.

One hundred and thirty five times in all Ballinrobe had left the

dressing-rooms at Flanagan Park in order to prepare for the ultimate test.

As winter transformed to summer they soldiered on, the tag of championship

favourites resting on their shoulders and the voice of Peter Forde calling

instructions in the darkness.

Here, eight months later, it had all come to an extraordinary end.

Ballaghaderreen had been blitzed in the cross-fire as Ballinrobe sprinted

from the dressing-rooms with all guns blazing. Twelve points up after

twenty minutes it was all about statistics from there to the finish line.

Tony Walkin, the team captain, is struggling to make sense of the day. His

team came expecting a battle but ended up with a training run. Their

whirlwind start left heads spinning.

'Peter [Forde] told us that the first ten minutes, especially, were going

to be crucial,' he says. 'We were playing against the breeze, we just put

our heads down and we just kept playing. The two lads at midfield, Sean

[Grimes] and Fergal [O'Loughlin] were just outstanding and in the first ten

or fifteen minutes we just took over. It meant that we were thirteen points

up at half-time as a result. Amazing,' he ponders aloud.

The consensus is that few senior teams in Mayo would have lived with

Ballinrobe's display over the first thirty minutes. Their focus, rhythm and

precision was remarkable, as if this one superb performance had been

bottled up all season and had just come spilling out at the right time.

Walkin agrees.

'We wanted to give a good performance but we didn't know until we came out

whether we'd be playing with or against the breeze. We were anxious to get

a good start though, just get going. We clicked right throughout the field,

stormed up through the middle and the likes of Adrian Flannery and Aidan

Golden made the space for other guys to come up along the wings. Maurice

Horan, Keith McTigue, Micheal Keane, we all clicked at the right time.'

For a club that wandered blindly for the majority of the 1990s, gazing

enviously at the achievements of others, Sunday stands apart. The County

U-21 'A' title and Intermediate Championship now have their home in

Ballinrobe and there is a crop of genuinely talented, level-headed

individuals. Walkin, 27, appreciates the change in fortune.

'I've been dreaming about this to be honest with you,' he smiles. 'I

haven't captained a Ballinrobe team since I was U-16. To do it today was

fantastic, not just for myself, but for the rest of the players as well.

'The U-21s have been training since January 1st and the rest of us were

back on the first week of February. I can't think of another club in the

county that has done the Intermediate and U-21 championships double in the

one year. The U-21 was a great start to the season for us, then we won the

Billy Diskin Cup in Clonbur and that's due to the effort of everyone that

was involved in this club...It's been an amazing day.

Sean Grimes has come from the opposite end of the spectrum. Not yet turned

21, the midfielder has won a County U-21 Championship and an All-Ireland

Senior 'B' Colleges medal in the past twelve months. Like the majority of

his peers the winning habit has become ingrained; this victory merits a

different satisfaction however.

'A lot of work has gone in to winning this title,' he begins. 'Peter Forde

just reminded us before we went out that we had trained for two hundred

hours altogether and it all boiled down to today, and one hour. It's been

incredible and the likes of Tony Walkin, the captain, only missed one

training session all year long. He led by example and no better man to pick

up the cup for us.'

The double is now a reality. For weeks it was spoken about with whispers

but now it is something to be savoured. Sean Grimes, struggling to contain

a beaming smile, enjoys the respect it will now bring to the club as a

whole.

'It's a dream come true. At the beginning of the year if somebody had said

that we'd win the U-21 and Intermediate titles, I would have laughed. But

when we won the U-21 I just knew that this team, with the likes of Mossy

[Donal Costello], Fergal Costello and Adrian Flannery, they all wanted a

bit of glory and I'm just glad that they all got it. They all deserve it

because they're a great bunch of lads.'

Photographers are clamouring to take an official, celebratory picture. An

image that will be frozen in time and hung beside the last, great team to

emerge from the south Mayo town. The team of 1979.

Late on Sunday night the talk was of Tommy O'Malley, Jimmy Maughan, the

late Billy Diskin, Michael Flannery and Martin Murphy's penalty save.

Memories that frame the past. Sean Grimes, as he departs, has a word for

Ballaghaderreen. His sentiments echo of what Ballinrobe have done for 21

years.

'Yeah, I feel sorry for them. Peter Forde was saying all year that we were

going to click in one game but today we really clicked. Ballaghaderreen

were just unfortunate to be there when we clicked. What can you say to

them? Just keep plugging away.'

 

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