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Wasteful Ahascragh/Fohenagh almost pay big price

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Ahascragh/Fohenagh 0-19

Ballyhaunis 2-13

BALLYHAUNIS came mightily close to becoming the first Mayo club to win the Connacht Intermediate Hurling Championship last Sunday in Athleague.

All-Star footballer Keith Higgins had an outstanding afternoon, and his goal in the third minute of added time put Ballyhaunis 2-10 to 0-15 in front and left a very wasteful Ahascragh/Fohenagh team staring into the abyss. Their own All-Star Cathal Mannion came up with the levelling score less than a minute later, and could have won it for Ahascragh/Fohenagh at the end of normal time.

Instead of shooting over the bar from a very manageable angle, Mannion opted to go for the jugular and tried to pick out Mark Kelly, who was all alone in front of the Ballyhaunis goal. Goalkeeper and captain Donal O’Brien read his intentions however and made the critical interception, ensuring that there would be extra-time in the striking sunshine.

Mannion got all three of Ahascragh/Fohenagh’s point in overtime. Ballyhaunis showed commendable spirit though, Higgins brought his tally for the afternoon to 1-7, and goalkeeper Donal O’Brien was the man with the cool hand on a chilly day. Twice he sent over frees from deep inside his own half into the Kepak factory end, the second a minute before the final whistle to draw the teams for the sixth and final occasion, 2-13 to 0-19.

O’Brien is a Tipperary native from Silvermines who is teaching in Ballyhaunis, and has won the Connacht Poc Fada Senior title in the recent past. His effort means that the teams will have to do it all again this Sunday in the same venue. It adds another game to what has been a manic schedule for Ballyhaunis in the past few weeks.

Last Sunday’s final was their fourth fixture in a fortnight, coupled with the two Mayo county finals they played and the Connacht Intermediate semi-final they won last Wednesday night against the Roscommon champions Oran. It displays where player welfare comes on the list of priorities for the GAA, but teams get used to playing so frequently in such a short space of time and build up a head of steam in the process if there’s a few wins thrown into the mix.

That’s the advantage Ballyhaunis had over Ahascragh/Fohenagh, who looked sluggish in periods following the two-week break between their maiden Galway Intermediate Championship triumph and this game. Ahascragh/Fohenagh were so dominant in that win over Ballinderreen, and there must have been great celebrations in the parishes in the days afterwards.

They took time to get tuned into this Connacht final, still led 0-9 to 0-6 at half-time and by five points with 10 minutes to play, but were fighting for survival in injury time when Higgins bagged Ballyhaunis’ second goal.

Full coverage in this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune

Collins comes to Cappy’s rescue in absorbing clash

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Tommy Larkins' Keith Dervan is chased by Liam Collins of Cappataggle during Sunday's Senior A clash in Loughrea. Photo: Joe O'Shaughnessy.

Tommy Larkins 1-18

Cappataggle 0-21

 By Mike Rafferty in Loughrea

RONAN Murphy provided the inspiration as Tommy Larkins got the outcome they required as their second place finish to Senior A Group 2 winners Loughrea sees them advance to the quarter-final draw of the hurling championship.

For Cappataggle, there was huge disappointment of not getting the required win that would have seen them advance directly to the knock out stages, but they have the compensation of a place in the preliminary draw.

This was a titanic battle. The hurling was fast and direct at times, but much to the annoyance of some in attendance the short puck out was used productively at both ends as the sides tried the short passing game from the back.

Without a doubt Tommy Larkins laid down the quickest foundations and only for some erratic shooting would have been more that five points ahead at the break. They probably never got an opportunity to build on the Jason Flynn goal that arrived on 29 minutes, but once the sides came out for the restart it was all Cappataggle as they tore into the opposition and had made enough ground to take the lead at the end of the third quarter.

From there to the end, it was nip and tuck as Ronan Murphy and Cian Duggan at one end and Liam Collins and Niall Collins at the other, struck over some wonderful scores to edge matters one way and then the other. Indeed, it took a late pointed free by Collins to secure the draw for Cappataggle and they were lucky to leave with even a point as Murphy, in a rare error, fluffed his lines when putting a late free wide to leave matter finishing on level terms.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Connacht Tribune

A remarkable rally sees St Thomas’ reel in the ’Bridge

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Clarinbridge's Conor Lee tries to shake off the attentions of St Thomas' Victor Manso during Saturday's Senior A Group tie at Kenny Park. Photos: David Cunniffe.

St. Thomas’ 4-20

Clarinbridge 4-17

DARREN KELLY AT KENNY PARK

NOTHING at ‘stake’ but pride and last year’s two senior hurling championship finalists had plenty of that on Saturday as St. Thomas and Clarinbridge served up a thriller in their final group game.

Both teams were already guaranteed places in the knockout stages but for the winners, a path straight through to the quarter-finals proper was the reward and they played like that meant everything.

Obviously, neither side wanted to show weakness ahead of a potential showdown later in the year. The contest even had a half-time scuffle that resulted in yellow cards for St. Thomas’ duo John Headd and Conor Cooney.

Despite all that and the changing weather, the hurling was the only item for discussion afterwards. Three first half Clarinbridge goals gave them a 3-10 to 0-11 interval lead.  Four green flags for St. Thomas in the second period reminded the county that they still are the team to beat.

And that was the talking point before throw-in following their 22-match unbeaten streak ending with a heavy defeat to Turloughmore two weeks previously. And it wasn’t looking any better for St. Thomas’ when TJ Brennan struck a second minute goal for Clarinbridge.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Connacht Tribune

Sarsfields shade the verdict again in their spiritual home

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Turloughmore's Mikey Morris is chased by Ian Fox and Mark O'Regan of Sarsfields during Saturday's Senior A encounter at Duggan Park.

Sarsfields 0-18

Turloughmore 0-17

SARSFIELDS don’t lose too many tight matches at their spiritual home of Duggan Park and that trend continued in this slow-burning Senior A hurling championship clash on Saturday.

For three-quarters of the game, however, a close outcome appeared remote as the 2015 champions dictated the terms of engagement and continued to enjoy a healthy lead against wasteful opponents.

Turloughmore bore the gait of a team which still hadn’t come back down to earth after their unexpected trimming of St Thomas’ in the previous round. They lacked cohesion and urgency.

Their approach justified pre-match fears that, with both teams already through to the knock-out stages, this attractive fixture was compromised to some extent.

That backdrop had seemingly less impact on Sarsfields who tend to give their performance regardless of the circumstances. Up until the final quarter, they were relatively untroubled and heading for a comfortable victory.

But just when their supporters were on the brink of giving up on them, Turloughmore finally began to get motoring and despite assembling a crippling total of 17 wides, they had Sarsfields hanging on at the finish. They even had a chance to equalise in injury time only for Tom Quirke’s effort on the turn drifting wide.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

Or purchase the Digital Edition for PC, Mac or Laptop from Pagesuite  HERE.

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The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

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