From programme v Knockmore, Mayo SFC, 2001

November 7, 2018

Ballinrobe are back in senior football this season on the back of their best every year in 2000 – but on the training field, talk of times past has been banned!


Last year, Ballinrobe won the Mayo U21 and Intermediate titles, the Division Five League, and the South Mayo U21 title.


The current squad has two men who captained Ballinrobe Community School to All-Ireland Schools B titles – Sean Grimes and Donal Costello. A ten-year gap separates this pair, but last year both generations gelled to produce a winning combination.


But today is Ballinrobe’s biggest test since they met Hollymount in their last appearance in the Mayo senior football championship in the mid-1990s.  On that occasion, Hollymount proved far too good and Ballinrobe were soon returning to Intermediate football.


Since last season, Peter Ford, the coach, has moved onto Sligo, and he has been replaced by his old playing and managerial colleague Tommy O’Malley. joins Tommy’s enthusiasm is legendary and he has ensured a seamless transition, though his style differs from Ford’s.


Where Ford was quietly-spoken and analytical, O’Malley wears his heart on his sleeve. Ballinrobe is his home town and though he has spent most of the past 20 years in exile in Castlebar, he has always retained a soft spot for the maroon and yellow.


Today’s Ballinrobe team features a number of players who have worn the county jersey. Paul Tiernan is the Mayo U21 sub goalkeeper – Peter Walkin was the sub. Mayo goalkeeper but still wonders how he didn’t get a run the day the first-choice goalie let in four, or was it five, goals against Leitrim!


Paul Finnerty, Michael Keane and Sean Grimes are also on the Mayo U21 panel currently preparing for an All-Ireland final scheduled to take place sometime this side of 2020. Donal Costello has played Minor, U21 and Junior for Mayo, while his brother Fergal is regarded as one of the best backs in Ireland and is a regular on the Mayo senior team.


Ruairi Keane captained Mayo minors in last year’s All-Ireland final, when they lost to Cork. Attackers Tony Walkin (minor, U21, junior and senior) and Maurice Horan (minor, U21 and junior) have also appeared in major championship matches for Mayo.


And then there’s Enda McGuane, who plays for Clare.


Today, though, it’s back to basics, and back to the parish of the backs for the first championship meeting between the clubs since 1987. On that occasion, Knockmore riddled Ballinrobe in the second-half at McHale Park, Castlebar. Padraig Brogan was well nigh unstoppable at the time and, if memory serves me correctly, Pat Reape played outfield for Knockmore, possibly full-back.


Ballinrobe will be hoping for a better crack at Knockmore today.