A Close Call for Davitts (1976 U-21 Final Report)
Belmullet almost did it again. In the reply of the Mayo under-21 county final at McHale Park the northern squad kept gnawing away at Davitts strong lead and in the end almost gave a repeat of the last gasp equaliser in the drawn game some weeks back.
Unlike the initial meeting there was plenty of excitement in this game with some good entertaining football and a healthy sprinkling of goals and points to keep the large attendance on their toes.
Davitts must be the coolest team in the county. With a lead of 2-10 to 1-8 with only five minutes to go they stood and watched as the Belmullet men whittled away the lead. But Davitts were content to win by a point in the end. Michael Griffin opened the scoring for Davitts in the first minute with Kirrane adding their second point after five minutes.
Two more points came from Michael Griffin before Belmullet scored in the 15th minute with a point from Seamus Nallen. Another point from Padraic O’Toole cut the lead to two points.
Davitts were on top in the opening half and the well organised and composed side they are was proven when Michael O’Toole scored an unexpected goal for Belmullet in the 18th minute from a free kick. It was probably the blinding sun which affected defender Edie McLoughlin’s judgement and he caught the ball but dropped it in the net.
Tom Luddy added a point one minute later and it did seem for a moment that Belmullet were going to take over. But Martin Connolly and Eugene Griffin changed all that in the space of one minute when they both hammered home two brilliantly taken goals for the winners.
Connolly broke through himself in the 25th minute and shot to the net and the ball was no sooner kicked out than Eugene Griffin powered the ball to the net for the goal of the match. John Gallagher and Tom Griffin swapped points to leave the half time score at 2-5 to 1-3 in favour of Davitts.
The unchainable Michael Griffin got into his stride again early in the second half and sent over three points in succession in four minutes.
If Michael Griffin was the outstanding scorer for the winners then Padraic O’Toole must certainly emerge as the top man up front for Belmullet. He replied with two points to keep them in touch and when Ger Kirrane and Michael Mannion added two more it seemed to put the issue beyond doubt in the 20th minute.
O’Toole fought back again with a point and another from Tom Ruddy left the margin at five points with four minutes to go. Then out of nowhere O’Toole struck again with a great goal from about 20 yards.
Watches were checked and the crowd got restless. Belmullet seemed poised to repeat what they had done at the same venue only two weeks previously. There were now only two points between the sides and three minutes left in the game. Substitute Michael Gaughan sent over a great point to bring the margin to one point but it was too late.
The winners had sterling performances from E. Mcloughlin, S. Connolly, Michael Griffin, Tom Griffin, Eugene Griffin, Ger Kirrane and Michael Mannion.
Belmullet were served well by the Trojan work of Padraic O’Toole, Tom Ruddy, Tom Reilly, John Gallagher, Padraic Barrett and Michael O’Toole.
Scorers for Davitts were: M. Griffin (0-6), M. Connolly and E. Griffin (1-0 each), Ger Kirrane (0-2), T. Griffin and M. Mannion (0-1 each). For Belmullet: P. O’Toole (1-4), M. O’Toole (1-0), T. Ruddy (0-2), M. Gaughan, S. Nallen and M. Gallagher (0-1 each).
Davitts: C. Hyland, T. Tighe, A. Gallagher, P. Butler, E. McLoughlin, S. Connolly, T. Griffin, G. Kirrane, M. Griffin, M. Connolly, G. Hennigan, M. Mannion, E. Griffin.
Belmullet: J. Murphy, T. Reilly, E. Reilly, T. Kelly, M. O’Toole, P. Barrett, J. Gallagher, W.J. Padden, S. Nallen, P. O’Toole, T. Ruddy, M. Lavelle, M.G. Lavelle. Subs: M. Gaughan for M. Lavelle, D. Geraghty for E. Reilly and M. Togher for T. Ruddy.
Ref: Dick Conboy, Islandeady.