Pre Match Interview Ballina V Claremorris
- Oct 02,2021
Ballina Stephenites disappointed last time out away to Ballintubber, eventually losing by nine points (3.13 to 1.10). However, there were mitigating factors and despite the result, mood in the camp remains positive. That’s according to “B” team manager Brendan O’Hora who feels things just didn’t go their way last weekend.
“We didn't have a full deck to deal with. It's a cauldron up there, I was up there the weekend before with the "B" team. It's an enclosed pitch, very small and a summer pitch. It doesn't play well in the winter and it doesn't suit a light team. And when you're missing the spine of your team, Ger Cafferkey was out, Padraig O'Hora, Jack Irwin was out. There's three down the middle. That's a big loss to any team,” O’Hora said.
O’Hora did give Ballintubber their dues for the way they fought back in the game after Ballina took an early five point lead.
“But in saying that, Ballintubber have been around the block, they've been there the last 10 years. They have their wits about them. They have the physicality. The first seven minutes we played really well, we were 1.3 to 0.1 up at one stage. And then they got a big hold at midfield, we lost Luke Doherty, we lost Ciaran Treacy and they took over. We had two young lads in there, two 19-year-olds. They just had their wits about them, they're a very structured team. They know how to win games and they know how to close them out. But the three goals killed us before half-time, the game was really over.”
Injuries can go a long way to deciding a championship and O’Hora was cautiously optimistic that Ballina could get some of their key players back as they enter (effectively) knockout football over the next few weeks.
“Well Padraig O'Hora came on for a while so maybe he’ll be back. It'll be Friday night when they meet for a training session that you'll have a better idea but Ciaran Treacy is definitely gone,” O’Hora added.
Regarding the aims for the rest of the championship, Ballina are targeting a quarter-final spot and - given the timeframe - this could mean more players coming back from injuries at just the right time. However, O’Hora was keen to stress how much Sunday’s opponents Claremorris have improved, particularly given the fact that they are without the injuries that halted their progress last year.
“The further we go, the more likely you are to get players back. Our intention is to reach the quarter-final. We were quarter-finalists two years ago, we were semi-finalists last year. It's a must win game. You're either looking up Sunday evening or you're looking down, one of the two. That's the way it is and it's very interesting. Claremorris are in a good position, they have their two points. They got the win over Davitts and they're a team that struggled last year, they had injury problems. But the year before they were in a quarter-final. And their underage is very good, they're up there in the Under-19s, we played them this year. It won't be like last year when we went up and gave them a bit of a hammering. I don't expect it to be like that on Sunday.”
There’s a real feel to this year’s Mayo championship given the return of crowds to games, as well as Mayo GAA TV broadcasting the pick of the games each weekend. O’Hora enjoyed catching up with old friends last week, something which just wasn’t possible over the last 18 months.
“It was funny last year. I played for a good few years and I would be doing a good bit of umpiring and linesmen around the place and you'd be meeting lads you played against and lads you would have known over the years but last year, that wasn't there. On Sunday there was a big difference up in Ballintubber, who are an excellent club and great hosts, absolutely brilliant. I would know a good cohort of them and it was great to see them and have a chat. Our old friend Jackie who's on Mayo TV and Diarmuid O'Connor's father, all these lads. It was good banter, it was great. Any amount. It's just great. It's real championship. Championship is championship. It has a whole forum of its own,” he added.
Finally, O’Hora was keen to give credit to referee Garryowen McMahon for his performance last weekend. With match officials often on the receiving end of unfair criticism, it makes a nice change that, even in defeat, their work is still appreciated by supporters and management.
“Garyowen McMahon refereed the game and he was absolutely brilliant. He's a very unusual referee, he referees on the edge. Unlike a lot of referees. There ain't no soft frees from Garyowen McMahon. You use it or you lose it. It's a very hard way to referee but he got it spot on. I'd just like to mention it, he had a good day.”