Knockmore forward Aiden Orme.
Knockmore forward Aiden Orme.

AIB Connacht Club SFC: Knockmore defeat Tourlestrane

AIB Connacht GAA Club Senior Championship Semi-Final


By Liam Maloney at James Stephens Park

An improved second-half from Mayo kingpins Knockmore got them over the line against the resolute but ultimately wasteful Sligo champions Tourlestrane at Ballina’s James Stephens Park.

Despite being two points down at half-time and fortunate not to twice concede goals during the third quarter, Knockmore qualified for the Connacht decider thanks to a much sharper performance in the second period when they outscored their gritty opponents by four points, 0-7 to 0-3.

Knockmore came into this game having secured back-to-back titles and with two Sligo connections – their corner-forward and top scorer Peter Naughton is a Sligo Senior player and Knockmore’s manager Ray Dempsey previously had a spell in charge of Tourlestrane in 2015.

Tourlestrane, the dominant force in the Sligo Senior Football Championship, with six titles in a row and unbeaten during these six campaigns (2016-21), got to this fixture via last month’s unconvincing quarter-final defeat of London champions St Kiernan’s at Markievicz Park. This was Tourlestrane’s first win in the Connacht arena since 2011.

The Sligo champions came to Ballina’s James Stephens Park without key forward Brian Egan, whose old brother, Brendan, won multiple titles with St Vincent’s in Dublin.

Knockmore, whose last Connacht Club SFC campaign was in 1997, took control early on and led 0-3 to 0-0 by the 11th minute thanks to scores from Connell Dempsey, Peter Naughton, who converted a free, and Mayo star Kevin McLoughlin, whose lovely effort stemmed from Peter Naughton’s quick free.

Tourlestrane finally made their possession count when team captain Gary Gaughan opened the scoring after 13 minutes.

This was the first of five unanswered scores from the south Sligo club who drew level two minutes after the water break when Liam Gaughan fisted over from a goal chance created by John Francis Carr.

A well-taken point from John Kelly and Cathal Henry’s converted free pushed Tourlestrane two points up, 0-5 to 0-3, before half-time.

But Tourlestrane also hit five wides in that first-half and twice dropped points attempts short into Knockmore goalkeeper Colm Reape.

A potential turning point was Knockmore not taking a goal chance in first-half stoppage time – James Ruddy setting up Keith Ruttledge for a shot that was blocked.

Knockmore were rattled further at the restart when Tourlestrane extended their lead to three points, 0-6 to 0-3, when James Leonard pointed with aplomb.

Tourlestrane could have scored a decisive goal after 35 minutes but Liam Gaughan’s effort at goal – after an error from Knockmore netminder Colm Reape – was deflected for a ‘45’.

Knockmore were further let off the hook when another goal opportunity for the Sligo side – this time John Kelly had the chance – went wide.

At the other end Knockmore began to find space and their shooting boots and with five minutes of normal time left they had edged in front, 0-8 to 0-7, following good scores from Kevin McLoughlin and Peter Naughton.

In time added on Knockmore extended their lead to two, 0-9 to 0-7, after a fine point from midfielder Shane McHale.

A Liam Gaughan free – only Tourlestrane’s third point of the second-half – kept alive the slim possibility of a shock but Knockmore tacked on an insurance score when Connell Dempsey pointed from a mark.

Scorers for Knockmore: Peter Naughton 0-4 (2f, 1 mark), Connell Dempsey 0-2 (1 mark), Kevin McLoughlin 0-2, Aiden Orme 0-1, Shane McHale 0-1

Scorers for Tourlestrane: Liam Gaughan 0-4 (2f), John Kelly 0-1, James Leonard 0-1, Cathal Henry 0-1 (1f), Gary Gaughan 0-1

KNOCKMORE: Colm Reape; Marcus Park, David McHale, Sean Holmes; Connell Dempsey, Kieran King, Conor Flynn; Kevin McLoughlin, Shane McHale; Pearse Rutledge, Adam Naughton, James Ruddy; Keith Ruttledge, Aiden Orme, Peter Naughton.

Subs: Charlie Bourke for James Ruddy (h-t), Sean Ruttledge for Marcus Park (48), Liam Durcan for Keith Ruttledge (48).

TOURLESTRANE: Adam Broe; Kevin O’Hara, Barry Walsh, Noel Gaughan; Oisin Kennedy, Adrian McIntyre, Cian Surlis; Conan Marren, John Francis Carr; Kenny Gavigan, Cathal Henry, James Leonard; Liam Gaughan, John Kelly, Gary Gaughan.

Subs: Pat Harte for Cathal Henry (46), John Paul Lang for Kevin O’Hara (54), Stephen Henry for James Leonard (60+2).

Referee: Thomas Murphy (Galway).