AIB Connacht Club IFC Final
Castlerea St Kevin's 2-4 Monivea-Abbey 0-8
AIB Connacht JHC Final
Easkey 1-18 Ballinasloe 2-12
AIB Ulster Club JFC Final
Avra 0-13 Blackhill Emeralds 0-6
Roscommon, Cavan and Sligo will all be represented when the AIB All-Ireland club championships get underway in the coming weeks after Castlerea St. Kevin’s, Easkey and Arva picked up provincial titles at various venues across the country this afternoon.
Defensive frugality was the key to Castlerea’s successful run through Roscommon this year, and they continued that trend in their semi-final clash with Easkey, meaning that they came into today’s fixture at Tuam Stadium on the back of conceding 1-49 across seven championship games.
When Adam McDermott spun out of a tackle and set up Eoghan O’Connell for a goal with less than four minutes gone, they gave themselves an ideal start against Galway side Monivea-Abbey, forcing the Galway club to come out and chase the game.
McDermott struck all three points for the West Roscommon club as they held that lead up to half-time, 1-3 to 0-3, but an outstanding score from Fionnán Garvey and a Glenn Kelly free reduced that gap to the bare minimum in the opening minutes of the second half, hinting at a very tight contest.
It was exactly that, but two huge swing moments went Castlerea’s way, effectively deciding the contest. The first was in the 36th minute when Nathan Bligh sent a high ball in towards the Galway club’s goalmouth and the ball bounced off the hands of the keeper and into the net. The second was in the closing minutes when goalkeeper David Farrell made an incredible leaping save to keep the ball out of the top corner of the net and preserve his club’s narrow two-point lead, ensuring they added the 2023 Connacht intermediate title to their sole senior success, secured all the way back in 1968.
Easkey, who lost out to Castlerea in last week’s intermediate football semi-final, put that reverse behind them when they secured a second successive Connacht junior hurling title at the expense of Ballinasloe in Bekan.
The Galway club made a strong start but were rocked when Andy Kilcullen found the net with a penalty after 17 minutes. Ballinasloe rallied to cut the gap to a single point, but four scores on the bounce coming up to half-time put the West Sligo club in control, 1-9 to 0-7 to the good.
Two goals in the opening ten minutes for Ballinasloe put the tie right in the melting point, but Kilcullen continued to rack up the points, scoring 1-11 in total, counteracting an equally strong showing from Cathal O’Hanlon at the other end. With the tie going down to the wire, Jimmy Gordon’s save in the closing moments was vital to Easkey holding on for a 1-18 to 2-12 win.
Roslea was the venue for the AIB Ulster JFC final between Blackhill Emeralds and Arva of Cavan, who had been in devastating form all year. Captained by Breffni County star Ciarán Brady, Arva won their nine championship games this year by an average of 13 points, and were well-fancied to extend that run against a Blackhill side that featured a handful of players who won Ulster junior hurling silverware last weekend with Castleblayney.
Top scorer Philip Donnelly got Blackhill out to a good start with a mark, but the Monaghan men struggled from there, and were 0-6 to 0-2 adrift at the end of a hard-fought first half, in which four Arva players scored from play.
Blackhill, with Monaghan’s Donal Courtney anchoring their defence, were always tough to break down but they simply couldn’t make the impression they needed at the other end of the ground.
Ciarán Brady missed a penalty for Arva who led by just four points going into stoppage time, before a late trio of scores left a deceptively large 0-13 to 0-6 margin on the board at the end.