An Tochar GAA Grounds in Ballinastoe, Co. Wicklow was the venue at last Sunday’s 680kg Championship, as the local Ballinastoe club hosted Round 3 of the 2017 National Outdoor Series.
Not since the 9th August 2015, in Grenagh, Co. Cork, have Boley won Gold in a National Championship. That has been the longest barren spell in many years for the remarkably successful Wexford club. Since that day, Boley and G&B have met in 5 National Championship finals and 5 times the G&B men have come out on top. On Sunday, at the 6th time of asking, Boley finally had the answer to put those losses to bed, with a powerful straight end victory over the reigning champions in the 680kg final. In the Novice division, Ballinagh ended a much longer wait, to win their 4th National title after last winning gold in 2011’s 600kg Championship.
With 5 of the 7 National Championship events now finished, there has still been no club able to win more than one Senior or Novice Title this year. Over the past 2 seasons combined, the Senior and Novice Championships were shared between 7 different clubs. So far this year alone, there has been 9 different winners across the 2 divisions, in a hugely open season.
Next up was the days main event, the 680kg competition. 9 teams took part, Glenhill, Mountain View, The Mighty Oaks, Boley, Ballinagh, The Shop, Loughmore, G&B and Ballinastoe. Boley topped the round robin on 23 points after beating all 8 other teams. G&B were just behind on 22 points. Mountain View and The Shop rounded out the semi final line up with 16 and 14 points respectively. The hosting club, Ballinastoe, narrowly missed out on a semi final place, finishing 1 point behind The Shop.
There was going to be no repeat of the semi final upsets from Round 2 of the National Series. Boley and G&B were much too strong and progressed to the final after comfortable straight end victories.
The final was a repeat of the 720kg from Round 1 and was a return to a more traditional match up after 3 consecutive finals where neither club were involved. Boley have made a slow start to the outdoor season, but have been showing recent signs that a return to winning ways was not far off. In contrast, G&B already have 1 Senior title to their name this year, but have been finding it difficult to maintain the incredibly high standards they set last season. In the 1st end Boley crossed the line in 2 minutes 10. G&B fought back in the 2nd end, but Boley were not going to be denied any longer and took the end and the Gold in 2 minutes 30.
The Novice Final was contested by Ballinagh and The Mighty Oaks. This was the 3rd final this year for the Mighty Oaks and they were coming into it on the back of fine form that saw them win the 700kg title. They left with another silver medal though, as Ballinagh ended a 6 year wait to take Gold in a straight end victory. The 1st end was 1 minute 33 seconds and with The Mighty Oaks’ resistance broken, Ballinagh took the deciding end in 52 seconds. Despite the 6 year gap, Ballinagh have competed consistently throughout that time in Mens, Womens and Youth competitions and it was great to see their persistence rewarded.
In the days closing event, 8 teams entered the Open 620kg competition. They were Loughmore, The Mighty Oaks, Mountain View, Ballinagh, Ballinastoe, The Ridge, G&B and a combined Ladies team. Mouintain View took maximum points in the round robin and were joined in the semi finals by G&B on 18 points, Ballinastoe on 15 points and The Mighty Oaks on 11 points.
In the Semi Finals, both Mountain View and G&B were straight end winners. The Mighty Oaks performed well to make the semi finals, but Ballinastoe were too strong in the Bronze pull and won out in straight ends.
The final capped off a great day for Mountain View and a disappointing one for G&B. For the second National day in a row, Mountain View head home with a Gold after another impressive performance, defeating G&B in straight ends. But G&B will have to be content with 2 Silver medals from their 2 final appearances.
Thanks to Pat Lee for the scores and photos.
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