Shannon Medals revival for Ballina 2023 a huge success
St Eunan’s of Letterkenny stave off home challenge to claim Ballina 2023 Shannon Medals spoils in tournament revival
After a week of torrential rain, it was with great relief that the appearance of sunshine was greeted on Saturday morning to welcome four visiting teams to North Mayo for the first Shannon Medals tournament in almost 30 years, as part of the Ballina 2023 celebrations. Spectators were treated to a fast-moving feast of 15 competitive senior football games in a league format played across three pitches, featuring St Eunan’s of Letterkenny, An Charraig Mhór Naomh Colmcille of Tyrone, Roscommon Gaels, Mayo Gaels, Knockmore GAA, and Ballina Stephenites who hosted the tournament. St Eunan’s of Letterkenny were the talk of the day, sweeping the boards in an impressive display to win all five of their games, just pipping home team Ballina Stephenites, who they had beaten in the first game of the day. to the top spot.
The tournament, supported by Joseph Murphy Ballina Ltd Moy Tools and Hardware, had been placed in doubt due to the weather conditions with just 24 hours to go, but the schedule was fulfilled in full, with just a few minor tweaks, and all three pitches, especially the main pitch at Ballina Stephenites held up remarkably well considering the volume of rain.
Organiser and Ballina Stephenites player Ger Cafferkey said: “We’re delighted with how the day ran, and the strong level of volunteer support we received from across the community for the event, particularly from our sponsors, Joseph Murphy Ballina Ltd Moy Tools and Hardware who got behind the concept from the very beginning. The participating teams enjoyed the day hugely and there is definitely an appetite to run the tournament again. From a social perspective the camaraderie on the day among teams who might not normally get to compete against each other was a real high point, and in the spirit of the original Shannon Medals, there were some great friendships forged between the clubs on the day.”
As well as a social event, the tournament served each of the teams in a training capacity, giving entire panels valued game time against new opposition in a competitive format. Knockmore, for example, used the tournament strategically to experiment, fielding a large panel – essentially two teams across the venues. Mayo Gaels, despite having a tough day results-wise also managed to field a lot of players, and put in physical, competitive performances that left them in contention in each of their fixtures right up til the end. It was clear to see that the visiting teams had their eye on the big prize, and the final game of the day saw the second and third placed teams Ballina Stephenites and An Charraig Mhór Naomh Colmcille of Omagh in a thriller that ended with the runners up sharing the spoils. With former Stephenites great Denis Coen managing the visitors, it was highly anticipated and did not disappoint considering the volume of ball that had been played earlier in the day. Both teams left everything on the pitch over the 20 minutes in a fast-moving encounter with Evan Regan the stand-out player for the home side, before the teams retired for food, refreshments and a bit of a sing-song – and of course, many of the visitors went on to sample the delights of Ballina’s nightlife afterwards.
Thanks were extended on the day to event partners and supporters Conor Rowe of HiFive Clothing, Niall Heffernan of the Food Store Ireland (Claremorris), Mary Moyles and team of the Cot and Cobble for their generosity and enthusiasm. During the presentation of prizes, captain of winning team, St Eunan’s of Letterkenny, Niall O’Donnell thanked Ballina Stephenites for the invitation to participate and for the hospitality extended by the club on the day in what he said was a hugely enjoyable and well-organised tournament. For more information on the Ballina 2023 programme of events, visit www.ballina2023.ie.