The dust is still settling after two days of hectic Round 1 action in the club football Championships. An interesting weekend of football it proved to be too.
With the ongoing Covid-19 restrictions on mass gatherings still in place, for most football-starved punters there was no option but to sit out the live action this weekend. Thanks to Mayo GAA TV, however, as well as some enterprising initiatives by clubs themselves who streamed their games via Facebook Live, there was a good spread of action for the couch potatoes to get stuck into.
This particular sofa-bound tuber opted for Mayo GAA TV and I caught most of the three games streamed over the service. With the rain pelting down, yesterday evening’s two matches were dour enough affairs but this afternoon’s feature match, played in far better conditions, was an absolute belter.
Castlebar Mitchels and Charlestown Sarsfields faced off at Fr O’Hara Park in yesterday evening’s first match. Bracketed in the so-called Group of Death along with Breaffy and Westport, both teams knew they needed something out of this opening Group 4 tie and so, despite the atrocious conditions, they tore into the fixture with a good deal of purpose.
The name on everyone’s lips early on was Paul Towey. A recent debutant at inter-county level, the Charlestown forward was the man who made the home side tick in the opening half. Showing well for ball, taking and making scores – including their goal, nicely put away by Patrick Goldrick – Towey was to the fore for Sarsfields as they recovered from the concession of an early goal, scored by Ethan Gibbons, to take a three-point lead into the first water break.
Mitchels owned the second quarter, however, and went in at the break two in front. While the home side battled hard in the second half, the visitors’ greater experience – with the Durcan twins, in particular Paddy, prominent – saw them home on a scoreline of 1-12 to 1-9.
Over in Clogher, meanwhile, it looked for most of the game that a similar gulf in experience would be the difference between defending champions Ballintubber and a youthful Aghamore side. It nearly was but this contest turned out to have a late sting in its tail.
Ballintubber started strongly but in weather that definitely wasn’t made for flowing football they weren’t able to put clear daylight between themselves and their East Mayo opponents. Three placed ball scores from Aghamore kept them within three points of the champions at the break.
By then, the Tubbermen had suffered a significant setback when their talisman and chief scoring outlet Cillian O’Connor got the line along with Aghamore’s David Kenny for an off- the-ball incident spotted by one of the umpires. While Kenny was an undoubted loss to the visitors, the absence from the fray of the game’s all-time Championship top scorer was a major negative for the hosts, whose attack looked decidedly less potent without him.
Still, Aghamore didn’t exactly look to have too much of a cutting-edge, as, with time running out, the sole score they’d added after the break was a ’45 converted by goalkeeper Adam Byrne. But Ballintubber weren’t yet out of sight and so the visitors came hunting for the goal they needed to snatch something from the tie.
Fair play to them, they go it. A scrambled effort it was but they all count and the major bundled to the net late on – by whom I can’t tell – was enough for Aghamore to emerge from Clogher with a deserved share of the spoils.
With Davitts and Moy Davitts playing out an 0-9 each draw in the other Group 2 game yesterday evening, it’s very much all to play for in that one as the teams face towards Round 2.
Last year’s beaten county finalists Ballaghaderreen got off to a winning start in their first Group 1 outing last night. They needed three second half goals, however – scored by Kuba Callaghan, Gavin Conway and Thomas Carmody – to pull clear of a sticky Belmullet challenge.
Performance of the night – indeed, of the whole weekend – came in the other Group 1 tie. It was there that The Neale marked their Senior Championship debut by claiming a famous 1-9 to 0-11 win over neighbours Garrymore. To make it a real fairytale evening, the winning goal was scored for the The Neale by Dylan Kane who’d lined out in a Minor Championship match for the club on Friday. (H/T for that fun fact to Mayo GAA Banter).
Both Group 3 matches were played today, in weather that were markedly different from yesterday evening’s monsoon conditions. Both contests yielded decisive results, with Ballina Stephenites continuing their upwardly mobile trajectory as they saw off Kiltane by 3-11 to 1-5. Their North Mayo neighbours Knockmore also had their shooting boots on today, as they racked up 0-19 to finish nine clear of Claremorris.
The feature match on Mayo GAA TV this afternoon was the rip-roaring Group 4 encounter between Breaffy and Westport, from which the Covies emerged with a dramatic one-point win that will boost their confidence no end.
In truth, this young, talented Westport team should have won the game with quite a bit to spare. They went into the second water break seven points to the good but had Fionn McDonagh – who was excellent throughout today – not dragged his shot wide with the goal at his mercy just before then there would have been no way back for the hosts.
The first half was open and even, Westport reaching the turn a point ahead. Kevin Keane was their unlikely scoring hero in that first half, posting 1-2 from his unfamiliar full-forward position. Unfortunately, he took a knock to his ankle in scoring the goal which put an end to his participation in the contest.
A penalty goal, rifled to the corner of the net by Killian Kilkelly (son of former Mayo player Brian), early in the second half pushed the visitors five clear. From there to the water break they were bordering on rampant, the contest spinning rapidly out of control from Breaffy’s perspective.
In the final quarter, however, the home side’s big match experience began to show. Driven forward by Seamus and Conor O’Shea as well as Mattie Ruane, with Aidan O’Shea finally getting some change inside from Lee Keegan, Westport now found themselves on the defensive.
With normal time almost up, Breaffy had whittled the deficit back down to just a single point. Tommy O’Reilly – who’d be ultra-reliable on placed balls all day – had the chance to square the tie when the home team won a free well within range. This time, though, he was off target and Westport held on to win by the minimum.
Here’s the full run-down of the weekend’s Round 1 results in the SFC:
Here are the Round 1 results from the IFC:
Here are the Round 1 JFC results:
Finally, don’t forget that the draw for the Mayo GAA Lotto is on tomorrow night, in which a jackpot of €6,400 is up for grabs. You can play the Lotto here.