It was another day of quarter-final action in the Senior, Intermediate and Junior club football Championships today, at the conclusion of which the semi-final pairings have been decided in all three competitions.
I didn’t get to see any of the football myself today, though personal business ironically took me to Castlebar this afternoon and so I wasn’t that far away from MacHale Park when the two Senior quarter-finals were on. Close enough, in fact, to snap the photo above and, while I was doing this, I could hear the odd desultory shout coming from the ground as well as the sharp sound of the ref’s whistle. All very odd it was.
Behind closed doors inside the ground, it appears that two decisive wins were recorded. Westport and Ballina Stephenites were strongly favoured to beat The Neale and Aghamore respectively and this they did.
Westport had too much firepower for The Neale in the day’s opening game. The South Mayo lads battled hard, though, and at half-time, when they trailed by two points, they were still very much in it.
An early scoring burst after the break, however, pushed Westport seven clear. The Neale couldn’t find a way back from there and there were nine points between the teams at the finish, Westport winning a high-scoring encounter by 3-17 to 3-8.
My own local club Aghamore never really got going in the day’s second game. In truth, once Ballina’s Simon Leonard grabbed the game’s only goal not long before the break to push his side six points clear the contest was all but over.
I heard a good bit of the second half of that one on the radio and was heading back east on the N5 when the final whistle sounded. When it did, the Stephenites were the victors by 1-18 to 0-12, the same nine-point winning margin that Westport had recorded earlier on.
So next weekend’s SFC semi-finals are in both cases a repeat of closely-fought group games this summer. Westport and Ballina Stephenites each had only a point to spare over Breaffy and Knockmore respectively when they met in the group stages a few weeks back so those results don’t really provide any guide for how the semis are likely to go.
In reality, all four will now harbour strong – and realistic – hopes of landing the Moclair Cup. Over the past decade just three clubs won the county title and now all three of them – Ballintubber, Ballaghaderreen and Castlebar Mitchels (who lost out in the group stages this year) – are out of the running.
Of the four left, the most recent winners were Ballina in 2007 and, of course, the Stephenites are still the most successful club in the Mayo SFC. Knockmore last lifted the Moclair Cup back in 1997, while Breaffy and Westport have yet to taste Championship success at this level.
After this weekend’s action, the race for the title has now been blown wide open. It’d be a brave person who’d predict the winners at this stage.
Here’s a summary of the weekend’s results in the SFC.
At Intermediate level, meanwhile, there were quarter-final wins this weekend for Balla, Ballinrobe, Kiltimagh and Hollymount/Carramore. Here’s a summary of all the weekend’s IFC results.
Finally, here are all the weekend’s results in the JFC.