Down to the final four

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.

25 thoughts on “Down to the final four

  1. Could have 4 south mayo teams in the junior and intermediate finals. What a day that would be for the neighbouring clubs. Would like to see breaffy win the senior title. They seem to be in the same boat as mayo just when they assembled a good team Castlebar and ballintubber were at their peak like mayo with the dubs. Pity Irwin didn’t stick with the gaa would love to see him again in action.

  2. I cannot see how Westport who conceded three goals v Senior novices The Neale can expect to beat Breaffy even though they did so in the qualifiers. Perhaps Breaffy’s nerves may get to them while Westport may see themselves as having nothing to lose. Was that an issue in the qualifiers?

    Nor can I see, on the basis of his performance v Ballaghaderreen, how Conor O’Shea can be left out of the Mayo panel when they resume. I don’t recall seeing Sharoize Akram in the Ballaghaderreen line up in that game, which I was not able to give full attention to. Was he injured, travelling, dropped or what?

  3. Thought Ballaghaderreen were very unlucky. Breaffy looked well rattled until the clash of heads and David Drake had to go off. The game just completely unravelled for them then with the sending off. Breaffy really struggle when teams run at them which Westport are going to do so I would give them a great chance. Would like to see Breaffy win it as they have come so close before but Mattie Ruane is really going to have to lift his game if they are to have any chance. He’s come good in the last 15 minutes of the last two games but he has to be in it for longer if there to win

  4. Watched the second half of Breaffy v Ballagh again and saw that Sharoize made a sub appearance ok, Willie Joe.
    In retrospect the injury to Drake and Hanley’s sending off had big influences on the game so maybe Breaffy are not quite equal to the sum of their parts.
    It’s very unfortunate that in what appears to be the best Mayo championship for years we cannot get to see the games live. Who would not like too see a local derby like Ballina v Knockmore in a semi final? If one of them wins out the losers will have to hide as best they can until springtime at least. I’ve been a fan of Westport since their All Ireland win and they seem to have several newcomers since then. Breaffy too deserve a break but deserving means nothing – you have to do it the hard way.
    I’m looking forward to the intermediate and Junior finals too. Holly/Carra should benefit from their All Ireland sojourn of a few years ago as should Kilmaine from last year. Anybody know whether there will be an All Ireland series this year?

  5. Westport had real difficulty dealing with the Neale’s big full forward Holian. He scored two goals and was a threat with every ball that went in. That could spell trouble against Aidan O’Shea. Having said that Westport’s forward play was joy to watch. The 2 Morans especially are proper ballers. Eoghan McLaughlin has matured into a powerful rangy midfielder as well.

  6. Wonder whether they done some work on the pitch over the summer, as it looks to be in great shape. Maybe its just down to no matches or training over the spring and summer.

  7. Andy if your going to bring back Conor O’Shea you also
    Have to bring back Darren Coen and Evan Regan both are in flying form this year and racking up big scores. I’d nearly bring back Andy as well
    He was great in the first half against Breaffy when he was getting good service

  8. The neale did very well but the fitness of westport was savage. Holian got 1 goal and squandered a few more. The neale need to be able to win some ball around the middle to dine with the top table. They’re too light at the moment. Still a savage achiement!

  9. Ciaran McDonald was an interesting supporter at games over weekend and has plenty to be cheerful about with so many forwards putting up their hands. Forwards who can take scores. Naughton was very impressive and is progressing in the right direction.
    For me the outstanding performance of the weekend was Bryan Walsh even though on the losing side. Coming back from a serious injury he was superb in every aspect of the game.
    In terms of defenders, knockmore’s Kieran King was outstanding.

  10. Watched back the Knockmore Tubber game last night.

    When Knockmore are good they are very good. But, they have allowed a soccer mentality to creep right in – backs seemed to instinctively seek Colm Reape to get things moving – even when out around midfield! A really good team would devour them when they are at this racket.

    Their goals were very well taken, though Orme could be the one to make the breakthrough to the panel – quick hands and quick thinking. Is Naughton a bit slow, or was I missing something?

    Bryan Walsh was very good for Tubber; however I have to say that I thought he struggled for Mayo during the league despite getting a few good scores. Cillian has been criticised. Why? He’s just back after 12 months injury and he looked dangerous every time he got near the ball. He’ll be fine.

  11. Monkfish – one of the rules of this place is that swipes at others who post here aren’t allowed. This helps to keep the tenor of debate at the right level. I edited out that pop you took at others from your comment for that reason.

  12. Criticism of COC is a bit harsh as it was a very disciplined performance from him, despite the fact he should have a penalty at a crucial stage in the game. Naughton can score freely with either foot, maybe he was a little deliberate at times but very progressive as indeed is Orme.
    Unfortunately we will not see any more of Walsh this campaign, but for me he’s a serious quality player

  13. Andy – the provincial and All-Ireland club Championships at Senior, Intermediate and Junior levels have all been scrapped for this year. That was announced by the GAA back in June. More’s the pity as arguably it would have made more sense to play them and forget altogether about resuming inter-county action this year.

  14. Spot on Willie joe. Should have played out the club competition right through to the all Ireland and forget about county. The more exposure clubs get the better. And county teams will benefit hugely

  15. Maybe the GAA will reverse their decision yet. Makes an awful lot more sense to finish out a competition that’s going well, rather than start up one that could be farcical and financially demanding.

    Running the club championship now gives a lot more players an opportunity to train and play in ideal conditions
    Well done to grounds staff at McHale Park, looks in pristine condition

  16. The winner will come from the Ballina v Knockmore game I feel. Both Westport and Breaffy are shipping big scores and Breaffy do not have the bench that the other 3 clubs have. Ballina were very impressive v Aghamore and certainly did a job on the Aghamore kick out. Regan was very, very good also, scoring off both feet and winning frees that were put over.
    Knockmore for me though, just. They will be buzzing after taking down Ballintubber and they have a very speedy set of young backs that can go one-on-one. To be fair to all the clubs involved this weekend, they all played attacking football with little or no “sidedways” handpassing or 13 inside their own ’45.
    Well done to all.

  17. @catcol I was thinking back over Colm Reape in goals and a thought came to me. I think what you highlighted was Knockmore using Reape as the extra man to help them out of Tubbers high press. As a converted outfield player he is very good in that role.

  18. Ballintuber were the architects of their own downfall. Tactically Knock more outsmarted them with direct fast break out of defence. Ballintuber persisted with slow build up play in the second half. It enabled knocmore to get 14 behind the ball at their ease time and time again.
    Ciarán Gavin was used as a “use me if you like” linkman and then pop passed the ball on further.
    There’s an awful lot more to Ciarán than that as he proved when scoring a good pont at the end having previously missed a score. Time to rethink for Ballintuber and indeed Castlebar

  19. Ah Ref Intermediate Power Rankings
    1. Holly Carra
    2. Ballinrobe
    3. Kilti
    4. Balla

    Ah Ref Junior Power rankings
    1. Kilmaine
    2. Kilmeena
    3. Shrule Glencorrib
    4. Cill Chomain

  20. I take your point JP, and that goalkeeper as extra man concept is a good one. Think Monaghan and Tyrone and they way they use it. But, I felt that it was negated by continually looking back to Reape rather than getting Reape to set up snappy attacking moves.

    As I said when they did move the ball with pace and purpose they were very good.

  21. @Ah ref .. Would have Kilimagh just ahead of Ballinrobe. Hollymount strong favourites but with a panel of 45 , it will be hard to keep all the subs happy !!
    Kilmaine would give any of the top 4 intermediate teams a rattle.
    Scores and updates over the weekend was great . Thanks

  22. Senior power rankings will be interesting @Ah Ref. There’s hardly a cigarette paper between the 4 teams!

  23. I agree with Pebblesmeller in that the winner will come from ballina v knockmore. I think ballina might win it out though as they will be able to use the space in Machale Park better. They are a powerful strong running team. I hadn’t realised the club all-Ireland series had been cancelled. It’s a pity that as it could be very enjoyable if the mayo winning clubs got a right run at it

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