Down to the final four


There is talk at the moment that the Mayo senior football final could be played under floodlights in MacHale Park on Saturday Oct 29th with the Intermediate final being played as either the curtain raiser or to remain fixed for Sunday 30th. Speaking of lights, Cillian O’ Connor was shooting them all out on Sunday for Ballintubber.

People seemed genuinely shocked that the Mayo captain had put away 4-4. “Did ya hear Cillian’s after getting four goals? He’s some forward!” someone said to me in Milebush as I was covering a game. The world’s round, we’re all going to die someday: tell me something I don’t already know. (Thanks for the update all the same random supporter!)

Great teams hit you hard and hard enough to leave you stumbling for the duration of the game. Michael Plunkett finished off a superb effort in the opening two minutes of this quarter- final between Ballintubber and Garrymore, his brother Alan and Mayo comrades, Cillian and Jason Gibbons, all handled the ball before the youngest Plunkett opened up the game in style. Sean Rice put it perfectly in the Mayo News saying that “it took the wind right out of their sail, even before they set sail”.

It’s hard to come back from that and they didn’t. 3-7 to 0-2 at half-time, I got a Snapchat from a Mitchels supporter who had seen enough of his semi-final opponents, “It’s a potential murder scene and I’m not sticking around for the killing” he said.

3-7 in one half, matched with 3-7 in the other from the Boys from the Tubber. Bryan Walsh ground out three points in a superb display before his substitution while midfielder Gibbons returned to the centre of the park and notched up 1-1. Four frees from Jimmy Killeen and 1-6 in the second half from Garrymore was slightly better.

I’d covered Garrymore’s game the previous week and, as I mentioned in last week’s article,  they struggled even to grab a draw from bottom side Claremorris who had a lad sent off in the first fifteen minutes. Were they already beaten going into MacHale Park on the back of that performance? It probably didn’t help but, facing a machine like Ballintubber, a win would never have looked easy.

We now know that Ballintubber will play defending champions Castlebar in the semi but it wasn’t always veering that way last weekend. Ballaghaderreen were leading by four points in the opening ten minutes and held a one-point lead going in at half-time.

Their attacking wing backs can be a thorn in anyone’s side, with the pacy Sharoize Akram and David Drake normally finding themselves up front at most stages of the game. Long-range kicking was the order of the day and Akram, Andy Moran and Barry Regan all pointed from distance for Ballagh’ before the first half was out.

1-1 from Akram and eight points from Regan was a heavy first half start from them but Mitchels, like Ballintubber, have the ability to turn it on at any stage. 2-7 from Castlebar to Ballagh’s 1-3 shows just how dominant the second half was for the county champions.

Second half goals from Cian Costello and Barry Moran are what separated the sides in the end as they added to Eoghan O’ Reilly’s first half netter. Andy Moran, meanwhile, came close to grabbing a second Ballagh’ goal from a free. He wasn’t as fortunate as with his sideline effort from last week and the best he could manage this time was a clatter of the crossbar.

Knockmore had to grind out a win against Ballagh’ last week in order to secure a first place finish in their group. They were back to the grindstone when they met Aghamore on Saturday.

It was one of those empty-the-reserve-tank-limp-off-the-pitch efforts from both sides as they locked horns in what sounded like a fierce battle. Kevin McLoughlin took up the reins in midfield for Knockmore with fellow county man Brenda Harrison linking the chain between half-back to centre for Aghamore. Another Mayo panellist was on show in the form of Aghamore’s Alan Freeman who fired over five frees and one from play to land six of Aghamore’s eight points.

The game may have swung in the opposite direction if Agha’s Fergal Boland had played the duration but his game was ended early after he picked up a head injury. Four points from Colm Reape in this game who put in a massive shift in centre-forward and Knockmore had a valuable lead going into the closing stages.

Two of Freeman’s frees came in this stage of the game and with only a point hanging in the balance, the next score, if any, was always going to be vital. Aghamore went for a full attacking approach in the hope of obtaining the equaliser but the decisive score fell to Knockmore substitute Francie O’ Neill who propelled his side into the semis where they will meet Breaffy.

Much like Garrymore’s performance against Claremorris in their final group match, Breaffy would have wished for a better one last weekend as they now face into their next clash with Knockmore. They played tug of war with Crossmolina who did not make it easy for last years runners-up.

Two county team-mates squared up in this one as Michael Hall and Conor Loftus had a great battle. Loftus managed two points despite Hall’s persistent defending while two hot forward prospects also lined out on opposite sides in the shape of Fionan Duffy and Liam Irwin.

Both hit the majority of their scores from frees but there was plenty of focus on frees that Irwin didn’t lash over, ‘The Bear’ missing five. It’s a huge responsibility on his young shoulders and it is a task he normally excels at.

Robbie Hennelly was on hand to kick two bullets of placed balls for Breaffy as they looked to book their place in the semis. Duffy’s fourth and final free edged his side a point in front with twenty minutes remaining but it would turn out to be Crossmolina’s last score of the day.

An unanswered 1-4 from Breaffy finished off the second half in style but their goal didn’t come until the last minute of the game and until then, they were slowly edging away just a kick of a ball separated them. Substitute Tommy O’ Reilly gave the Breaffy fans cause to sigh with relief as he netted home in the dying seconds despite the best efforts from Patrick Loftus, who had a superb game between the sticks for Cross.

As for the semis, two old enemies lock their horns again as Ballintubber face Castlebar. It is impossible to call, it always is. Castlebar unloaded their bench against Ballagh’ which proved a huge help in keeping a constant tempo while Ballagh began to lose the legs.

Ballintubber couldn’t have asked for a better game before meeting their noisy neighbours and will be looking at Cillian, Diarmuid, Jason Gibbons and the like to spur them on as they look to stop the champions from having a shot at retaining the title. It’s that word – champions – that gives Mitchels the slight advantage, but it really is going to be a fascinating game and one that Ballintubber have every chance of winning.

This is Breaffy’s third semi-final appearance in four years and they will look favourites going into it. The absence of Seamus O’ Shea in midfield is huge but surely one would imagine they have the firepower elsewhere to kick on. On the other hand, Knockmore have been kings so far at grinding out performances and taking teams right to the death. They will be hoping they’re still in with a shout in the last fifteen minutes and, if they are, they will fancy their chances.

One definite in the SFC relegation play off is that Ballinrobe will be fighting for their senior status. Their opposition is still unknown as Ballyhaunis and Claremorris fought out a draw, Danny Broderick nailing over for Claremorris in the dying seconds. Claremorris’ James Shaughnessy and Ballyhaunis’ Cathal Carney had strong games for their respective sides.

Just like against Garrymore, Claremorris ground this draw out with only fourteen men for majority of the game. I’d love to know how they’d get on with a full deck for the full game!

Hollymount-Carramore are safe but will wonder what happened to their championship hopes following their rip-roaring start against Ballintubber. Conor Keane, Darren Coen and Kevin Feerick helped Holly-Cara over the line. Ballinrobe substitute Sean Og Collins came on at half-time and made a significant change in Ballinrobe’s level of urgency. He grabbed a goal, won a penalty (which was brilliantly saved by Niall Campbell from a Darren McDonnell effort) and his speed was something which tired legs found hard to keep up with.

It would be a shame had Holly-Cara found themselves in a relegation dog fight in the same year that they won the Division 1A League title. Football’s a funny old game, though, and I assume for Ballinrobe and their two potential opponents this is no laughing matter.

Austin Garvin and myself were watching Kiltimagh vs. The Neale in one of the intermediate quarter-final games on Saturday. Austin is a great man to have by your side at the game, he can tell you the age, occupation and mother’s maiden name of any given player.

We witnessed a strong Kiltimagh team finish out on top over The Neale in what turned into a very scrappy game toward the end. Bryan Gallagher and Ciaran Charlton owned the half-forward line for Kilti’ and Ronan Malee managed to pop over four despite having a relatively off day. The first half was as tight as tight can get, 1-5 to 0-8 points with The Neale’s Aidan O’Sullivan nailing 1-1 of that in the first half. O’ Sullivan would only manage to grab himself two yellow cards in the second half as he got caught up in the brawl which ensued in the second half.

They face a Burrishoole side whose talisman Jason Doherty was on fine form notching up 1-9 of Burris’ 1-12. They overcame an Islandeady side who pushed the Newport outfit right to the end but to no avail. It’s hard to see past Kiltimagh who have a 100% record so far in the championship and by the looks of things, if they can keep Doc at bay, it’s their’s for the taking.

Shane Nallen chalked up 1-2 for Belmullet in their close encounter with Shrule/Glencorrib but it’s the men on the border between Galway and Mayo who will meet Westport in the quarter- final. A disallowed goal for Belmullet was all that separated the two sides in the end as the Erris lads managed to close an eight-point gap to three but, alas, that was all they could manage.

Shrule/Glencorrib now face a Westport side who are always on hand to wake you up with a few shoulders but can match it with equally good football. It was nice to hear that the two Keegan brothers played for their club in this win. I’ve seen both of them play individually and was shocked earlier this year when Westport United star Phil was restarting his Gaelic career while still managing to play at a high standard soccer as well.

It should be a Westport/Kiltimagh final. There shouldn’t be too much separating the two semi-final games but the Westport and Kiltimagh should push through. However, Shrule/Glencorrib are far too used of senior football to bow down to Westport that easily, while Burrishoole are forever knocking on the door. With the help of Jason Doherty, they will hope to bust it down against Kiltimagh.

Tourmakeady held on to their intermediate status for another year as they sent Kilmaine down in an exciting relegation play-off.

Tourmakeady love the dog fights. The rain and the mucky pitch is like an incentive for them to go and play their hearts out and they did, their white away shirts had turned to black by the end of the game. Darren Kelly, Shane Staunton and Brian Heneghan all finished off their magnificent performances with goals with Kevin Dolan straight as a die with his frees as usual.

Danny Walsh is a man who has spent many Sundays walking off a pitch with Tourmakeady and walking onto another one an hour later with Partry. The man doesn’t know the meaning of the word tired. Darragh McConnell, meanwhile, had his finest hour for Tourmakeady in his short career so far. He hobbled off the pitch through injury and only for that he would have been chasing lads around the park for the whole 60 minutes. He was immense and crowned his fine performance with two magnificent left-pegged efforts.

As for Kilmaine, they have played with real heart in the last few rounds of this championship and were unlucky not to have stayed up on the last day. Michael Hession was outstanding for them and racked up six points but as I said above, it was Tourmak’s day, conditions and all.

To finish off, the ladies are flying the kite high for Mayo football in Connacht as Carnacon and Kilmoremoy have booked themselves places in the Senior and Junior Ladies’ Connacht finals respectively. Sarah Rowe’s side bulleted past their Roscommon opponents Michael Glavey’s in their semi-final as the Mayo star notched up 4-6 of their huge 5-16 score.

Carnacon will hope to secure their Connacht title a week before Kilmoremoy as they do battle with Leitrim side Kiltubrid on Sunday morning. Carnacon put one over on old rivals Kilkerrin-Clonberne in the semis and will be looking for provincial success this weekend. If they do, 20 year-old Doireann Hughes will hold the trophy aloft. A big feat for the young lady, not to worry though, she will have the veterans standing right behind her.

Digested all of that? It’s easy to make paper-based predictions but nothing beats witnessing first hand what’s going on, kick for kick. I promised Willie Joe an early article on the club scene this week but college work told me otherwise. You’d forget about college work for a while when dissecting such interesting action like this. Then again, football does beat learning about some media law legislation. Actually, is there anything football doesn’t beat?

37 thoughts on “Down to the final four

  1. Great piece;I might take this opportunity to mention my beloved Lahardane McHales who ended their 50th season with a League title (Doubled with their Padraig Garrett memorial cup) over Crossmolina to add to their earlier North Mayo Championship & North Mayo Exclusive Junior Championship.
    With only an occasional title in those 5 decades,to win 4 is a huge feat & a tribute to the Management team of Derek Sheridan,Michael Lynn,Eamon Rowland & Darren Leonard and their squad who played a lovely brand of football.
    Last year was the year from hell with a lack of numbers and confidence but here’s hoping the next 50 are like this!

  2. Well done Darragh. As a Knockmore man I dread semi finals lately. If we lose on Sunday, it’ll be the 7th year in a row exiting at the penultimate stages. Saying that though I hope our old never say die attitude prevails and we are still in with a chance on Monday morning.

  3. Surprised that Kilmaine lost their Intermediate status this year. A couple of years ago they were flying and looking like contenders for a title. TME have some young guns with big hearts, no better men to turn the tide.

  4. You covered a lot of ground there Daragh. Well done and great to see the objectivity throughout so that we don’t get sucked in up here in Dublin to thinking so and so might be the answer to our prayers.

  5. Good man Roosterman, great for the Mc Hales and to see my nephew lift the cup. A great achievement with such a small pick . Sure Xmolina must come up as far as the Titanic memorial park.

  6. Great round up, Darragh. I hope the final is fixed for Saturday night as due to local committments I’d hardly get to it otherwise. The perennial problem for a supoorter exiled from the county.
    Incidentally I see that Pearse Hanley has been transferred from Brisbane to some outfit called, I think, Gold Coast. Apparently an outfit set up around 2011 so it’s hardly a move up in the AFL world for Pearse. No mention of Cian that I could see.

  7. Just checked Hanley’s new club, Gold Coast Suns, on the net. Saw him speaking positively about the move [but then he would have to, wouldn’t he?]. Also saw some highlighhts of him in action and he looked good, fast, direct and accurate. He spoke of Cian continuing at Brisbane which is not too far distant from Gold Coast.

  8. Heading to Ballinrobe to see Keegan, Keane & Co go up against Roundy, Ronaldson & Co. Should be a good one. Westport favourites but I hear Shrule GlenC flying it in training. It is the most united I have heard them in ages.

  9. Big rumour was that the Mortimers were back but they did not play as registration not fully complete. According to some supporters they should be available for the replay. They could do with them. Whilst 2 Ronaldsons did well their smaller lighter forwards could not make any progress against a physically strong Westport side. Roundy played at 14 but he had to move out to midfield in the second half. Shrule Glenc were well beaten in midfield in the first half. Keegan and Keane are two tanks of men. Keegan has massive pace. Shrule Glenc backs improved immensely in the second half. Dont think Westport scored from play in second half. Great game with a massive crowd. I seen people from Ballinrobe, Holly, The Neale, Kilmaine, Clonbur and Tourmakeady.

  10. Great signs for Mayo – you can always judge the health of football in a county by club competitiveness. I feel a few marginal counties, outside of top 4 will feel there is every chance of landing the “big prize” next year. What better way to show intent than aiming for AI club championship!

  11. Castlebar do not look as good as last year. However it is very hard to read anything into that game between Ballintubber and Garym. Always reliable for a battle in a championship Gary just never got going the last day. Jury is out with regards to Breaffy. They need to play a different game today.

  12. Where did Keegan come play for Westport? Looking forward to the games today. If breaffy can sort out their attack they should do it, they should also have SOS back. Mattie ruane is out there injured tho. I can’t call Castlebar ballintubber, Castlebar don’t look as good as last year.

  13. So Mitchells Knockmore. Breaffy were poor…I cannot understand people talking them up. It must be the breaffy influence in the local media. To put it in perspective they had the most county players on the pitch today? Do we need to look elsewhere for the county? Anyway good final in store next Saturday

  14. I’d love see what Keegan is like at midfield!!

    Went to mitchels ballintubber today, a defensive game. Ballintubber never came close to breaking Castlebar down and Castlebar ended running out easy winners. Tubber got 1 score from play in the whole game. Diarmuid was ok but Cillian was marked out of, a job made easier by the fact he spent too much time in his own half. Castlebar were professional I thought, crowed the defence, won all the breaks in midfield and took their scores when the opportunity was there. Again Neil Douglas was the stand out forward, 5 frees and 3 from play. I did not rate him as highly as others but he really does some serious game time for Mayo. I think his size should be held against, we have enough race horses on the Mayo team, we need scorers and he certainly is that.

    It must be said that playing the club championship in October does not do the players justice, the ground is soft and it favours a defensive game. I would have expected a far more entertaining game if these teams were playing each other in summer.

  15. Douglas has got to be given sustained run in the league and let him settle in, he certainly has the drive/will to be a big player for Mayo, maybe his football will match his ambition if he’s given a right chance? Scorers from play will be given the chance I assume from here on

  16. Was at both games today. Both highly competitive but largely disappointing affairs. Difficult for any of the marquee men to perform in such negative encounters. Scenes at the end of Breaffy game were disappointing AOShea really must have the patience of jobe, men hanging out of him every angle and still having fists swung in his direction after the final whistle. I’m not from breaffy but it was pathetic stuff and from a neutrals pointed view tarnished the victory for knockmore. I’m sure they won’t be that bothered however and they will certainly prove an extremely difficult proposition for the Mitchell’s next money is on a knockmore win. They are a hungry looking team. Ballintubber didn’t appear to turn up today and Mitchell’s are a well seasoned team, they simply soaked up any pressure with relative ease and crowded any space out. So so difficult for club teams and players to have their season squeezed into such a short term on bad pitches and poor conditions.

  17. Dougie was the stand out player once again this weekend. I thought Ger McDonagh at full back was a very interesting move. He completely nullified Cillian and was commanding under the high ball – would be interested to see how he fares in this position if played there in future game(s) – I wonder was Stephen Rochford taking note? Good to see Kirby introduced at the end. Unfortunately no new corner forwards on show today in either game which will be the ongoing concern for Mayo management 2017.

  18. Should be a good final and I can see Knockmore ending West Mayo dominance of last few years.there work rate is savage there reaping the rewards of excellent underage teams the last decade and maybe now is there time.other clubs should take note of what they are doing with underage in the parish of the backs!

    Breaffy were poor today again rely to much on the o sheas.conor had another poor game. breaffy are well down the pecking order of winning a county senior title! Now I must say aidan got dogs abuse on the field again with no protection from referee.

    Didn’t see castlebar game but by all accounts a poor game .hopefully Cillian and Diarmuid will get a badly needed rest now!
    All talk about Douglas performance last few weeks a call up should be merited and then you see other guys on panel not performing!
    He was man of match n an fbd game a few years ago and never got a run since.

  19. Castlebar pitch was in great order today,walked through. It after the matches. knockmore were so far ahead of breaffy in heart and bottle. Castlebar had a huge work rate and Ian Douglas.some of the county players need a rest for a few months, others need to take a long look at themselves over the next few weeks.

  20. With all the county players Breaffy have I would expect a bit more from them. I agree Aidan got dogs abuse and his marker was lucky to stay on the field as long as he did.

  21. Ger McDonagh at full back is interesting. Could be a new least of life for him. He was on the training panel.
    Neil Douglas is going very well. He’s well built. Well able to win ball. Not tall but he’s strong.
    I expect Castlebar to win fairly comfortable. Five points plus. They have a much stronger panel than Knockmore.

  22. Aidan got dogs abuse on and off the ball, I really could not believe it was allowed to continue. Breaffy are a good footballing side, or should that be they have good individual footballers. I could not understand the tactics that were employed. They were not playing to their strengths. Knockmore are a good championship side, and Castlebar will need a couple of goals next weekend. Now the question is can Knockmore prevent them from getting goals. Shane McHale and Langan are great footballers anyone agree.

  23. Pat Spillane article in Sunday World a good read! He on about that there 8 senior clubs in Kerry and then 8 divisional teams make up the senior ranks there.he reckons every county should look to that model.
    There is 16 senior clubs in Mayo and being realistic 4/5 are not senior standard.
    Should we look at the Kerry model and bring back the North South East West sides and include intermediate players to?
    You would need to relegate 4 senior sides and 4 intermediate sides.look at the Kerry model there club sides at intermediate and junior level are winning all Ireland clubs regularly and there best junior and intermediate players get to play senior club championship to!

  24. Great seeing Dougie continue the brilliant form. Third match in a row now playing super stuff. Scoring from both feet, difficult angles, and also making clever passes and setting up colleagues. The stand-out Mayo club footballer at the moment.

    Knockmore thoroughly deserved the win and will be hard to beat next week. I agree Aidan put up with some amount of it today. I really think he needs to start laying down markers when he is being pulled at like that. He is far, far too nice and we see it at intercounty all the time. He got a yellow today for absolutely nothing….standing off his man in fact, when his man was hanging out of him. I couldn’t believe the restraint he showed. I fear that this is what happens to him at intercounty. I felt for him today. But he needs to do something about it. In the first half he let no. 6 wrestle him to the ground. With Aidan’s strength advantage this should not be allowed happen. Chances are ref is going to dish out two yellows to them at some stage for encounters like this, as happened in second half, so what has he got to lose by meeting fire with fire? No need to strike but surely he has to show that can’t be allowed to happen. Take the yellow but leave his marker with more to think about than the card he has just picked up.

    I too thought Ger McD did a terrific job on Cillian. He’s certainly an option to strengthen Mayo defence even further in 2017. Lots to be hopeful about and this is certainly one to watch for.

    Also, James Durcan is improving with every match. Working very hard, making great runs and supporting. Really bedding into the team and is a constant threat going forward.
    Mitchels impressed me the way the pulled away again after Balltubber got within two points in second half. No panic from Mitchels.

  25. Douglas and McDonagh are making a real case for county considerations. You would have to feel for Aiden O’Shea, it is not at all fair what he gets on the pitch. Still I’m over the moon for knockmore, I wish them well!

  26. Yes according to Connacht Telegraph he’s got he’s passport and visa in order and cleared to play!!!

  27. Have to say about pitch in ballinrobe on Saturday evening was nothing short of a disgrace the grass was so long lots of farmers would be happy with it fo a cut of silage now players deserve better than that

  28. Aidan I agree 100% regarding club football structure and have been banging thus drum for a good few years now on this forum and elsewhere. Needs to happen ASAP in Mayo.

  29. Macs left boot .an issue that would need to be clarified would be do you join junior and intermediate sides together or exclusively kerry there is 8 divisional teams comprised of junior and intermediate teams.
    In Mayo we have 4 divisional teams made of junior and intermediate would it make the divisional sides to strong?
    One problem I can see is clubs would object to this as 4 clubs would have to lose senior status to allow 4 divisional sides and same at intermediate level 4 of those teams would need to become junior.
    I would however think in the long haul of the divisional boards were really behind the idea it will give the best junior footballers and intermediate footballers exposure to senior championship would benefit everyone.

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