Clash of the club titans
THE championship resumes at the weekend and some teams carry a little more baggage into the second round that we would have expected.
Claremorris, who nose-dived badly to Ballintubber, will be anxious to restore some pride when they travel to Kiltane.
It is not their defeat that shocked so many in the first round — it was the size of it. They never got off the ground. Ballintubber, their foundation set firmly at midfield, undermined their dream.
Others also have to worry about the Abbeysiders. They set a high standard in the league and since they breezed through that championship opener many have modified their opinions about their championship chances. The outcome of the weekend’s meeting with Moy Davitts will throw a lot more light on the destiny of the side led by Jason Gibbons, the Dillons, the O’Connors and company.
Moy Davitts showed a lot of promise in coming from behind to pip Ballina Stephenites in the league on Saturday evening. Through sheer physical power they forced Ballina into submission.
The Stephenites had dictated the trend of the play for much of the first half steered by Ronan McGarrity, Pat Harte, Ger Cafferkey and Paul McGarry. But towards the end of the half, Moy Davitts crept back into the game through hard graft and fitness and succeeded in overturning an eight-point deficit into a winning lead.
The Quinn brothers, Oisín and Conal, were the corner stone of a defence, that also includes another Quinn brother, Dara, and Cormac Healy. Expect decisive duels between Healy and Alan Dillon, Padraig O’Connor and Oisín Quinn and at midfield Ballintubber’s Jason Gibbons and Micheál Hoban do battle with Paul Quinn and James Mulderrig.
If, unlike Ballina, Ballintubber hold their shape, they should come out on top at Clogher. But if they allow themselves to become disjointed by Moy Davitts’ physical power they will struggle.
On the evidence of their defeat, Ballina may find the visit of Crossmolina unrewarding. In the positions occupied by Mayo players they were strong on Saturday until muscled out of it in the second half by the Foxford side.
They won’t find Crossmolina as physically tough, but they will be better organised, and better drilled in the finer points of play. Having drawn with Knockmore in the opening game, Crossmolina need to win this one, and it could be the match of the day.
Neither side is playing with the sort of form that adorned their championship winning days, but there is still a kick left in each.
Crossmolina have had to do without talisman Ciaran McDonald for several weeks and doubt still surrounds his availability this weekend. Without him they are not the force of old, but the influence of the Nallen brothers, James and Tom, Peadar Gardiner and Joe Keane is still big and even without McDonald they may have that little extra over their old rivals.
If you were to assess the championship chances of Castlebar Mitchels on their performance against Tourmakeady in the league on Sunday, hope would not be bright. They won that match, but not convincingly, and much more will be demanded from them by Peter Ford if they are to go any farther than next Sunday’s tie against Aghamore.
It is difficult to know where the fault lies. Inconsistency is their main problem. They have had to do without Tom Cunniffe and Sean Ryder for their more recent games, and they have also lost Richie Feeney and Niall Lydon through suspension. All key players without whom Castlebar are misfiring. Only Feeney of those four will be available for Sunday’s clash with Aghamore.
The Mitchels scrambled a win over the East Mayo side in the league at the beginning of May and they will be hard pressed to scrape another on Sunday. They’ll be depending on the Feeney brothers, Alan Roache, Ronan Burke, Donal Newcombe, Shane Fitzmaurice, Neil Douglas, Aidan Walsh and Barry Moran to carry them through a match they must win.
Aghamore were dealt a dreadful blow against Claremorris on Saturday evening when Cathal Freeman broke his leg. It is a savage setback for the young man who will be out of action for the rest of the year, and whose loss will be sorely felt when his team mates line out against Castlebar.
For the sake of their injured colleague Aghamore will want to win on Sunday. And from the likes of Liam Groarke, Cathal Carty, David Kilkenny, Simon McGuinness, Alan Freeman and Seán Óg Robinson they will be seeking inspiration. It may not be enough to account for the Mitchels, but it will be close.
Breaffy have been struggling all year and their poor streak of form is difficult to understand. With no league points to show for their efforts, they take on Shrule/Glencorrib in the championship and you cannot be hopeful for them.
It is not for want of effort by the O’Sheas, the Jordans and the Jennings that Breaffy are going through a lean spell. And it looks like it won’t end on Sunday against a side powered by the Mortimer brothers.
In other games, Claremorris should account for Kiltane even in Bangor; Knockmore may be too good for Ballinrobe; Charlestown will have the edge on Garrymore, and county champs Ballaghaderreen ought to get the better of Burrishoole.
Mayo football lives in hope not despair
IS there any way of stopping these interminable inquests into what is perceived as Mayo’s misery in failing to bridge the All-Ireland senior gap since 1951?
Another subjective narrative about our football frailties was delivered on national radio at the weekend, and those living outside the county would swear we were perpetually wallowing in a sea of self-pity.
Paradoxically, no desolation was evident in most of the voices interviewed. Players told of their experience as it was. All the overtones of despair came from the presenter.
We live in hope, not despair. We have had our disappointments and they have been analysed to death.
Nothing can change the past. Everything is being done to learn from it in order to reach the summit of our dreams.
There will be further disappointments and further oceans of analyses. But some day our footballers will bring back that elusive trophy.
In the meantime we are up there among the top five or six teams in the country and we can hold our heads high. Many would envy our position!
Minors hit the ground running impressively
MAYO’S minor footballers, who came so close to regaining the Tom Markham Cup last season, got their new campaign off to a rampaging start over Galway at Markievicz Park.
It was not expected to be so easy, and you felt Mayo might have thrown it away in the first half when they had the help of the wind.
But the wind held no fears for them. And Galway were no match after the break. Now they take on Roscommon in the final at Pearse Stadium and that ought to be a much closer affair.
The minor final precedes another chapter in the Mayo-Galway senior saga and their battle with Sligo, which the Tribesmen survived, will have honed a fair old edge for their meeting with Mayo.
Sligo were valiant, and a bit unlucky not to have earned a draw. There were moments in the second half when they had Galway in a flap. Past experience had the Connacht champions prepared and, with Kevin Walsh at the helm in Sligo, they treaded even more warily.
But it took that Joe Bergin point and Sean Armstrong’s goal in injury time to direct the dogged Sligo men through the back door. A good draw there is what they need now.