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Ballagh' are the team with the best outside chance

Sport

“Ballagh’ are the team with the best outside chance of winning silverware.”

WITH only two teams having qualified for the next stage, and two teams definitely out of the running to win the Moclair Cup after two rounds of the championship, this column feels this is a good time to review the championship developments. We’ll identify the movers and shakers, assess the performances and the disappointments, and finally gauge who will still be involved in the battle for silverware come early October.
Where best to start than with those that are making the most positive headlines. Castlebar pulled off a Houdini act last week in Newport when they dragged back a 10 point deficit at half-time to win by one. That comeback has really sent out a very strong message to everyone in the county that Paul Jordan’s men are going to be serious title contenders. The departure of four key players doesn’t seem to have affected them at all but has offered the chance to some other younger players to take responsibility. In men like Barry Moran, Tom Cunniffe, Sean Ryder, Ciaran Naughton and Joe Corcoran there’s plenty of talent available to Jordan.
Charlestown are the only other team to have qualified for the quarter-finals. Denis Johnson is in his first year in charge and he has added some freshness that has seen them win both their group games very easily, away to Knockmore and home to Moy Davitts. The relocation of the Higgins brothers (Aidan at 3 and Dermot at 11) has added strength to a team that a lot of people feel have underachieved since the county and provincial win back in 2001.
The other three main contenders for honours, Ballina, Crossmolina and Shrule-Glencorrib, have had indifferent starts to their championship campaigns with all three winning and drawing a game each. Is it a case that they are pacing themselves and that they will be different animals come September? They must all win their next game to guarantee qualification and this point will not be lost on Tommy’s, Lyons and Jordan, nor will Declan Ronaldson allow his men to look any further than Claremorris where a win for Kevin Beirne’s team will guarantee them qualification.
Knockmore and Moy Davitts will battle it out against each other in the last round to earn the other quarter-final place from Section B along with Charlestown. This year has been a tough one for the North Mayo men, but Aidan McHale and co. have rallied together since their first round defeat. They know that a win against the Foxford men will ease the pressure on them, allowing them concentrate on promotion from Division 2 which is probably their main aim for this year. 
At this stage Ballaghadereen will probably be the team that have the best outside chance of winning silverware this year. They have had impressive displays against Breaffy and Crossmolina, and have a formidable forward line with nearly all the positions being occupied by players that have inter-county experience at underage and senior level.
They also have a midfield partnership that lined out for the Mayo U21’s last year in James Kilcullen and Barry Kelly, so if their defence can contain opposition attacks, then Frank Kelly and John O’Mahony’s men will have a big say in where the Moclair Cup rests next Christmas.
A win for Kiltane in their final round game against Louisburgh will also gain them a quarter-final ticket, which will be a great boost to the Bangor club. They have a very young team and are building a team to come good inside the next two or three years. Burrishoole are probably the unluckiest team thus far in the championship. They were drawn in a group where they were seen as the easy touch but they have battled hard, and with that little bit of luck that is needed to win a championship, they could, at this stage, have one eye on the quarter-finals. Instead they find themselves looking for a favour from Castlebar to beat Ballina. Then, if Burrishoole beat Westport, it will leave a play off beat themselves and the Stephenites.
Crossmolina and Ballagh’ look like the favorites to come out of Section A but Breaffy will have a big say about that yet. They had a very impressive win against Ballinrobe in the last round and with Marty McNicholas returning to the team, their last round fixture against the champions should be  interesting.
Garrymore will have to beat either Crossmolina and Ballagh’ and hope Ballinrobe lose their last game to force a play-off at the bottom of the group. Kiltimagh are the other team out of contention but their senior championship status remains to be fought for.

NEXT Sunday Connacht’s greatest rivals will go head to head in Castlebar and let’s hope the entertainment level is that bit better than last time out in Carrick-on-Shannon.
This is a game that all the Mayo players must be very eager to play in. Peter Ford and Galway have had the upper hand over Mayo in their last 3 outings (Connacht Final ’05, FBD final and NFL semi-final).
I’m sure that everyone in the Mayo camp will be going all out to win this one. As a spectator and fan I hope that the form shown earlier in the league, and the work done in Portugal, pays off. Muigheo abú!
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