BURRISHOOLE have always loomed large in the psyche of those who felt the swipe of their muscle. I was one of those. Midway through the last century they showed us how the west was won… again and again.
No amount of blackboard stuff could outmanoeuvre them. It was the heyday of their power in the west.
You remember names like Kelly, Loftus, Nealis, Walsh and Cannon, and you wince at brushes with the physical power they emitted.
Yet their dominance in West Mayo football belies their achievements at county level. The records indicate their distinction did not transfer to county glory. The image was greater than the achievement. And to this reporter it still is.
They did win an intermediate title in 1966, and another eighteen years ago, but nothing of importance since… although the very name still evokes memories of a team to be reckoned with.
Efforts to revive the old spirit of their game have been under way over the past few years, but only this season has a serious assault on a county championship been attempted. And that has much to do with the man kindling the flame.
No one is better qualified to lead them to Sunday’s intermediate final than Colm McManamon, who retired from club football last season after long and distinguished service to his club and county.
The former Mayo star has thrown the considerable weight of his experience and passion into his new role, and to have got them to the final is itself a significant achievement.
They face the might of Tourmakeady at McHale Park. No less endowed with the iron qualities associated with Burrishoole, the Gaeltacht men have been in the vanguard of intermediate club football these past few years. It is their third intermediate final in four years, having won one and lost one.
The experience of those two finals has been a reinforcing influence on their journey this season. Last year they lost the final to Westport by a single point, but the intensity of their recovery in the second half against all the odds was the highlight of the game.
Nail-biting finales are nothing new to Tourmakeady. Only in the final minute did they manage to rescue their recent semi-final from Belmullet… a dramatic climax in which their nerve held out.
What’s fascinating about them is the unremitting zeal shown by their long serving players. Brendan and David Prendergast, John and Joe Heneghan, the ageless Michael John Walsh, Brian and Tom Naughton, and captain Kevin Dolan have cumulative experience way beyond Burrishoole’s collective output. It’s what stands to them. Experience is their oxygen.
They may not have Tom Naughton on Sunday following the injury he received in the semi-final, and the centre-forward would be a loss. But they’ll use his absence as a motivating factor.
Like Tourmakeady, Burrishoole struggled in their semi-final. They survived a withering finish by Kiltimagh who had a number of chances to at least force a draw, but failed miserably in marksmanship.
You would not have thought in the first half it would come down to a battle for survival. Burrishoole were clearly the superior side, but under pressure betrayed their lack of big time experience.
Had he been available, Liam O’Malley would have consolidated their early superiority. An ankle injury forced the Mayo star out until late in the game when he was called upon to ease their crisis. He’ll be a huge boost to them on Sunday.
While comparative experience maybe a drawback, Burrishoole are no less talented than their Gaeltacht counterparts. The McManamons, the Morans, the Keanes, and their brilliant corner forward Jason Doherty are a match for anything Tourmakeady have to offer.
In this campaign Colm MacManamon has been stringing it all together, rediscovering their old rigour and producing intermittent phases of excellence. Burrishoole never lacked bottle, and they will throw themselves into Sunday’s battle with the inherent fibre with which their football is associated.
Mainly because of their recent successes, Tourmakeady will be fancied. But Burrishoole, motivated by their manager, have the capacity and the spirited resistance to overcome that disadvantage. And it will be no surprise if the James Sweeney memorial trophy wings its way westward on Sunday evening.
Good start stands Parke in good stead
THE spoils fell to Parke after last Sunday’s County Junior Final. They had laid down their marker in the first half . . . and try as they did Islandeady could find no suitable response.
Collectively, Parke had more width to their play, more speed on the wings… and clearly much more experience.
They were given a huge boost in the third minute when Darren Durkan was awarded a penalty for a dubious foul in the box. Dwayne Flynn made no mistake from the spot-kick, and Parke had got off to the best possible start a team could ask for.
It was their first real attack and came against the run of play. Using the long ball, Islandeady had peppered the Parke defence in those opening minutes, and continued in a similar pattern after the goal.
But hurried measures to get back on track needlessly unnerved them. The pressure forced them into wrong options, and the Parke defence – especially Paul Moran, Tom Walsh and John Cloherty – revelled in dealing with misdirected high ball.
In the circumstances a full 23 minutes passed before Vinnie Feeney dug out their first score. By then Parke were well on top and had 1-4 on the scoreboard from an incisive forward line in which Durkan, Flynn and Simon Cloherty- listed at full-forward, but operating one the left wing – were the big play-makers.
Islandeady picked up in the final seven or eight minutes of the half. No one did more to stimulate them than midfielder Ollie Feeney, and wing-back Martin Feeney reacted with two further points.
It had become obvious, however, that unless a substantial improvement was forthcoming, they were destined to suffer their second final defeat in three years.
Sure enough, a recovery got underway… of sorts. But their hopes of victory receded in the waste of a few excellent chances immediately after the re-start… and particularly when goalkeeper Brendan Coyle gave Parke a timely boost with a splendid save from Danny McGowan.
Liam Joyce, Islandeady’s best forward, clipped two points from their arrears and reduced them to a manageable three. But when Doherty and Flynn re-established Parke’s ascendancy Islandeady’s challenge began to wither. And man of the match Flynn sealed it for them with a splendid flick of his hand that deceived Colm Moylette in the Islandeady goal.
In fairness, Islandeady refused to quit. But all the good work of Ollie and Martin Feeney, Padraic Moylette, Peter Collins, Shane Heraty, David Gordon and Joyce foundered on Parke’s rock-solid defence in which Moran, Cloherty and Walsh were immense.
Just a thought …
Pressure of work has forced Tipperary’s All-Ireland winning management to step down. Having carved out a new niche for his county Liam Sheedy was unable to continue a 16-hour day to all of his commitments. Some sacrifice!