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‘Exclusive’ Juniors ready to go

Sport

VETERANS ON CALL Kilmaine’s Brian Maloney and Achil’s Eddie Doran will cross paths again next Saturday evening in the Mayo Junior ‘A’ Exclusive club football championship. Pic: Michael McLaughlin

Preview
Ger Flanagan

IN such unprecedented times it seems weirdly appropriate that the Mayo ‘Exclusive’ Junior club football championship is beginning next weekend.
As a result of the decision taken by the majority of clubs at last year’s County Convention,
Junior clubs no longer have the fear of meeting an over-loaded second-string ‘B’ team from a bigger club. Or as happened last year, running into a top-quality ‘B’ team like Castlebar Mitchels who shocked Kilmaine in the County Junior ‘A’ championship final.
That shock defeat was a big blow for the South Mayo men, who have been tipped to get back into the Intermediate grade ever since they got relegated back in 2016.
They did bounce back though to win the Connacht Junior title in convincing fashion, so David O’Loughlin’s talented young squad will deservedly have the favourite’s tag to carry once again this year in Mayo.
The evergreen duo of Pat Kelly and the Maloneys are back for one more roll of the dice, while coming behind them is an exciting young team with the likes of Jarlath Mullin, Adam Barrett and Tomás Fahey. And that’s before you mention Mayo senior defender, Oisin Mullin.
Kilmaine’s first hurdle to be jumped is against Achill next Saturday, August 2 at 2pm.
The West Mayo men shocked Kilmaine in the 2018 quarter-final on their way to a County Final and will be chomping at the bit to pull off another upset when they welcome the high-flying South Mayo lads to their home ground.
Eddie Doran, Johnathan Fadian and Brian Lavelle will need to be at their best to do that, and it’s hard to see Kilmaine slipping up.
Their most likely competitors for the county title this year are a young and pacey Kilmeena side, who went narrowly close to beating Kilmaine in a cracking semi-final last year.
John Reilly’s side set their stall out with a tough trip away to an experienced Killala side on Saturday evening, August 1 at 5pm. The North Mayo men will be looking to take the game physically to a younger and lighter Kilmeena side.
Conor Gilvarry and Darragh Herbert are the homeside’s go-to players.
In the Kilmeena ranks, rising star Jack Carney, his former Rice College Westport team-mate Keith Joyce and defender Conor Madden are all developing nicely, while their captain, Sean Ryder, is making his was back from a hamstring injury.
In the three-team Group 4, Cill Chomáin, another team with genuine title hopes, make the short trip across North Mayo to face Michéal Forde’s Ballycastle outfit.
Justin Healy is Cill Chomáin’s key man and if he can find his range, he will do damage.
Having been relegated last year, Johnny Griffin’s Shrule/Glencorrib have a bye in their opening round, but will be there or thereabouts come the business end.
Seán Carey’s Ardagh side — which contains the explosive James Carr — welcome Cathal Horan and Kilmovee Shamrocks to their part of the world on Saturday evening next at 7pm, with the homeside certainly looking to make the breakthrough this year.
The other match-up in their group will see Junior B winners Eastern Gaels play their first Junior ‘A’ match in Brickens when Moygownagh come to visit on Sunday.
Pat Finnegan will be hoping Micheál McGarry can shoot the locals to a famousvictory.
In Group 2, Lacken host Ballycroy in what should be a feisty North Mayo derby and Kilfian welcome Tourmakeady in their Group 3 fixture.
As always, the Junior Championship is guaranteed to produce plenty of thrills, spills, shocks and drama. Except this time it will be ‘Exclusive’ to the ‘A’ teams!

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