SIDELINE VIEW Claremorris manager Ray Connelly will be looking for a big performance from his team in the Mayo SFC against Kiltane next Sunday. Pic: Ray Ryan
THE statistics don’t lie when it comes to Claremorris in the county senior club football championship. Next year marks the 50th anniversary of their last Moclair Cup success and they haven’t played in a senior final since 1978.
If they fail to beat Kiltane next Sunday they are looking at the prospect of battling it out in the relegation play-offs for the fourth time in the last six seasons.
Back-to-back defeats earlier this month against Knockmore and Ballina Stephenites (conceding a total of 1-38 and losing the games by a combined margin of 0-19) means they haven’t won a match in the group stages of the competition since 2018.
These are statistics that are as sobering as they are disappointing.
For a GAA club with such an impressive record and successful tradition at underage level, with the facilities, infrastructure and ambition to match, Claremorris’ failure to establish themselves as a force at senior championship level is one of the great Mayo GAA mysteries.
Especially when you consider that, in the last six years alone, the South Mayo club have won two County Under-21 ‘A’ championships (2014 and 2018) as well as a County Minor ‘A’ championship in 2015. Plus they have contested a few other finals at those grades as well.
Producing talented underage teams has never been an issue; but converting that into results at senior level has.
Kevin Beirne played with Claremorris for years, managed them to win County Under-21 ‘A’ championships, and has also coached the club’s senior team in the recent past.
He was on duty with Mayo GAA TV last Sunday week and spoke before the game against Ballina Stephenites of the ‘disappointment’ of the opening round defeat to Knockmore.
“We went in with big expectations and were comprehensively beaten on the day,” admitted the former Mayo defender. “So the pressure is on today, we need a result. It will depend on the mood in the camp as to how they get on.”
A little over an hour later we got our answer. Ballina had handed Claremorris another hammering, with the homeside scoring just 1-3 from play. Wing-back Liam Walsh buried the goal near the end, while full-back Paddy Barry nailed their first point of the day.
In between, midfielder James McCormack and corner-forward James Shaughnessy clipped their only points from play.
None of the other starting forwards, or three substitutes, scored.
Billy Fitzpatrick, the former Garrymore and Mayo attacker, who managed the Claremorris minors to that aforementioned county title five years ago, was also in Canon Gibbons Memorial Park last Sunday week.
“Ballina Stephenites had brilliant forwards, every one of them could score,” he said afterwards. “Whereas you look at the Claremorris scorers, you see James Shaughnessy. . I’m looking to see where the other scores are coming from. That’s not any good. You need a forwardline where everybody is chipping in with scores.”
The Claremorris management team of Ray Connelly, Johnny Mulkeen and John Kelly will be looking for a big reaction from their players next Sunday in Knockmore.
However, the loss of Mayo panellist James McCormack to a leg injury is a big blow to their plans.
“It’s disappointing, but we have no choice now but to roll up the sleeves and go hammer and tongs at Kiltane and retain our senior status,” said Kevin Beirne.
“We just have to get our act together and try and get a result from Kiltane.
“They have to regroup now and get their heads right. At this stage it’s their County Final.”
A season that promised so much just a few weeks ago for Claremorris is now on a knife-edge.
And despite the fact that so many in the club have been here before, they seem no closer to solving the conundrum.