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It’s time for the return of Junior divisional teams

Sport

ALL ACTION Achill’s Colm Cafferkey is pictured on the ball against Louisburgh in the Mayo Junior club football championship. Pic: Michael McLaughlin


Interview
Edwin McGreal

ONE of the county’s most experienced junior club footballers has called on the Mayo GAA Board to reintroduce divisional teams into the Mayo senior club football championship.
Achill’s Colm Cafferkey was on the West Mayo team which almost shocked Crossmolina Deel Rovers en route to Crossmolina’s All-Ireland triumph two decades ago.
In our souvenir supplement in this week’s Mayo News to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Deel Rovers’ All-Ireland success, Cafferkey talks about that Mayo SFC first round game in June 2000 where West Mayo led by three points with less than five minutes left, before a late Crossmolina comeback prevented a huge shock.
That West Mayo team was comprised of players from the three exclusive junior clubs in the division that year – Achill, Islandeady and Kilmeena.
Colm Cafferkey, who turns 40 later this year, has been a junior footballer most of his career, with the exception of 2008-2013 when Achill were in the Intermediate ranks.
He argues there was never enough support for the idea of junior amalgamated teams from the Mayo GAA Board in the past.
“The thing that sticks with me most from that game is the potential of the divisional teams,” the former Mayo defender told The Mayo News.
“We pulled together 15 players and were able to put it up to the best team in the country, as Crossmolina turned out to be. It is a great opportunity for junior footballers to test themselves at a higher level.
“There was always a lack of commitment to the concept in Mayo. Compare that to Kerry where they put a lot into it and you see a lot of junior club players playing county football. “You could go decades without any representation from junior clubs on the Mayo senior side.
“It needs to be looked at. There has never been enough follow through and commitment to the concept and Mayo football is the worse for it,” said Cafferkey.
Indeed, the Achill stalwart believes one of the main reasons that West Mayo ran the eventual All-Ireland champions so close was the way that season fell.
“It was the one year we were allowed a right run at it,” he recalled. “We had a very good team. Seven or eight lads had played county underage and then others would be key men for their clubs. So we knew we had the quality but that year we were allowed to come together and it was more by accident than by design.
“The West Mayo Junior championship, which was still the format that time, was not until later in the summer so we could build a squad and a sense of togetherness. We weren’t tearing strips off each other one week and then expected to play together the next. That happened a lot in other years.
“That year it all fell right … We had five or six weeks of a clean run into it. There has always been good players for West Mayo but bringing them together has been the challenge.”
Aside from West Mayo running Crossmolina so close, there were other notable successes when the divisional teams previously competed. North Mayo reached a Mayo senior semi-final in 2001 while South Mayo did likewise in 1999.
The experiment ran for a number of years at the turn of the millennium while, more recently, West Mayo re-entered the Mayo SFC ranks in 2010, narrowly missing out on qualifying from their group.

Dream teams
HERE are the Mayo Junior clubs who would be eligible for divisional teams in 2021.
East Mayo
Eastern Gaels, Kilmovee Shamrocks.
North Mayo
Ardagh, Ballycastle, Ballycroy, Cill Chomain Gaels, Kilfian, Killala,
Lacken, Moygownagh.
South Mayo
Shrule/Glencorrib.
West Mayo
Achill, Islandeady, Kilmeena, Tourmakeady

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