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Club talk starts up after draws

Sport

SHALL WE DANCE? Garrymore’s Liam Óg Horkan holds on to possession despite the best efforts of The Neale’s Stephen Morrin during last year’s Mayo SFC. Pic: Conor McKeown


The way I see it
Ger Flanagan

THE Mayo club championship draw crept up on us like a fox to a henhouse last week, and its aftermath has left everyone talking.
Across senior, intermediate and junior levels, the draw has given direction and focus to club players and management as to what lies ahead four months down the track.
We’ve picked our top six talking points from a list that could be as long as your arm.

Groups of Death!
WE love christening a group stacked with big teams as the ‘Group of Death’ and each year you’re sure to have one.
The year 2022 hasn’t disappointed in that regard either, drawing one in both the senior and intermediate grades. ‘Groups of Death’ derive their name from the fact that at least one big hitter will find themselves out of the championship and/or in the relegation zone by its conclusion.
In Group 2 of the Mayo SFC, you have Knockmore, Aghamore, Ballaghaderreen and Ballina Stephenites. Group 4 of the Mayo IFC will see Kiltimagh, Hollymount/Carramore, Kilmeena and Kilmaine dance it out.
The senior ‘Group of Death’ differs slightly in that the North Mayo duo of Ballina and Knockmore should get through, but you can’t rule out anything with Aghamore or Ballagh’, who have both taken big scalps in the competition in recent years.
Its intermediate equivalent is fascinating though, with all four teams all being considered genuine contenders on their day, making it extremely difficult to call.

Ballintubber early favourites
ALTHOUGH it’s four months away, and not a single minute of league football has been kicked, it’s impossible not to be discussing potential winners in the Mayo SFC already.
On the surface, it seems like it would be easier to guess the winning numbers in next week’s Balla GAA lotto – the jackpot is €19,300 and you can play online! – than picking a winner of the Moclair Cup.
This columnist could make a major case for Ballintubber, Knockmore, Westport, Ballina and Garrymore being in the mix when things get really serious around October and into November.
The football is never the prettiest at that stage of the year and often the team with the best system and the most experience can get the job done. With the return of Cillian O’Connor to the Ballintubber fold, I’d be backing them at the early prices.

Knocking on heaven’s door
CAN Ray Dempsey guide Knockmore to the promise land of three Moclair Cups in a row for the first time in the club’s history?
No doubt he and his young side believe they can and, going by the past few seasons, there is no reason to believe the train is stopping anytime soon.
The age profile of the squad is still relatively young, but still blended with the class and experience of the likes of Kevin McLoughlin and Shane McHale, while Darren and David McHale are only entering their prime.
The fact that they managed to win the county title last year without the aforementioned Darren McHale, who struggled with injury throughout, is a testament to their firepower.
Peter Naughton, Aidan Orme, Connell Dempsey and Pearse Ruttledge will rack up scores against any side and could kick them to history.  

The calm before the storm
IT’S still a long way off until we can even begin to think about championship football, especially with the start of the Mayo Senior Leagues taking place next month.
As we saw last year, given the nature of the week on/week calendar from here until September, clubs could be in much stronger or weaker situations, with injuries and form, by the time the championship begins.
Plus, if Mayo find their summer ended prematurely, we’re looking at a league system that will be flooded with county players, unless the majority take up big-money offers to head Stateside for a few months!
You wouldn’t blame them if they did!

Intermediate is wide open
THE Intermediate Championship has, by this columnist’s count, at least eight serious contenders.
Louisburgh, Crossmolina, Ballinrobe, Kiltane, Ballyhaunis, Moy Davitts, Hollymount/Carramore and Kilmaine all have a right good shot at winning the Sweeney Cup.
You can’t rule out Parke, Kiltimagh, Kilmeena and Burrishoole taking a scalp along the way either.
At this juncture the early favourites have to be Louisburgh, who will benefit massively if they can get Dylan Prendergast and Kevin Gibbons in flying form at the right time of the year.
But you can expect a serious challenge from Kiltane, who will be looking to bounce back to senior at the first time of asking, while Moy Davitts will be quietly confident in what they are building too.

North Mayo rivals meet again
THE rise of Ballina Stephenites as serious contenders in recent years has awoken North Mayo football from the post-noughties hangover.
And the Stephenites’ renewed rivalry with Knockmore has made the duels between the sides absolutely fascinating. Not for the first time, the two big hitters have been drawn together in the group stages, and they will also know that a meeting further down the line is very, very likely.
Ballina were tantalisingly close to beating Westport in the quarter-finals last year, but will now be a year older and a year wiser. The progression of Sam Callinan and Frank Irwin could bring that extra few percentage they need to get over the line.
Stopping Knockmore doing the three-in-a-row will only add fuel to their bellies, and we think they will have a major say in where the Moclair Cup will be heading for the winter.

 

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