ON THE BALL Castlebar Celtic’s Jordan Loftus scored against Ballina Town in the Calor Gas Super Cup last weekend. Pic: Conor McKeown
CASTLEBAR CELTIC had an impressive 3-0 win over Ballina Town in Beleek in the quarter-final of the Calor Gas Super Cup on Sunday. The win continues the Hoops’ run of good form, and sends an interesting signal for next year’s Mayo Super League.
New-signing Andrew Shally started at left back for Ballina, and Mark Beattie’s two other signings, Aiden Dunleavy and Davin McCracken, both joined the action from the bench. Celtic introduced their new signing, Joe Slevin, late on.
The winners were dominant in midfield — where Ballina sorely missed the injured Dylan McKee and the departed Oleg Vysochan — and they went in two up at the break, thanks to Jordan Loftus and Mark Howley.
Oran Groarke added a third in the second half to confirm Celtic’s superiority.
The Mayo News felt that the addition of Dunleavy, in particular, was the signing that would make the difference for Ballina, adding goals, playing off Benny Lavelle and the hard work of Jamie Cawley on the wing.
The youngster will, of course, make a huge difference but Ballina cannot rely entirely on the excellent McKee in the middle of the park, and will need to strengthen there to mount a challenge to the in-form Celtic and defending champions Ballyheane.
Celtic, on the other hand, look the finished article. They have terrific players and if Stevie Gavin can keep them together and keep them motivated, they’ll be hard to beat in this cup and in the league next season.
They now have a tasty semi-final with Ballyheane to look forward to in a couple of weeks.
Elsewhere in the same cup, Conn Rangers got a taste of what life in the Super League will be like when they fell 5-1 at Westport, despite taking an early lead from PJ Gilmartin, the ex-Ballina Town man. Darren Browne and Adam Nugent got two each for Westport; Dylan O’Malley completed the comeback.
Westport are a work-in-progress. They are probably a season away from challenging for the title, after bringing through a lot of young players. It will be interesting to see what benefits their partnership with Sligo Rovers brings. It brought Caoimhin O’Toole to Sligo this summer, but then a couple of players travelled the other way, the better for their experience with Rovers.
Kiltimagh/Knock United (KKU) got the better of Glenhest 6-3 on the road.
Pat Mulchrone got three for the hosts. James McGrath scored two for KKU; the others coming from Liam McCormack, Jack O’Connor, Tadgh Caulfield and new-signing, Mark Maloney. The latter is a great signing for KKU.
The ex-Claremorris man is pacey and knows where the goal is. The only downside is his head is often turned by other sports. KKU now face Westport United in two weeks, a match they can win if they have a full complement of players to draw on.
Disappointingly, Straide and Foxford United (S&F) were unable to field against Ballyheane, conceding the game. It has been a difficult season for S&F.
On their day, they are an excellent side, well fit to compete with the best in the county but they are struggling a bit for commitment.
A lot of managers The Mayo News has spoken with, have lamented the lack of commitment of players, especially since Covid. There are many distractions for players and GAA remains a huge attraction, with its bigger crowds, huge publicity and the high-profile of the county team.
The GAA championship now has a set date, and, as called for a few weeks ago in this paper, the Mayo League must make sure its league competitions are completed before the GAA championship starts so that players don’t have to decide between the two sports.
The cups, like this weekend’s fixtures, may suffer, but the Mayo League must protect its premier competition – the leagues – and ensure there is no clash.