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5 weekend talking points

Sport

HE’S BEHIND YOU Castlebar Mitchels’ Gavin Durcan wins possession ahead of Westport’s Niall McManamon during Sunday's Mayo SFC semi-final at Hastings Insurance MacHale Park in Castlebar. Pic: Conor McKeown


Feature
Edwin McGreal

1 Great Scott, Westport have nicked it!

IF Westport go on and win their first ever Mayo senior club championship in two weeks time, Shane Scott’s dramatic winning goal with the last kick of Sunday’s semi-final will go down in club lore forever.
Westport seemed to be in control of the game going down the stretch but could never shake off a young Mitchels team. Castlebar pulled the gap back to one point heading into injury time when the drama truly started.
Ethan Gibbons’ shot dropped short in the Westport goalmouth and Paddy O’Malley was adjudged to have taken down Mark Cunningham. Penalty.
Gibbons converted the penalty and Mitchels were two to the good, on the brink of an upset.
But one last Westport attack saw the Covies steal victory. Mark Moran got away with a cute foul, a quick pull of Paul Walsh’s jersey to free up possession. Seconds later the ball was worked to Scott, who produced a nimble side-foot before burying the ball in the net.
The scenes of agony and ecstasy on the final whistle seconds later showed just how dramatic championship football can be.
A forgettable game for the most part, but an unforgettable finish.

2 Ballintubber bow out fighting

IT says something of Ballintubber’s resilience and fight that despite Ballina being on top in most positions, the West Mayo lads only lost by three points and an effort from Cillian O’Connor to bring it to extra-time whizzed just by David Clarke’s post.
Ballintubber are never gone from a game before the final whistle and, while the best team won, Enda Gilvarry’s lads can make a strong case for complaining about the nature of the concession of each of Ballina’s three goals.
For the first one, Diarmuid O’Connor received a short kick-out from Brendan Walsh and erroneously kicked it back to his goalkeeper. Under new rules, the goalkeeper cannot receive the first pass after his kick-out. Walsh stood off it, calling his defenders to chase it but Conor McStay got there first and fed Evan Regan who finished well. Had Walsh caught the ball, a ‘hop ball’ was all that would have ensued. But it is easy to be wise in hindsight.
Ballina’s penalty came after Ballintubber uncharacteristically coughed up possession deep in their own defence while the third goal, from Luke Doherty, came after Evan Regan appeared to pick the ball off the ground before playing a defence-splitting pass to the goalscorer.
How different a game could it have been? We will never know as different scores can change the dynamics in many ways but Niall Heffernan and the Stephenites will be mightily relieved to have held off the unyielding Ballintubber challenge.

3 Davitts go down in the worst possible way
IT might have been dramatic for the neutral and for The Neale, who won it, but for Davitts to lose their senior status in the relegation final by means of a penalty shoot-out was heartbreaking. And you have to ask was it necessary?
We’re not overly comfortable with big championship games, club or county, being decided on the day. It means that if the teams are still level, after extra-time, the game must be decided on penalties.
Sometimes it is unavoidable due to the fixtures calendar but we think there should be enough flexibility built into the schedule to decree in advance if the game has to be decided on the day.
For the knock-out stages of the Senior, Intermediate and Junior club championships, where the winners go onto the provincial campaigns, time is more finite.
But there’s no Connacht campaign for those in the relegation play-offs and therefore there was ample time for a replay between The Neale and Davitts.
People have criticised the format of penalties, saying free-kicks might be more appropriate to Gaelic football but then penalties are part of the game too.
But, overall, it should be a last resort and in the case of The Neale and Davitts, both teams deserved and, crucially, had the window for a replay.

4 The more things change, the more they stay the same
YOU would have got short enough odds on Ballyhaunis being back in the Iwntermediate final after they lost last year’s decider to Mayo Gaels.
It was a game they should have won but just couldn’t pull away when they were on top and the Gaels finished stronger to go senior.
But the East Mayo men are too good a team not to contend again this year and so it has proven.
After a stumble in their opening game at home to Castlebar Mitchels B, where they got a draw after being nine points down, they have looked the championship’s best team.
A comfortable win over Moy Davitts was a statement and knock-out victories over Parke and Hollymount/Carramore, both with a bit to spare, were quite something in such a competitive championship.
It’s their third final in four years, after losing to The Neale in 2019 and they will be hoping it is third time lucky.
Kilmeena have caught everyone, except themselves and Mayo Football Podcast contributor, Stephen Drake, by surprise in comparison.
Junior last year, they showed their credentials by going all the way to an All-Ireland title but because they were Junior last year, they remained under the radar for long stages.
They will find it hard to hide in plain sight anymore though and this final is well set up to go right down to the wire.

5 Who will reach the Junior high?
CILL CHOMÁIN and Islandeady know all about Kilmeena, having lost to them in last year’s Junior final and semi-final respectively.
If you use those games as a guide, then the Erris men will be favourites (they are with the bookies). They ran Kilmeena as close as anyone last year, losing the county final by three points, 1-10 to 1-7. Islandeady never got close in the semi-final, hammered 1-19 to 0-6.
But that is a very simplistic way of looking at it.
This year’s league shows Islandeady finishing on six points in Division 2B with Cill Chomáin languishing at the bottom on only one point. In the league clash between the teams on July 29, Islandeady won 1-11 to 0-8. Cill Chomáin avoided relegation by winning a playoff against Ardnaree.
Championship is always a different matter though.
Both teams played Killala en route to the final. Islandeady beat them by three points in the group while Cill Chomáin had three points to spare against them on Saturday, albeit after extra-time.
All three finals are going to be very difficult to predict and this is no exception.

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