HEAD TO HEAD Castlebar Celtic and Kiltimagh-Knock Utd will face off in next Sunday’s Calor Gas Mayo Super Cup Final. Pic: John Corless
SUNDAY’S Calor Gas Mayo Super Cup final pitches the most in-form team in the county, Castlebar Celtic, against this season’s surprise package, Kiltimagh/Knock United (KKU) at Solar 21 Park in Castlebar.
Celtic manager Stevie Gavin doesn’t fully agree, but his side will take the field as favourites given their run of thirteen matches undefeated in all competitions.
Kiltimagh/Knock, on the other hand, have done really well this season and they won’t want to settle for simply getting to the final.
“People might look at it that way, that’d we’d be favourites,” Gavin told The Mayo News. “And I often look at matches myself, favouring the form team. People try to read form, but a cup final is down to the day and who performs and who doesn’t, and who gets a bit of luck too. You see that in all sports at all levels. A final is a different thing all together.”
Naturally, the Celtic boss is delighted with the club’s recent run.
“It’s great. We’re very happy with how it has been the last while because we had some bad results early in the season. We have got lads back in that were away on holidays or injured and unavailable. The lads have been great and we have good momentum.
“But just because you win a few games doesn’t mean you’re going to win the next game.
“In the games we have won, we have gone into them with an edge. We never felt like favourites in those games, we just had that focus at the start and carried it through the game. “So we don’t feel like favourites for the final on Sunday, but we don’t feel like underdogs either.”
Celtic will be without the suspended Jason Hunt; the influential player having been sent off in the semi-final win over Ballyheane.
“Jason is disappointed,” explained Stevie Gavin. “We’re all disappointed for him because he has been so good this season. He’s a great lad and it’s hard on him to miss the final. Out from Jason, we’ll be at full strength.”
Kiltimagh/Knock Utd will have to line out without their suspended defender Eric Eaton, while Darragh Hanlon, Cormac Caulfield and Lionel Jordan are on the long-term injury list, with Stevie Collins a doubt for Sunday.
“We have a lot of younger players in training now, who are trying to force their way into the squad for Sunday,” James Costello, their manager, told The Mayo News.
He seemed unconcerned about Celtic’s great unbeaten run.
“Form goes out the window in a final,” he said, echoing Stevie Gavin. “It depends who turns up on the day. If we reach the level we can play at, it will be an exciting game. Obviously, that’s what we are aiming to do.”
Costello is aware of the attacking threat of Celtic.
“They have excellent players all over the park and there will be challenges there, but we just have to deal with them if we want to win the cup.”
James is pleased to get to the final in his first year in charge of the team. He said that at the start of the season KKU wanted to break into the top five after gaining promotion.
“That was the aim,” he said. “We looked at the league make-up and we felt if we were properly organised from the start and could hit the ground running, we had a chance.
“We did that in the league and we just carried it on in the cup. Then we thought if we could repeat that we had a good chance of getting to a final and it has played out that way.
“We’re happy about that, but we want to win it now.”
It’s a difficult tie to call; both managers being correct in saying that form goes out the window in a final and it’s down to who is up for it on the day and who gets that bit of luck.
KKU have an outstanding talent in Jack O’Connor up front. He has the potential to turn the game in a single move. At the other end Jordan Loftus, the Celtic striker, is a super player too, whose deft touches easily deceive opponents.
KKU recently signed Mark Maloney from Claremorris and he is a great pacey, attacking complement to their already highly mobile squad. Another ex –Claremorris man, Joe Slevin, is a great link man, adding experience and strength to Celtic’s midfield.
Both sides have good defenders and are quick to turn defence into attack. Both sides have excellent coaches too; Paul Byrne has worked wonders at Kiltimagh/Knock and Stevie Gavin will be the first to sing the praises of Declan Ryan at Celtic.
Some team will eventually end Celtic’s great run. Will it be KKU on Sunday?
It’s a difficult call. Celtic look better on paper but it’s hard to dismiss the East Mayo lads. They have delivered against the odds all season. Either way, it should be a great game played between two attacking teams who know how to play football.
Calor Gas Mayo Super Cup Final
Castlebar Celtic v Kiltimagh-Knock Utd
Sunday, November 20
Solar 21 Park at 2.15pm
Referee: J Mulroe