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Mayo clubs hitting Connacht wall

Sport

ONE THAT GOT AWAY Westport’s Killian Kilkelly reacts after a missed goal chance against Moycullen in the Connacht Club SFC quarter-final. Pic: Sportsfile

Analysis
Edwin McGreal

IT’S now eight seasons since a Mayo club won a Connacht senior club title.
While there was no provincial club campaign in 2020 due to Covid, for the Mayo clubs to win a Shane McGettigan Cup since 2015 is still a long gap.
There is some context for that.
Mayo champions were eliminated by Corofin in four successive seasons, 2016/17 to 2019/20. The Galway team went onto win a seismic three All-Irelands in a row from 2017/18 to 2019/20.
And Mayo clubs were competitive in those seasons.
Castlebar Mitchels took Corofin to extra-time in both the 2016 and 2017 seasons as their enduring rivalry continued. Ballintubber were also very competitive in their Connacht campaigns in 2018 and 2019, losing by two points in ‘18 but four points the following year.
Knockmore were beaten in last year’s final by Pádraig Pearses of Roscommon.
The nature of the heavy defeat inflicted on Westport last Sunday though is a concern.
Moycullen came through a very competitive Galway championship. They beat Salthill/Knocknacarra by a point in the final and defending champions Mountbellew/Moylough in the semi-final. Mountbellew had, in turn, beaten Corofin in the quarter-finals.
Westport also came out of a competitive Mayo championship, but the standard does appear to be lower than Galway right now.
Castlebar Mitchels are the last Mayo club to triumph at Connacht senior grade, with their hard-earned provincial titles in 2013 and 2015.
Before that you’ve to go back to Ballina’s 2007 win for Mayo’s previous winner.
So two titles in the last 14 campaigns is not a great return; it certainly would not be considered acceptable at inter-county level.
When Mitchels were in their pomp almost a decade ago, there were fewer overall contenders in the county. Few teams could live with them and Ballintubber in those seasons.
Indeed from 2010-19, Ballaghaderreen (2012) were the only club to break their duopoly.
It’s no criticism of recent winners to say that it has been more a case in recent seasons of Mitchels and Ballintubber coming back to the pack than other clubs going up to their level.
Indeed, Ballintubber won two titles in 2018 and 2019 when they were past their peak but still better than the rest.
A Mitchels team in whole-scale transition this year gave the Paddy Moclair a right rattle, coming closer than anyone to eventual winners Westport.
Westport have the potential to grow and prosper given their age profile, and that the monkey of their first title is now off their backs. But it was telling how reliant they were on Lee Keegan and Kevin Keane on Sunday, two men north of 30.
It should be pointed out that after such a big breakthrough, careering into a Connacht campaign is not straightforward.
Moycullen won the Galway title two years ago so there would have been less of a sense of bonus territory for them.
But there certainly is work for Mayo clubs to do in catching up.

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