While us supporters were still getting our heads around another All-Ireland final day tragedy, county players were returning back to their clubs and joining forces once more with their hard-working club comrades. Last weekend had it all – the Senior and Intermediate groups were being tidied up while the weekend also was host to county finals and relegation play-offs, making it one jam-packed weekend of sport.
Myself and John Brennan of the Mayo News attended the Garrymore v. Claremorris match, a game that seemed a dead duck. Claremorris were in the wooden spoon position going into it, losing two out of two, and Garrymore knew that a draw or better would be enough to guarantee them passage to the quarter-finals.
We thought we would have to get the calculators out towards the end. Fourteen-man Claremorris had Garrymore on the ropes and were four points to the good as the clock ticked down. Breaffy had beaten Davitts by six points but, as it stood, Davitts were just going to sneak that second place spot.
Up stepped forward Garrymore forward Jimmy Killeen who grabbed two vital last minute points in succession to add to his 2-5 tally. Those two points proved vital as it gave Garrymore a precious draw which was enough to see them through.
Both games had some high scoring individuals on their respective teams. Jimmy Killeen wasn’t the only talent on show as James Shaugnessy of Claremorris chalked up 1-6. Breaffy’s Liam Irwin grabbed himself seven points with a couple from placed kicks. Mark Higgins subsequently stated in this week’s Western People that Liam was the “best player on a field littered with county stars” so surely it’s only a matter of time before ‘The Bear’ pulls on the shirt at senior inter-county level. It was also great to hear that Rob Hennelly had a more characteristic performance, pulling off a double save late on to keep out Davitts’ Ronan McNamara.
Castlebar Mitchels and Crossmolina both advanced from Group 3. The county champions made it three from three and will be very hard to beat as we roll into the latter stages of this competition. Neil Douglas pointed ten scores, half of which came from frees. Mayo and Ballina’s Evan Regan was also successful from placed balls, firing over four.
Any doubt over Crossmolina’s chances of qualifying were answered fairly early on in their encounter as they rushed to a 2-2 to no score in the opening fifteen minutes against Ballinrobe. Two exciting prospects in both teams were on the scoresheet. Fionan Duffy nailed 1-7 to the board while ‘Robe’s Kevin Quinn knocked in the visitors’ two goals. Quinn, by the way, followed up his goal rush for NUIG on Tuesday netting another goal for his college intermediate team.
Top spot was still up for grabs in Group 4 as Knockmore faced Ballaghaderreen. Much like Garrymore’s draw, it was two late points that propelled Knockmore to leapfrog their opponents.
Andy Moran has rolled back the years for Mayo this year and he wasn’t about to stop on Saturday. Cheekily flicking the ball into the net from a high ball in wasn’t enough for our Andy, he had to have a punt at goal from a sideline ball which fired into the roof of the net too.
His outrageous goals weren’t, though, enough for the away side. though, With four points sailing over the bar from the boots of Peter Naughton and Keith Ruttledge respectively, Knockmore jumped the queue, meaning Ballaghaderreen had to be content with a second place finish.
Sean Gaughan and Shane Lyndsey were on hand to secure safety for Kiltane but one man’s delight is another mans misery. Ballyhaunis, despite their best efforts, are now left to face the relegation battle.
Ballintubber had a shaky start to their championship hopes, occurring a loss on the opening day. However, when you have a team littered with O’Connors, Mayo stars past and present, senior and minor, you normally fare out well in the end.
The boys from the ‘Tubber had the delight of facing an Aghamore team reduced to fourteen men for the final thirty minutes and they took this to their full advantage. 1-8 from Cillian, (you’ll be shocked to know six came from frees and the other two from ‘45s: we should really let him take placed kicks for Mayo!) and another goal from brother Diarmuid gave them an eight-point win. Defeat wasn’t so sour for Aghamore who fell into second place with Mayo senior panellist Alan Freeman obtaining four points from his day out.
2-2 from Kevin Feerick and five points from Darren Coen wasn’t enough to for Hollymount-Carramore to secure safety in their group as they fell to Charlestown. Colm Maye was on top form for Sarsfields, notching 1-5 for his team.
Moy Davitts will be entering the latter stages of the Intermediate championship on a high as their talisman Brian Reape scored 2-5 in their convincing winning over Swinford. Belmullet made sure of their top seed status following a win over Burrishoole.
This Saturday, Breaffy play Crossmolina and Knockmore face Aghamore in MacHale Park, while on Sunday Mitchels face Ballaghaderreen followed by Ballintubber against Garrymore at the same venue.
There are some crackers of games in the mix there. It would be hard to look past Breaffy, Mitchels and Ballintubber, with Knockmore maybe having the slight edge over Aghamore as they ground out a final day win unlike their opposition.
Claremorris face Ballyhaunis while Holly-Carra take on Ballinrobe both at noon on Sunday. Ballyhaunis and Ballinrobe both ended empty-handed from their group stage matches and if Holly-Carra and Claremorris both put on performances like last weekend, it should be enough to see them safe.
In the Intermediate championship, Beal an Mhuirtead take on Shrule/Glencorrib, Islandeady are up against Burrishoole, Kiltimagh have The Neale while Sunday’s only game sees Westport take on Bohola Moy Davitts.
Kiltimagh, Westport and Beal an Mhuirtead all look strong favourites this year for Intermediate and have really hit the ground running in their respective campaigns, with three wins from the three games. They should be all in with a great shout for semi-final spots.
Islandeady found it tough on the last day against Kilmaine and nearly lost out on their place to Parke/Keelogues/Crimlin. Their tie against Burrishoole should be a mouth-watering contest and no doubt the Burrishoole boys will be up for a hard, tough encounter.
The Intermediate relegation final also takes place between Tourmakeady and Kilmaine. This is really any one’s game.
Tourmakeady had a shocking group stage but against Ardnaree last Sunday they were a different outfit altogether and pushed them very close, losing out by only two points in the end. Kilmaine’s group stage wasn’t much better but their aforementioned performance against Islandeady in the last round of matches in their group shows that when push comes to shove, they can really put in a solid shift. It’s too hard to call but it will be a delight to cover as both teams will be just ready for war.
Mitchels were crowned Minor ‘A’ champions on Sunday following a seven-point win over Sarsfield Shamrocks. That game was followed by an absolute peach of a Junior final contested between Balla and Louisburgh. Ten points to nine was the final score and two points late on from Kevin Gibbons pushed Louisburgh to a fourth Junior title, their first sine 1994.
Carnacon ladies found themselves in the Connacht final after they brushed off Kilkerrin- Clonberne. I was covering a soccer game in Partry at the time and someone genuinely said in passing that Cora Staunton was having an off-day. Maybe 2-8 is an off day when you are sizing up the score with the scorer in this instance.
If anyone has her scoring statistics since she started playing football I’d like to see them because the total surely must be in the hundreds of thousands at this stage. Behind every great footballer is a great team, and Carnacon have the likes of Sharon and Michelle McGing, Fiona McHale, Martha Carter, Amy Dowling, Erina Flannery, Doireann Hughes. You could, in truth, name the whole squad and pinpoint that every player is as valuable as the last.
Burrishoole were unlucky in their quest for Intermediate Connacht glory as they were beaten by Padraig Pearses on a scoreline of 1-9 to 1-7. It was a game they really could have won as only a point separated the sides for majority of the closing stages. Still, credit to the girls who put in a monster of a performance throughout.
Reading the local papers during the week was a big ask, especially when they’ve covered twenty-odd pages of Gaelic Games alone. You think you’re finished with GAA for the year following the final whistle in Croke Park and then remember you have all this to look forward to. It’s a delight as a reporter and a fan, maybe the players might have a different opinion but that’s another discussion for another day. Last weekend was jam-packed and this weekend is not going to be any different. After all, club comes first so they say!