There’s no better feeling than watching a game of football in the blistering sun, even if it means becoming as red as a tomato. There was some blistering scores and scorers to match the weather conditions in Mayo over the weekend as Round 1 of the Mayo football championships got underway.
Let’s start with the senior championship and Group 1 which had two games and two draws at the weekend. Charlestown and Knockmore were part of the early throw-ins at 5pm on Saturday and they played out a hugely entertaining 2-10 apiece stalemate.
Niall Murphy struck 2-1 for Charlestown but that was beaten by Peter Naughton’s 1-5 for Knockmore. The North Mayo lads will, though, count themselves lucky to have even got anything out of this game. At one stage, there were trailing by ten points and looked to be dead and gone. Mayo’s Kevin McLoughlin hit 1-1 for Knockmore while Tom Parsons also featured for Charlestown grabbing a point for his side.
Shane Nally, Caolan Crowe and Lee Keegan all played a part in the Group’s second drawn game which took place between Garrymore and Westport. Westport join the senior ranks after their heroic All-Ireland success at Intermediate earlier this year. They left it late on Saturday evening to secure a last-minute draw against Garrymore despite leading for the majority of the game.
Alan Kennedy was the saviour for the Covies, kicking 0-6 and a last minute equalising free. Mark Tierney hit 1-2 for Garrymore and Darren Quinn’s late goal approaching injury-time was unlucky not to be the game winner for the home side.
It’s Breaffy and Hollymount-Carramore who are joint top of Group 2 after the first round of games. Both teams managed to play their opposition out of the park with Breaffy beating Davitts 4-18 to 0-9 while Holly-Carra put Ballaghaderreen to the sword with a similar scoreline of 4-15 to 1-6.
Conor O’ Shea was the star man for Breaffy, kicking 1-8 on the field of play on Saturday, a real confidence boost for the youngest O’ Shea with inter-county championship football just around the corner. In fact, all the O’Sheas were on the scoreboard, with Aidan getting a goal and Seamus getting a point.
Robbie Hennelly had a trouble-free day in goal, keeping a clean sheet while James Mingoue, Gareth Dunne and Liam Irwin were also big scorers for the boys in the striped blue. It wasn’t Davitts’ day, sadly, and Colm Boyle’s men will have to pull up their socks if they have any hope of getting out of the group.
Kevin Feerick hit 2-7 for Holly-Carra as they look to add to their league success of last year. They found senior championship hard last year but from the weekend’s performance, they could be a shoo-in for a quarter-final place. Mayo’s Stephen Coen anchored the back of the Holly-Carra defence and big scorers also came in the shape of Conor Keane (1-4) and Padraig Feerick (1-1).
It was a worrying display from Ballaghaderreen. Andy Moran got a point from play and David Drake also lined out but even the two Mayo boys couldn’t hold back the force of the visitors’ attack. Breaffy go top but just by a points difference of three, meaning Davitts are rooted to the bottom for the time being.
Group 3 sees Ballintubber on top as Cillian and co. put manager-less Kiltane to the sword. O’Connor’s 1-9 all came from placed balls and his brother Diarmuid was playing in the unorthodox position of half-back which actually worked pretty well in terms of quick counter-attacking football. Adam Carrabine nailed 1-2 for Kiltane and the visitors shocked the boys from the ‘Tubber when Carrabine struck a goal after two minutes. Ballintubber ran out comfortable winners in the end, though, on a scoreline of 1-15 to 1-5 with Alan Dillon playing 45 minutes of football for the home side.
The other match in the group was another drawn game, this one between Claremorris and Aghamore. My good friend John Brennan of the Mayo News had a horrid time with the Aghamore team as he had to note 14 changes, both additions and positional changes, in the match programme ahead of throw-in. It’d make you wonder why one would bother with a programme in the first place!
0-19 to 4-7 was the score in that game with Claremorris’ James Shaughnessy getting almost half the Claremorris points (0-8). Former Mayo man Alan Freeman was the leading talisman for Aghamore with 2-3 and Fergal Boland lined out beside Freeman. A solid point gained by Claremorris, though it’s surely a concern to be conceding four goals in championship football.
Reigning champions Castlebar Mitchels are the table toppers of Group 4 after Round 1 following a convincing win over Crossmolina away from home. Donie Newcombe was sidelined for Castlebar due to a hamstring injury but Paddy Durcan and Danny Kirby did feature for Mitchels and both scored (Paddy 0-1, Danny 1-0).
David Stenson was the leading scorer with seven points and the champions won 2-15 to 1-6. Crossmolina’s Brian Benson scored 1-3 of his side’s tally and Mayo man Conor Loftus managed a single free. A clear statement from Castlebar that they want to be there or thereabouts again this coming year.
The group also saw Ballina and Ballinrobe fight out an extremely entertaining game with Ballina coming out on top by two, 1-11 to 0-12. It was a truly brilliant tug of war game and probably one that deserved a point apiece for both sides.
Darren McDonnell was immense for Ballinrobe and kicked eight points, all from frees, but it was an Evan Regan goal in the 26th minute that proved ultimately to be all the difference. Regan scored 1-4 in total while David Clarke and Ger Cafferkey kept a clean sheet at the back for Ballina. Mayo’s Donal Vaughan was centre-forward for ‘Robe but couldn’t manage to get on the score-line.
Moving from Senior to Intermediate now and who will follow in the footsteps of Westport to make the big leap to the top table of Mayo football?
Mayo Comórtas champions Belmullet will be hoping to hit the big time in Tourmakeady in a couple of weeks time (a separate piece from me on on Tourmakeady’s Comórtas will feature here on the blog shortly, by the way!) but they were stopped in their tracks by Ardnaree as the two sides played out yet another drawn championship game, 0-10 to 1-7. Chris Barrett and Eoin O’ Donoghue were the only Mayo men on show and they both lined out for Belmullet.
It was another O’Donoghue, Ryan, who was influential for Belmullet however, hitting six points. John Timlin was the top scorer for Ardnaree with four points. It was their substitute Ronan Doherty who saved the day for Ardnaree, however, when he rifled into the net in the dying minutes to secure equal spoils.
Keith Higgins’ Ballyhaunis were relegated from the senior ranks last year and life in Intermediate got off to the worst possible start when they lost to Parke/Keelogues/Crimlin by the minimum margin.
Higgins chalked up two points and his team-mate Eamon Phillips struck 1-4 but it still wasn’t enough to see off P/K/C who are veterans of Intermediate football at this stage. Ronan Carolan (1-1), Raymond Neary (0-3) and John Cloherty (1-0) were on hand to condemn ‘Haunis to the defeat and, as a result, P/K/C went top of Group 1.
The games were just as tight in the Intermediate championship as they were in the SFC and Group 2 had another close encounter when Shrule-Glencorrib took on Swinford. There was no Conor Mortimer as he has gone back to Parnells in Dublin but – who knows? – maybe if Shrule-Glencorrib reach another semi-final, he might return for another stint in the spotlight!
And that’s quite possible after they beat Swinford 1-15 to 1-14. Former Mayo man Mark Ronaldson was on fire for Shrule-Glencorrib and he got a tally of 1-7 for the day. He was also on hand to hit the insurance point which sealed the deal.
Swinford’s Liam Moran was close to matching Ronaldson’s total at 0-8 with Jason McLoughlin (1-2) and Michael Prendergast (0-3)also impressing for the losing side.
Islandeady were easy winners against Mayo Gaels on Saturday evening with a 1-14 to 0-7 win. Johnny Concannon led the line for Islandeady with 1-2 while Danny McGowan, Darragh Joyce and Brendan Gibbons all got three points each, which was more than their opposition could collect in total.
Adam Gallagher hit three of those seven scores for Mayo Gaels and although there was a ten-point finishing margin, there was little to separate these teams until after half time. Islandeady go top with a superior point difference to Shrule-Glencorrib.
Group 3 and last year’s Junior winners Louisburgh got off to the dream start when they beet The Neale 0-18 to 1-9 to continue on their good form from last year. The Black and Amber were helped over the line by Kevin Gibbons’ contribution of 0-4, with Padraig O’ Malley and Austin O’Malley bagging 0-3 each.
A late burst from The Neale saw them close the gap to just two points. A red card for their substitute Sean Cosgrove, however, meant a comeback was next to near impossible for the home side.
Jason Doherty’s Burrishoole overcame 14-man Bonniconlon but only just. The home side held Burris’ until the very end where a second Fintan McManamon goal proved to be crucial in seeing them over the line. Doherty hit over five points for the visitors and David Walsh was the main man for Bonniconlon hitting 1-4 for the home side who just weren’t able to push on that extra bit when needed.
They were reduced to 14 men when Niall Egan was dismissed for an alleged headbutt. I wasn’t at this particular game myself so the severity of the infraction is unknown. Louisburgh fly high in Group 3 on points difference and what a run it would be if they could get themselves into a quarter-final spot.
Finally, Group 4 and last year’s runners-up Kiltimagh, who were defeated by Moy Davitts in the opening round of games on a score-line of 2-14 to 1-14. Brian Reape, who is now one of the five players who are training with the Mayo seniors, put away 1-6 for Davitts.
In fairness to Kiltimagh, they did come back from 11 points down as Davitts only managed 1-1 in the second half but how vital that additional bit of scoring proved. David Lydon (1-3), Brian Gallagher (0-3) and Ronan Malee (0-3) were on form up front for Kiltimagh who kicked 1-9 in the second half but somehow couldn’t see the game out with a win.
This group is almost the same as last year with just the Mitchels ‘B’ team replacing Swinford. Mitchels had a eight-point win over Tourmakeady but the scoreline doesn’t do Tourmak’ justice, as they were toe-to-toe with Mitchels right until the final ten minutes.
The ever-green Kevin Dolan hit 1-5 for Tourmakeady with Darragh McConnell also raising a green flag. Eamon Tiernan put over six points for the ‘B’ team as they got their quest for glory in Intermediate off to the perfect start. 2-18 to 2-10 was the final score in Castlebar. It wasn’t a bad performance from Tourmakeady away from home but they’ll want two points as well as good performances I’m sure.
And, breathe. That’s the first round of the club championships for you. Your next dose of local championship football comes in a couple weeks time when the Junior action begins on 27th and 28th of May. There’s something very exciting about club championship football, especially after the first weekend when it’s still very much all to play for.