The club scene in Mayo is really growing. Five and a half thousand people present in MacHale Park last Saturday while just over twelve thousand watched the final from the comforts of their own home courtesy of Mayo company Local Streaming. The two big towns in Mayo were the winners on the night in what made for a fantastic spectacle under lights in our home pitch.
You’d wonder if they even needed lights for the senior final, when you have two gleaming stars in Paddy Durcan and Neil Douglas. The former, alongside club and county comrade, Barry Moran, has experienced two heartbreaking final losses in the past year. How does one pick oneself up after two brutal knock out blows? And to play like he did? Outstanding.
Not only did Paddy have a close eye on Kevin McLoughlin for the game, he scooped up 1-3 alongside it. He is such an exciting prospect. He left the field on Saturday night a little early but he’s fighting fit for their Connacht championship quarter-final this coming Saturday.
Neil Douglas has been a top talisman the past year for Castlebar. 1-6 on the night which propelled him to an outrageous 2-38 in total for the championship, a tally worthy of the golden boot which he picked up.
Sadly, there would be no major upset in the form of Knockmore. They held a slender two-point lead early in the game but they were overpowered by Mitchels. I’ve enjoyed Knockmore’s football in the last few weeks but they just hadn’t another big performance in them.
Keith Ruttledge, Peter Naughton, Colm Reape and of course Kevin McLoughlin are just a few of the brave soldiers in this Knockmore team who steamed their way into the final against all odds. It’s a delight to see new challengers at the realm and they will be determined to come back again and go one step further next year.
It also begs the question: are Castlebar just head and shoulders above everyone else? They look like they have just been ticking over in third gear throughout this years’ championship. Their old fashioned style and ultra-reliable ‘keeper and captain Rory Byrne and Neil Douglas must be due for a look-in to join Paddy and Barry in the Mayo set up.
Photo: Mayo News/Sportsfile
Mitchels’ 30th county title – and first back-to-back success since 1969/70 – means they now face Tourlestrane of Sligo, in Markievicz Park, at two bells next Saturday. One step at a time is all they can take on the road to All-Ireland glory but for the time being I’m sure they’ll be content enough with the Moclair Cup which sets up camp for another year in Castlebar.
Paddy and James Durcan weren’t the only successful brothers on Saturday night as Lee and Phil Keegan’s Westport side somehow managed to come out the right side of three matches in seven days. For that reason alone, I had backed against them in this Intermediate final.
Well, that wasn’t the main reason but I felt it was a factor that was surely going to be too much for the boys in blue. Kiltimagh just seemed to ooze with confidence in any game I saw them play in the championship. Their strong point is attack and, when they click, they can add some serious amount of scores on the board. They didn’t click on Saturday and a very fatigued and battered Westport side would obviously have been happy to take the 0-5 to 0-2 scoreline at half-time, one that was emulated in the second period.
Of those four points Kilti’ scored, one came from the run of play. The majority of Westport’s points came from placed kicks also, Lewis Cawley and man of the match Fionn McDonagh hammering over frees alongside young ‘keeper Patrick O’ Malley who milled one from 50 yards out.
It was O’ Malley’s fourth game in seven days, securing the West Mayo Minor ‘A’ title the day after their drawn IFC game with Shrule/Glencorrib. Kiltimagh have an abundance of talent, they drilled out hard fought wins against The Neale and Burrishoole, two teams who battered and bruised the Kilti’ man but to no avail.
Bryan Gallagher’s nickname is ‘Chuckie’. The first time I heard this was in their quarter-final against The Neale after he had gotten a blow to the eye and was streaming blood. He was living up to the scariness of his nickname on that occasion but it just emphasised the toughness of these set of players.
Photo: Mayo News/Michael McLaughlin
Hours before Westport’s intermediate success, the behemoth that is Leeroy Keegan was named the best football in Ireland by the Irish Independent. It is only fitting that the country’s best player should be playing in his county’s top championship. They now face Monivea/Abbey in MacHale Park on Sunday at two o’clock in the Connacht Intermediate semi-final. Knowing the Covie faithful, they will have the place covered in blue in no time.
There will be a third Mayo team playing a championship knock-out game this weekend. Our Junior champions Louisburgh take on Oranmore/Maree in Galway on Sunday at 2pm.
Louisburgh snatched the Junior title from the hands of Balla with two late Kevin Gibbons points. Their opponents had a somewhat easier county final, overcoming St. Gabriel’s by 18 points.
The Neale, who were beaten quarter-finalists in the Intermediate championship did jump into Division 1B for next year following a win over Bonniconlon, while the Mayo Masters team recorded a two point All-Ireland semi-final victory over Tyrone after extra time in Sligo last weekend.
Ballyhaunis and Toreen played out another tough encounter in their SHC Final Replay which ‘Haunis ran out winners by a single goal. The evergreen Keith Higgins was on song and chalked up 1-9 for Bally’ as they retained their county title and faced Oran of Roscommon just a mere three days later. 1-12 to 0-9 was the outcome of that game and the Mayo side are now one step away from provincial success as they meet Galway champions, Ahascragh-Fohenagh, in the final which takes place this Sunday.
October has been a busy, busy footballing month. November might just be as busy for us Mayo folk. We’re sending very good teams out to represent us in Connacht and not one person would be surprised if they came home with provincial titles. And, sure, who knows – once you taste sweet success, it only spurs you on to do the impossible.