Mitchels still the men to beat

GAA: Comment

Still the men to beat: Castlebar Mitchels impressed John Casey last weekend. Photo: Sportsfile

Still the men to beat: Castlebar Mitchels impressed John Casey last weekend. Photo: Sportsfile

The quarter final spots of the Mayo senior championship have been filled. Five teams had already qualified for the last eight before a ball was thrown in in the final group games, with a little bit of house-keeping to be done to see which teams finished top and which teams finished runners up.

County champions Castlebar Mitchels eased their way to the quarter finals, topping group one, with a fairly comfortable victory over Ballaghadeereen on a scoreline of 3-12 to 0-12. Ballagh' also had made it through to the last eight, their final group game was to decide who finished on top of group one.

It was played in pretty horrific conditions in Charlestown as a heavy mist fell for the duration of the match. There was plenty of county talent on show with over ten county players lined out for both teams. It was my first time seeing Donie Vaughan in a Mitchels jersey, his addition will make Castlebar serious Connacht and All-Ireland contenders, never mind the Mayo championship. They have massive strength in depth now with county panellists on every line of the field.

The stamina and pace of Vaughan and the Durcan twins make it a nightmare scenario for any opposition to counteract. Add to that the physicality of Barry Moran, Danny Kirby, Ger McDonagh and Aidan Walsh and they have a perfect balance of athleticism and power. Surprisingly to me, Ballagh' played Andy Moran in a sweeper/playmaker role for the full duration of the game, when I felt his presence would have been of more benefit closer to goal.

He did however pick out some pin point passes from his deep lying position but he never threatened the Castlebar goal. His direct marker Paddy Durcan was loving the fact he didn't have to do much defending and spent his afternoon attacking the Ballagh' goal. Castlebar scored three goals, it could so easily have been five as they waltzed their way to goal time after time in the second half. Their support running off the shoulder was very impressive and Ballagh simply couldn't cope. Ballagh now have a tough assignment against Garrymore in the last eight while Castlebar will take on Claremorris, who got the runners up short straw and have to face the county champions.

Ballintubber's big win over Kiltane on Saturday evening ensured they claimed top spot in group four ahead of Breaffy on scoring difference and a more favourable quarter final draw against Moy Davitts while Breaffy face James Horan's high flying Westport. Westport will have notions of causing an upset but you'd imagine if there are any teams capable of putting it up to Castlebar it will be either Breaffy or Ballintubber.

You don't see that everyday

It was all to play for in group one Sunday as anyone of Charlestown, Moy Davitts and Knockmore could join table toppers Garrymore in the last eight. Charlestown knew a win or draw would see them progress, Moy Davitts knew winning and bettering Knockmore's result against Garrymore was enough for them. Knockmore knew they needed a big win and also hoped Moy Davitts would only win by a small margin against Charlestown.

For those of you not present at the Charlestown and Moy Davitts games the headline result alone will raise eyebrows, as Charlestown finished the game with 11 players. The ironic part is that it wasn't even close to being a dirty or physical game. Referee Liam Devanney fired cards around like confetti that left players and supporters from both clubs dismayed.

Truth be told it became a bit of a laugh at the end. Don't get me wrong, some cards were justified but others were not. Bohola Moy Davitts were worthy winners and Charlestown had no answer to a fairly potent Moy Davitts attack where Alan Bourke, Anthony Jordan and Brian Reape flourished, scoring 1- 15 of their teams 1- 20 total.

Charlestown's failure in attack can be summarised by the fact they only scored one point in the second half. It was a fairly competitive game up until the first sending off with only three points in it at that stage, but I feel Moy Davitts would still have won the game had Charlestown kept their full complement, I have no doubt about that.

I can recall four players being sent off in games before but to my knowledge they weren't all from the same team. Two harsh first half bookings led to two players receiving their marching orders in the second half. It became a bit of a joke. Four sent off and not a bad vibe between the teams. Disillusionment greeted the final whistle and us Charlestown supporters left bewildered at the result and the referee.

The management hunt still goes on

The next Mayo manager rumour mill is in overdrive with anyone from Pope Francis to Jose Mourinho being touted as the next boss. I was of the opinion James Horan looked set for a second coming as pending a few issues being ironed out with the county board. However in the last week, Kevin McStay has apparently done a u-turn and is now interested while Jack O'Connor was seen leaving a Mayo hotel with members of the executive, or so we are led to believe. Where do these stories come from? What's laughable is that Stephen Rochford was given a deadline of August 31 to have his management team in order but all of a sudden there is no panic to have a manager in place.

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