An air of excitement and anticipation is gathering in many households as teams and individuals from Mayo Community Games put their final preparations together for the forthcoming Community Games National Festival of Finals which take place in Athlone IT, over the next two weekends. This festival will host some 9,000 participants and the green and red of Mayo Community Games will be strongly represented with 286 competitors making the journey east to Athlone.
Mayo's involvement over the two weekends covers a wide ranging number of sporting and cultural events. This weekend will be one of the busiest with 146 competitors taking part in mixed distance relays, cross country, cycling, duathlon, spike ball, art, model making, swimming, pitch and putt, table quiz, chess, rounders, handball, handwriting, futsal, and solo recitation.
Cross country and relay running
The cross country team of Katie Gibbons, Ruth Moran, Zoe Forde, Rebakah McHale, Emily Yeats, Cormac Caulfield, Malcolm McEvilly, Niall Coggins, Joshua Lally, and Cian McHale will combine together in a tough 1,200 metre race at u13 level over two days as they try to secure some medals.
In the mixed distance relay in the u12 grade Mayo are sending two well balanced teams who should reach the final on Sunday morning. Runners like Ava Flynn, Cathy Timlin, Moya O'Connell, Hazel Lavin, Siobhan McGrath, Roisin O'Brien, Niall McLoughlin, James Marrey, Niall Tracey, Conor O'Rourke, Colin Haistings and Barry Gaughan will want to reach the podium and collect the winner's prize. The girls u14 mixed distance relay team have a quality team comprising Maeve Gallagher, Saoirse O'Brien, Bridget Mills, Meadbh O'Shea, Ciara O'Rourke, and Aisling Gaughan.
Pedal to the metal
Grass cycling is a tough sport over 2km but that will not bother Niall McLoughlin, Jessie Troy and Keith Mulroy when they get cracking in the u12 and u14 races over the weekend. Over the past few years Mayo have won a few duathlon titles which involves running and cycling, and this year Maeve Gallagher from Swinford will attempt to add her name to that list.
Knockmore pitch and putt team will carry the county's hopes into an open national final in this golf competition which will be held in Ballinalea, in Longford. Hopes are high for Conor Flynn, Keelan Jordan, Evan Nealon, Brian and Mark McMahon as they head for the lush greens of the midlands.
Rounding the bases
The u13 Breaffy rounders boys are back in yet another national final and continue a long tradition which dates back several decades. This year they will face their toughest test against the Leinster champions, the Heath from Laois, but you can expect the Breaffy boys to match them head on with seasoned campaigners Tiernan Beirne, Conor Burke, Shane Burns, Luke Comerford, Pierce Deane, Conor Golden, Conor Hughes, Luke Kelly, Matthew Lydon, Joe Mellott, Callum O'Connor and Mark Rattigan all willing to give their best.
Handball throughout the county is so popular at the moment and Carra Community Games have embraced this wonderful game and success is now beginning to show. Their girls' u16 team travel to Athlone as Connacht champions and have the experience to make it happen despite fielding a young team. Expect total commitment from Cuileann Bourke, Megan Brett, Heather Burke, Emma Cosgrave, Catriona Heneghan and Aoife Neyret.
Spike for success
Spike ball has in some way replaced volleyball and this year there are two teams in contention for medals. Charlestown/Carracastle have enjoyed great success over the past two years in this event. New players like Molly Beirne, Niamh Gallagher, Sophie Johnson, Laura Loftus, Shona Mahon, Emma Peyton and Eva Walsh will find themselves on the national stage in a round robin series to determine the outcome. Burrishoole boys u14 have taken up spike ball only recently and those national finals will be all about gaining experience. They will no doubt provide credible opposition and players such as Matthew Dillane, Mark Forrestal, Luke Long, Evan Moran, Aaron Mullarkey, Sean Shierdan and James Walsh would cherish the chance to reach the winner’s podium.
Burrishoole will be strongly represented at the games with the girls u13 futsal team also seeking to create a winning formula and follow on from their Connacht victory. It is a great opportunity for Maria Cannon, Jennifer Cawley, Eleanor Chambers, Aoife Murray, Cara O'Neill, Lillian Sheehy and Leah Sweeney to show their talent against Navan in the first of two semifinal games.
Splashdown for swimmers
Mayo Community Games will have 26 individual swimmers in action at the regional sports centre in Athlone over the two days. The boys swim on Saturday and the girls take over the pool on Sunday. In total nine areas from the county will be represented. This year in particular it is great to see Kilmovee swimmer Zara Loftus taking part in the u14 butterfly along with Alannha Cannavan from Crossmolina who goes in the u12 backstroke. Barry Walsh from Knockmore is another swimmer who should do well in the u10 backstroke. The bigger areas like Castlebar have a strong number of swimmers and you can expect good performances from Sam and Nathan Rennick, Rory and Hannah Grady, Tommy Huany and Ciaran Mylett.
Claremorris will arrive with six quality swimmers and once again they are sure to make a big impression, with swimmers like Cara Higgins, Evan Dillon, Ava Harley, Harry Smyth, Mike Heaney and Lisa Henry. Breaffy swimmers Ronan Dervan, Heather Fadden and Jamie Murphy are experienced swimmers and will swim at u16 level. They will be joined by Caoimhe Curley in the u10 freestyle event.
Ballina will expect the best from Tara Wong, Erika Smith and Aine Campbell in the heats and then on to the final in the afternoon. Turlough Towers continue to make great progress on all levels in Community Games and swimmers like Fiona Conway and Conor Donoghoe will feature strongly over the weekend. Westport will travel to the swimming finals with great expectations that Conn McNamara who swims in the u12 backstroke and Georgia Mellotte who goes in the u16 freestyle will succeed and reach the presentation area. In addition to the individual events four squad teams will compete from the county at u13 and u16 level. Castlebar has three teams in action and Claremorris one.
Artistic endeavours, quiz crackers and chess masters
This year 10 artists from the county ranging from u8 to u16 will sit for three hours to come up with a winning masterpiece that will please the judging panel. Based on their quality work so far you can expect further success from Ava Golen, Maia Ludden, Sarah Mullaney, Alison Ryan, Nicola Reilly, Simon McHale, Mark Bolger, Adam King, Jeremy Bolger and Donal Barrett.
Model making is a gift of time and patience but the finished product is a classic job which Anna Ryan, Eabha Hughes, Sarah Lawless, Kian Sweeney and Aine Monaghan really enjoy doing in their efforts to get their just rewards this coming weekend in Athlone. Mayo competitors Michael Smyth, Amisha Dhele, Ciaran Mulroy and Aisling Graven who produced masterpieces with their pencils at the Mayo handwriting finals to secure their seats at the national finals will be looking for glory this weekend.
The Quay from Ballina have all the answers as they enter the table quiz competition following their Mayo success recently. There is no doubt that this team of Seain Allen, Mark Barrett, Ciaran Boland, Sam Callinan, Eoin Duffy and Gordan McHale can reach new levels with the knowledge they have shown in recent competitions.
The Castlebar boys' u16 chess team will meet the Leinster champions Enniscorthy in their bid for success. Despite having a young team they have the experience to overcome the best. Players like Mark Dolan, Evan Doyle, Daire Horkan, Dara Ludden, Przemek Majda, Diarmuid McGrath and Martynas Mensa have a desire to become champions
The cultural section of Community Games is one of the biggest highlights of any weekend and Mayo is well and truly represented this year over the two weekends. In the solo recitation competition Moygownagh will provide two very talented girls. Niamh Egan will recite her recitation at u12 level while Emily Murray, a medal winner from last year, will follow up at u16 level.