Sunday’s senior final between neighbours Breaffy and Castlebar is likely to be an enthralling affair and I cannot wait. It is bizarre that the junior, intermediate, and senior finals were/are all local derbies in 2015. There are some big hitters squaring up to each other on Sunday which will make it compelling viewing. Aidan O'Shea has bulldozed Breaffy and Mayo to victory in many games this year so of course the big talking point is what Castlebar will do to negate his effectiveness.
There are a lot of side issues and plenty more very talented players on view but if Castlebar can stop O'Shea, they can stop Breaffy. Many have tried and failed and who better to put a plan in place than his former club manager Declan Reilly. Both teams were very impressive in their semifinal victories but something tells me Castlebar have the better balanced team and are priced accordingly as 4/6 favourites. For Breaffy to win their first county title I feel they will need more than just Aidan O'Shea to perform. I love being a neutral for games like this.
Making up for lost time
The county junior final was as one sided an event as the All Blacks' game against France in the rugby with champions Ardnaree annihilating neighbours Killalla by a whopping 25 points at the end. For a team that had agonisingly lost four finals in the last six years you could tell early on they were not going to let this be loss number five. lt was very obvious Ardnaree were playing league football in a division above their opponents in the league, as their experience and superior skill levels were evident all over the pitch. They have some cracking players and a finely balanced blend and as long as they knuckle down and keep their celebrations to the minimum they will go a long way in this competition, I have no doubt about that. Their smallest winning margin in this year’s junior championship was a whopping nine points in round 2 against Lahardane, every team they came up against were well and truly devoured. Already they look to have the potential to contend for the intermediate title in Mayo next season. I may just have a peek to see what price they are to win provincial and national honours at the junior grade.
You surely have to sit up and take note of a 25 point winning margin in a county final especially in a county as competitive as Mayo. I do not imagine many, if any, finals were ever won in such style. For me it was a toss up between stylish centre forward Ronan Doherty who wreaked havoc and score getter full forward Chris Walsh for the man of the match, I gave Walsh the nod on the back of scoring 2-03,it could have been either.
The intermediate final was a far less open affair and a lot more difficult to pick a man of the match. Hollymount-Carramore making up for last year’s final defeat by edging past neighbours The Neale by four points. This game could have been out of sight by half time only for some erratic and wayward shooting by Hollymount-Carramore, culminating in 10 first half wides. To their credit The Neale hung in and miraculously went in level at half time. The winning of this match was quite simply the performance of the Hollymount-Carramore rearguard. No single player stood out as being spectacular but as a defensive unit they seemed unbreakable. The Neale’s lethal full forward line who had scored 2-11 between them in the semifinal were restricted to two points from open play, and had the winners' forwards scored half the chances they created they would have won this final by double figures. It is amazing Ray Connelly is still effective at this level a few weeks away from his 40th birthday, and more amazing that Darren McHugh was able to play with a medial ligament tear. I presume he was given the all clear to play as it pains me to see players on the field carrying injuries. I played when I should not have and it led to very early retirement from the Mayo set up when I was just about to enter the prime of my career. Congrats to Hollymount-Carramore, they thoroughly deserved their victory and will also be looking for a prolonged season now that they enter the provincial series.
Getting there early
I left to go to the junior and intermediate football finals early last Sunday simply because I did not want to start watching something I would not see the end of. 'Ireland's Call' sent goose pimples all over as I listened to it on the radio on the way to Castlebar, I could sense the passion, this is going to be the day, I thought, and I am missing it. As it happened I made the right call as Ireland’s injury crisis took its toll as they were overwhelmed and were comprehensively beaten by Argentina. Let’s face it, if we were Scottish we would be a lot more aggrieved. Ireland were beaten by a better team, the Scots were robbed.