There are derby days in all sports all over the globe, but there are very few that are as intimate as what has become the now annual shoot-out for the Mayo senior hurling championship between Ballyhaunis and Tooreen. On Sunday afternoon in the east Mayo village of Tooreen, that rivalry will have another showdown for local pride and county honours.
Ballyhaunis come into the game as defending champions, having won the last two titles, and 11 of the last 12 with Tooreen breaking that run once, back in 2013. Sunday offers them a chance to once again become the standard bearers of the game in the county, a distinction they held for most of the 80s and 90s and before.
This year has, of course, been a successful one for Mayo hurling with the senior side capturing the Nicky Rackard Cup and booking their return to the Christy Ring Cup for next year, and the u21 hurlers reaching the All Ireland B final in Semple Stadium not that long ago. Of that Nicky Rackard Cup winning team, the 24 who togged that day, 16 come from these two clubs with seven from Ballyhaunis and nine from Tooreen. All summer long most of these players fought on the same side, but now it's all about local pride.
Ballyhunis had three of the six defenders that day, with Brian Hunt, Eoghan Collins and Austin Lyons making up half of the Mayo defence that played in front of their clubman Donal O'Brien in goal. While Torreen had half of the Mayo attack with Kenny Feeney, Shane Boland and Séan Regan going to battle it out against the aformentioned trio for superiority on Sunday.
Ballyhaunis will be looking for Keith Higgins to drive them on, with Cathal Freeman a man he could tussle with on Sunday for their opponents. Tooreen will also be looking to Fergal Boland as a serious threat up front, Boland went off injured in the first half of Aghamore's football quarter-final last weekend and they will be hoping he has passed fit for Sunday and that Charlton comes through Kiltimagh's intermediate football semi-final unscathed on Saturday.
It's always a great day out in east Mayo when these two sides meet for the right to be declared the top dogs in Mayo hurling, and Sunday promises to be no different.