The Mayo Senior championship quarter finals threw up a couple of eye catching results over last weekend. It was the first time ever that the four group winners failed to win their quarter finals, although Ballintubber did get through to the semi-final at the second time of asking after Wednesday night's replay with Hollymount- Carramore.
Claremorris came good when it counted
The most stand-out result that sent shockwaves around the county, and indeed the country, was Claremorris' defeat of raging hot favourites Breaffy in their quarter final on Saturday evening. Breaffy were expected to stroll to the semi-final and were priced at 1/12 to win, while their opponents were a massive 6/1. Breaffy will be rueing a long absentee list and a lot of missed goal chances. They were forced to line out without county midfielder Seamus O'Shea and the influential Michael Hall, while there was only a place on the bench for Liam Irwin and Matthew Ruane.
From an outsider looking in, and with all the talent Breaffy have, and the number of county players they have produced at all levels of football in Mayo, I find it strange that two players the wrong side of 40 are still making their starting forward line. Don't get me wrong, Eddie Conroy and Gerry Jennings are tremendous examples to the younger guys and are a credit to the way they have kept themselves and made themselves available for selection for Breaffy but surely those younger guys should be pushing those two towards the exit door. Before anyone suggests they were only playing because of the number of players out injured or missing for Breaffy, they also lined out in their final group game against Ballaghadeereen the previous week. My own club, Charlestown, are in the same boat regarding Aidan Higgins.
Breaffy were tipped by many to win this year's Moclair Cup. They have been seriously under-achieving at senior level. For long periods of this game they were in cruise control, and should have been out of sight at half time after two glorious goal chances were squandered; the first a clearance off the line by a Claremorris defender and the second when a slightly overcooked pass by the aforementioned Jennings made it difficult for Conroy to palm to the Claremorris net. Breaffy were still able to keep Claremorris at arm's length and when they went four points up in the second half it looked all but over for Claremorris as two more goal chances were squandered, but credit to Claremorris stopper Alvin McCallig who threw himself Peter Schmeichel-like around the six yard box pulling off some brilliant saves. Claremorris waited until the bitter end to sneak in front and qualified for their first senior semi final since 2008. It's a great achievement for a team that had a lot of U 21s in their starting line-up. They certainly showed no fear against their more well known opponents.
Tubber finally get over southern raiders
Ballintubber and Hollymount-Carramore played out a proper belter in the second game in MacHale Park last Saturday evening. Ballintubber again looking like they were in cruise control with all of their forwards scoring from play in the first half, but tremendous credit to Hollymount-Carramore who hung in to force a replay. It was nail biting stuff at the end with the team finishing level on 17 points a piece. Ballintubber used all their experience to win Wednesday nights replay by 0-18 to 1-09, despite the dismissal of county captain Cillian O'Connor for a second yellow with 15 minutes to play, they had Alan Dillon stepping up this time around scoring five points for his team.
Garrymore and Mitchels show their quality
In another amazing game Garrymore showed how not to panic when they went 1-05 to 0-00 down against Ballina in their quarter final tussle on Sunday to stage an unreal comeback and dish out a proper hiding to Ballina in what was an unbelievable turnaround. Garrymore winning by 4-13 to 1-09 to set up a semi-final clash with champions Castlebar Mitchels who had to dig deep to beat Knockmore in Ballina on Saturday evening. County star Paddy Durcan got the all important Castlebar goal that separated the sides. To put Garrymore's performance into perspective, after being down by eight points they outscored Ballina by 4-13 to 0-4 for the remainder of the game, which is quite remarkable even though the Stephenites were reduced to 14 men. It what was an enthralling weekend of championship football, not too many would have envisaged Claremorris or Garrymore in the semi final or Hollymount-Carramore to take Ballintubber to a replay. I expect it to be an all west final showdown with Castlebar and Ballintubber accounting for Garrymore and Claremorris respectively in Sunday's semi finals but not without a massive fight from the South Mayo clubs.
Gone too soon
Sincere condolences to the partner, family, and friends of The Mayo News managing editor Neill O'Neill, who died suddenly on Tuesday morning. His untimely passing has left many in shock and disbelief. He was taken far too young, RIP Neill.