New season gets ready to kick-off in style

Soccer: Mayo League

Ready for the off: At the launch of the new Mayo League season were back row: Simon Jordan (Kiltimagh/Knock United), Tom McAndrew (Iorras Aontaithe), Chris Maughan (Manulla), Daniel Gorman (Straide  and Foxford Utd) and David Grant (Claremorris AFC); Front row: Peter Quinn (Ballyglass), Ioseph O'Reilly (Castlebar Celtic), Gary Cunningham (Westport United), Frank Walsh (Ballyheane) and Mark Birrane (Ballina Town). Photo: Michael Donnelly
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Ready for the off: At the launch of the new Mayo League season were back row: Simon Jordan (Kiltimagh/Knock United), Tom McAndrew (Iorras Aontaithe), Chris Maughan (Manulla), Daniel Gorman (Straide and Foxford Utd) and David Grant (Claremorris AFC); Front row: Peter Quinn (Ballyglass), Ioseph O'Reilly (Castlebar Celtic), Gary Cunningham (Westport United), Frank Walsh (Ballyheane) and Mark Birrane (Ballina Town). Photo: Michael Donnelly I

The action in the top two divisions of the Mayo League kicks off on Sunday, with the race to try to topple Westport United as the kings of the game in the county ready for another exciting instalment.

The first round of action in the Super League has thrown up five mouthwatering ties to get things up and running. League champions Westport will open their account under new manager John Russell away to last year's seventh placed outfit Ballyglass on Sunday at 2.30pm. United have won the last four Super League titles seeing off all comers and making it five in a row this years is a massive carrot for their highly experienced winners.

Ballyglass finished last season in seventh place and they will have been disappointed to have slipped that far down the pecking order after a very strong showing the season before. Tom Connolly's outfit have always been able to put it up to the big sides, but they will be looking for more consistency this year and taking the scalp of the champions on the opening day, would be a great start to the season.

Castlebar Celtic are looking for a more stable season this year, last season saw them go through three different management teams and they now have Michael McNicholas back on board and have been busy over the winter progressing well through the Connacht Cup to the latter stages. Last season they finished in third place 12 points behind winners Westport United, and the Hoops' will be looking to close that gap significantly this year and push them all the way.

On Sunday at 11.30am they will entertain a Claremorris side who finished last season in sixth place, this is the south Mayo side's third season in a row back up in the top flight and Mark Peters is the man in charge this season looking to see them push further up the table. Last season they finished level with points with Ballyglass and just one point behind Ballina Town in fifth, and six behind Straide and Foxford United - showing how narrow the margins were between the sides in the middle third of the table.

The game of the day is probably the meeting of last year's runners up Manulla and the side who in the few years before pushed Westport hardest Ballina Town in Belleek at 2.30pm. Mick Duffy is in charge of Ballina Town again this season and after pulling themselves up to fifth place following a terrible start to the season last year, they will be looking to hit the ground running this time around.

Manulla finished six points off the top last time out and they will be hoping to push that on even more this time around, a late season loss to Westport United, followed up in the next round with a 3-3 draw against Ballyheane really threw their title charge off course last term, that is how fine the margins were at the top of the table.

Last years Premier Division champions Iorras Aontaithe will be looking to make big impact in their first game back in the top flight after a season in the lower reaches this Sunday. They will host last years surprise package Straide and Foxford United in Carne, S&F finished in a comfortable fourth place last season winning nine of their 18 games and drawing three. Paul Large's side will be looking to improve on that even further this season and they will have a tough season opener against a north Mayo outfit who did not lose a single league game on their way to claiming the Premier Division title last season.

The other Super League newboys this season, Kiltimagh-Knock United, will open their season with the visit of a Ballyheane side who just about survived in the Super League last season finishing just outside the relegation zone by the slimmest of margins. Kiltimagh-Knock United finished nine points behind Iorras Aontaithe last season, but they were still way out in front of their nearest promotion rivals Swinford, finishing 13 points ahead of them in the table.

Mayo League Fixtures

Elverys Sports Super League

Sunday, March 25: Castlebar Celtic v Claremorris, Kiltimagh-Knock United v Ballyheane (at 11.30am ); Ballina Town v Manulla, Ballyglass v Westport United, Iorras Aontaithe v Straide and Foxford United (at 2.30pm )

Castlecourt Hotel Premier League

Sunday, March 25: Westport United B v Snugboro United, Glenhest Rovers v Conn Rangers, Swinford v Ballyglass B (at 11.30am ); Ballyhaunis Town v Bangor Hibs (at 2.30pm )

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