The race to follow in the footsteps of last year's Mayo GAA junior champions Lahardane begins in earnest this weekend.
Lahardane's win last year took plenty of people by surprise and it has given all 16 sides in this year's competition a blueprint to follow as they look to make the step up to intermediate football next year.
There is just one game down for decision this weekend in group one with Achill hosting Kilmovee Shamrocks on Saturday evening in Achill. The east Mayo side were promoted to this grade last year after claiming the junior B crown thanks to a 3-11 to 0-13 win over Moy Davitts B last October.
Kilmovee are playing in division four of the league this year and they head into the championship on the back of a 1-5 to 0-8 draw against Charlestown B last weekend. For the hosts on Saturday, this year marks another attempt to make it out of the junior grade, having come close enough in recent times. Last year they were beaten in the last eight and they will be looking to go a few steps further this time. The islanders are playing in division three of the league and have had a decent enough start losing to intermediate outfit Parke-Keelogues-Crimlin and beating Ardagh by a single point in their other game. Achill were in Comortas Peil action last weekend hammering Tourmakeady in the semi-final, before losing to Cill Chomain in the final.
In group two the beaten 2015 finalists Killala will be looking to get their championship off to a good start when they host fellow north Mayo men, Crossmolina Deel Rovers B, on Saturday night. Killala are two from two in the league, including a 4-14 to 3-5 win over their opponents on Saturday night and a 3-7 to 2-7 win over Knockmore B.
The other tie in the group is the meeting of Kilmaine and Ballintubber on Sunday afternoon. The south Mayo men were many people's favourites to win last year's title, but they were turned over by John Maughan's Lahardane in the final. These south Mayo men have the advantage of playing their football in division two against senior and intermediate sides. In the league they were beaten by senior outfit Kiltaine, but have picked up a win against intermediate championship side Islandeady in round one.
There is an all west Mayo derby in group three on Saturday evening, when Kilmeena host Tourmakeady at 7pm. The hosts had a successful year last year winning division four of the league and gaining promotion to division three for this season. Things have not gone as well as they would have hoped in the league so far, losing two out of two, but both of those defeats were to intermediate championship sides - Burrishoole and Laharadane. They also reached the semi-final of the competition last year and they will feel they can have a real crack at it again this year. Tourmakeady were well beaten in the semi-final of the junior Comortas Peil last weekend and have also lost their only league game this year, to Knockmore B, by eight points.
The other game in this group is an all north Mayo clash with Cill Chomain hosting Ballycroy on Saturday night. Both teams faced each other as recently as last weekend in the semi-final of the Comortas Peil, where Cill Chomain rain out three point winners before going on to beat Achill in the final. In their one league game to date, Cill Chomain picked up the two points thanks to a 3-14 to 0-8 win over Charlestown B. The visitors are playing in division five and have beaten Ballaghaderreen B and lost to Belmullet B in their two league games to date.
The big team in group four are Balla who were beaten in the 2016 final and the semi-final last year. Pat Fallon is still in charge of the side for another term as the look to make the step back up to intermediate football. Like Kilmaine they should have an advantage over the other sides because of the fact they are playing league football in division two. They lost their opening two games in the league to senior outfit Ballaghadeereen and intermediate side Ardnaree, and in their last outing before this weekend they were beaten by Burrishoole in the semi-final of the Kelly Cup. That said, they will be expected to overcome the challenge of Ballina Stephenties B on Saturday. The other game in this group is the meeting of two senior sides B teams when Charlestown B host Knockmore B.
Mayo GAA Junior Football Championship
Achill v Kilmovee Shamrocks at 7pm, Saturday, April 21.
Killala v Crossmolina Deel Rovers at 7pm, Saturday, April 21.
Kilmaine v Ballintubber at 2pm, Sunday, April 22.
Kilmeena v Tourmkeady at 7pm, Saturday, April 21.
Cill Chomain v Ballycroy at 7pm, Saturday, April 21.
Ballina Stephenites v Balla at 7pm, Saturday, April 21.
Charlestown v Knockmore at 12pm, Sunday, April 22.