Middle grade as hard to call as ever this year

GAA: Mayo IFC Round One

Back to the home front: Jason Doherty will be looking to get Burrishoole off to a winning start in the intermediate championship. Photo: Sportsfile.

Back to the home front: Jason Doherty will be looking to get Burrishoole off to a winning start in the intermediate championship. Photo: Sportsfile.

Who will follow in the footsteps of Belmullet last year and claim the Mayo intermediate title and make the jump up to the big show for next year?

This weekend, all 16 teams in the championship will head into action, fancying their chances of being that team - ss with every year at this grade, picking the side who are going to make it all the way to the end is a very difficult task.

Group one is a tricky group with Ardnaree, Swinford, Bonniconlon and Crossmolina Deel Rovers all fancying their chances of making it to the last eight.

The north Mayo clash between Bonniconlon and Crossmolina in Bonni' will get things going. The visitors relegated from senior last year, will be hoping to bounce straight back this year, but it is never that easy. With the likes of Conor Loftus, Fionan Duffy, Cathal Carolan and Jordan Flynn, they have the potential to achieve that goal, but Bonniconlon aren't going to make it easy for them on Sunday.

The other game in the group gets under way in Ardnaree on Sunday at 3pm, when they welcome Swinford to town. The hosts are playing in division two in the league again this year and have one win from their two outings to date - that win coming thanks to an impressive 1-15 to 3-5 win over last year's junior champions Balla - last weekend they lost out to Burrishoole by three points. Swinford are plying their trade in division three and also have one win from two, going down to Castlebar B last weekend, having beaten Achill in round one.

Group two is an all west Mayo affair, with last year's beaten finalists mixed in with the junior champions from last term, Balla and Islandeady and Parke-Keelogues-Crimlin. Any of the four sides will rightly feel they can get out of what is a very tricky group for all concerned. Things get underway on Sunday at 1pm when Islandeady welcome Balla - it should be a very tight and tasty affair - with the home sides greater experience potentially edging it for them. The other game sees Burrishoole travel to Parke - Colm McManamon has stayed on with last year's beaten finalists and having players like Jason Doherty can be a real game breaker at this level. Parke never make it easy for any side, but the visitors will probably have too much for them.

The action in group three takes place on Saturday evening with The Neale hosting Mayo Gaels in Cong. The hosts made the semi-final last year and will be looking to go deep in the championship again - but the visitors have been developing nicely over the last few years, from underage up, and they might pull a surprise and take home the points in this one. The other game in that group is the meeting of Ballinrobe and Ballyhaunis in Flanagan Park, both sides will feel they have a shout of making it to the latter stages of the competition. Ballyhaunis have won two from two in the league so far, but that is in division three - while Ballinrobe have been operating in a higher division and also won two from two and those tougher tests to date could be key in determining the outcome.

In group four, Lahardane will host Louisburgh at 1pm, both sides claimed the junior title in recent years and will be keen to push on a bit more. They were also pitted in the same group last year, with the seasiders coming out on top, and this year they will probably take home the points again in this one. The other game in the group is the meeting of the nearly-men of the intermediate championship in recent years, Kiltimagh and Shrule-Glencorrib on the south Mayo border. The visitors are once again going up against the best of the best in the league in division one and it would be a major surprise if they didn't take home the points from opening day.

Mayo Intermediate Football Championship Round One

Saturday, April 13

Group Three

Ballinrobe v Ballyhaunis at 7pm

The Neale v Mayo Gaels at 5pm

Sunday, April 14

Group One

Ardnaree v Swinford at 3pm

Bonniconlon v Crossmolina at 1pm

Group Two

Islandeady v Balla at 1pm

Parke Keelogues Crimlin v Burrishoole at 3pm

Group Four

Lahardane v Louisburgh at 1pm

Shrule-Glencorrib v Kiltimagh at 3pm


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