You'd have needed to be split in 10 to take in all the Mayo GAA club action across all the grades last weekend. It really was a football feast within the county.
There were outstanding performances, enthralling encounters, emphatic victories, shock results and last second winning scores. It was nice to see some quarter finals shared around some grounds other than Elverys MacHale Park.
On Saturday evening there was only one place to go and that was to MacHale Park for the senior quarter final double header and I certainly wasn't disappointed. There was a host of inter county talent on show in both games.
Davitts found the going tough against a well drilled Ballaghadeereen in the first game. All of Ballagh's main players stood out, none more so than the recently retired Andy Moran. He was the thorn in the Davitts defence. Cian Hanley's early goal settled Ballagh who were far too street wise, skilful and powerful for Davitts. The evergreen Andy led them on a merry dance and despite his 1-05 salvo, it was his link play that was most pleasing on the eye. He always seems to do the right thing with the ball and his assists for several second half scores were top drawer. Those are the things that set the special players apart from the rest.
He was ably assisted by David Drake who put in a commanding performance at the back. The non stop running of Sharoize Akram and Cian Hanley along with their influence on proceedings will also have been noted by any watching member of the Mayo county management team. It's important they can have such an impact against the bigger teams. Ballagh' emptied their bench to great effect and, not to be outdone, substitutes Thomas Carmody and Stephen Drake got in on the scoring helping themselves to two splendid points each. When Drake and Barry Regan were introduced in the second half the age of the Ballagh full forward line totalled 108 years between them. That is what you call an experienced inside forward line. At the end of the game I noticed Andy Moran running to the end of the stand on the Albany side to give his match gloves to Mayo super fan Jordan Kearns which was a belated birthday gift for Jordan who is one of Mayo's finest supporters. It was a lovely gesture by Andy.
The second quarter final between Ballina and Breaffy was much more intense and was a proper championship encounter with no team or player willing to take a backward step. The teams had over 10 current or past senior county stars between them which was fascinating for any neutral. The 0-5 to 0-5 half time score was indicative of how fiercely competitive the game was.
The Ballina management must be given huge credit for the way their team set about their business. Watching Aidan O'Shea and Padraig O'Hora tussle for every ball was compelling viewing. O'Hora didn't care for reputations, he was sent to do a job and was very effective for the Stephenites. Breaffy looked in real trouble going into the final quarter trailing by 1-09 to 0-6. Sean Regan's palmed effort and a few sensational scores from Ciaran Treacy were the highlighst of the third quarter for Ballina.
Credit to Breaffy though, thanks mainly to the bullish Aidan O'Shea they clawed their way back into the game and got their just rewards with a confidently struck equaliser from Colm Flynn in the second minute of injury time. You knew a big score would seal the game in extra time. It came from an under hit shot from Padraig O'Hora that was punched to the net by Simon Leonard, Robbie Hennelly will be disappointed he didn't clear O'Hora's shot.
That goal was the game changer. Ballina held out for a comfortable five win in the end. One very notable feature of the two games was the very large and vociferous Ballina support. They were by far the best supported team of the weekend. They must feel there is something special on the horizon.
Ballintubber eventually wore down Belmullet in their last eight encounter to claim their place in the semi-final after an early fright or two in Ballina. After going behind midway through the first half a Cillian O'Connor goal set up by the quick thinking of his brother Diarmuid settled the county champions into the game. They were able to keep Belmullet at arms length thereafter, winning by 1-12 to 1-08
Ray Dempsey's Knockmore came agonisingly close to causing another quarter final shock when they had Castlebar on the rack for long periods of their quarter final. Knockmore had a five point lead early in the second half but were eventually worn down by the Mitchels.
Football is a funny old game, after watching Hollymount/Carramore putting it up to Knockmore in round three of the group stages I'd have been fairly sure their relegation play off game against Claremorris was a 50/50 game at best so when I saw the hiding dished out by Claremorris to them I was sure it was a misprint.
How a team can be competitive like they were against Knockmore to then lose by 18 points is beyond me. Westport were far too strong for Moy Davitts in the other relegation play-off winning by a whopping 22 points. It's amazing how the wheels can come off after losing a few games. After such trimmings it's very hard for managers/coaches to motivate their teams for one last big game to try to preserve their senior status. At least they're both in the same boat.
As many of you may now be aware our own celebrity Mayo GAA fan Kevin Kilbane has committed to taking part in the 2020 Dancing on Ice. To say he's nervous is an understatement, so as we do with our football team lets get behind Kevin and give him all the support and votes he needs when the time comes.