Shoot-out for final place in intermediate semi-finals

GAA: Mayo Intermediate Football Championship

Looking for final spot: The Neale's Tommy Conroy will be looking to kick his side into the intermediate final this weekend. Photo: Sportsfile

Looking for final spot: The Neale's Tommy Conroy will be looking to kick his side into the intermediate final this weekend. Photo: Sportsfile

The intermediate championship in Mayo has always been one of the hardest grades in which to predict what will happen and this year's instalment looks no different, with things very much balanced on a knife edge - with any of the four sides left in the competition being potential realistic champions.

The first semi-final takes place in the county grounds on Saturday evening at 6pm, between two sides who were very much on the cliff edge in the quarter-finals before dramatic turns saw them making it in to the last four.

Burrishoole looked to be dead and buried deep in injury time against Crossmolina, but Colm McManamon's men didn't give up and James Moran's paw flicked the ball to the back of the north Mayo men's net and sent them into the final four. In the group stages they were held by Parke in round one, but backed that up with wins of Balla and Islandeady to get to the last eight.

They also showed in that win over Crossmolina they are far from a one-man team, digging out that win without the services of Jason Doherty - whose loss to the Burrishoole cause could have been used as an excuse if they exited the championship. But they are far more than that, with Michael Moran, Alan Ryder, Fintan McManamon and the aforementioned James Moran all capable of stepping up and delivering when needed.

Having lost last year's final the west Mayo men will be keen to get back there and put things right this time around. Standing in their way is an improving-all-the-time Ballyhaunis side. They made it out of their group alongside fellow semi-finalists The Neale, winning their last group game against Mayo Gaels in a winner-takes-all encounter in Ballindine, having lost to The Neale in round two after beating Ballinrobe in round one. In the quarter final they were level at 1-7 at full time against Ardnaree - but in extra time they found a whole new gear, seeing off the north Mayo men by nine points when they hit 1-6 without reply over the two ten minute periods. Keith Higgins and Eoghan Collins have the inter-county experience with Mayo and Clare respectively, while Eamon Phillips, Morgan Lyons and Jason Coyne will all be looked to, to drive them on. This will be a tight one and will probably go right down to the wire.

In the other semi-final which takes place at lunch-time on Sunday, The Neale and Louisburgh will do battle for a spot in the final. In the quarter-finals the South Mayo men had eight points to spare over Kiltimagh while Louisburgh were seven points better off than Parke at full time in their quarter-finals.

Louisburgh have been steadily progressing since they claimed the Mayo and Connacht junior titles in 2016 and this year they won all three games in the group stages, beating Lahardane, Shrule-Glencorrib and Kiltimagh to top their group. Kevin Gibbons, James Dowd, Basil McLeod and Padraic O'Malley are all key men for the seasiders and will need to be on top form if they are going to win this one.

The Neale may have lost their final group game against Ballinrobe, but by that stage they were already in the last eight and they returned to form in the quarter-final, seeing off Kiltimagh in impressive style. Youngster Tommy Conroy will be looked to for leadership alongside the experienced head of Sean Cosgrove - while players like Stephen Conroy and Fergal Sweeney will also be needed to be on top of their game. Much like the other semi-final this one should have very little separating the sides at full time.

While The Neale are preparing for their big day out in their home ground, an hour earlier, a game where the stakes could hardly be higher, will be playing out when Ballinrobe and Shrule-Glenncorrib face off with the loser heading to the junior championship for next year. Neither of these south Mayo sides would have countenanced at the start of the year this is where they would have ended up.

Ballinrobe were, surprisingly to many, overturned by Swinford in the relegation semi-final with the east Mayo side running out five point winners - heading into that game Ballinrobe had won their previous group game and Swinford had been hammered by Crossmolina and form looked to favour them in that one, but that's not how it turned out.

Shrule-Glencorrib didn't win a game in their group, but did push semi-finalists Louisburgh all the way in round two, with the West Mayo men only squeaking that one by a point and Lahardane had just four to spare over them in their last group game. However, they were well beaten by Islandeady in the relegation semi-final. This one will be fiercely contested and neither side will even be thinking about what will happen if they lose - a game to definitely keep an eye on this weekend.

Mayo Intermediate Football Championship Semi-Finals

Ballyhaunis v Burrishoole

Saturday, October 5 at 6pm in MacHale Park

The Neale v Louisburgh

Sunday, October 6 at 1.30pm

Mayo Intermediate Football Championship Relegation Play-Off

Ballinrobe v Shrule-Glencorrib

Sunday, October 6 at 12pm in Cong

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