Saturday Night Fever in MacHale Park

GAA: Casey's Call

One hand on the title: Ballaghaderreen manager Paul McHugh and Ballintubber boss Kevin Johnson with the Moclair Cup ahead of the Connacht Gold Mayo GAA Senior Football Final. Photo: Conor McKeown.

One hand on the title: Ballaghaderreen manager Paul McHugh and Ballintubber boss Kevin Johnson with the Moclair Cup ahead of the Connacht Gold Mayo GAA Senior Football Final. Photo: Conor McKeown.

Hopefully we will get a bumper crowd in Elverys MacHale Park on Saturday evening that the occasion deserves - with interesting encounters awaiting.

Both the intermediate and senior finals have novel pairings that not many would have predicted when the championship kicked off last April. Mayo football followers that are not connected to either of the four teams in the finals should still be intrigued nonetheless to see if any player steps up to make it into James Horan's plans for the 2020 season.

Truth be told, both games are very difficult to call, which will make it appealing for any neutral supporter. Reigning champions, Ballintubber, are favourites over surprise package Ballaghadeereen, to retain the Moclair cup. I know I thought there may be an upset in the semi-final when Tubber' took on Ballina' but anyone who was at the game could see why Ballintubber are attempting to claim their fifth senior title of the decade.

The way they play makes them very difficult to beat. It was my first time seeing them in the flesh in 2019 and although what they produce on the field of play is not for the purists, it gets them results and it wins them titles - which is really what it's all about. The old cliché of winning a bad game or losing a good one couldn't be more appropriate for Kevin Johnson's team. They have perfected winning even if the performances are not easy on the eye.

Ballaghadeereen have timed their championship run to perfection, getting better round by round. They have had a very poor league and suffered relegation to division two last weekend, after getting thumped by Castlebar However, their fate had already been decided before that game and their eyes were firmly fixed on Saturdays final.

If Ballagh' are let play they are capable of beating anyone as their semi-final performance showed. The worry for them, however, is that Ballintubber are capable of sucking the life out of their opponents as they showed against Ballina in that semi-final. For Ballagh' to have a chance, Sharoize Akram and Cian Hanley will need to reproduce their semi-final heroics.

Akram will probably pick up Diarmuid O'Connor and try to put the county captain on the back foot - as he did so brilliantly with Paddy Durcan in the semi-final. David Drake will no doubt be detailed with nullifying the effect of Cillian O'Connor, which we all know is easier said than done.

I can't see Cormac Doohan and especially Ryan Lynch getting the freedom of MacHale Park as they did against Castlebar, taking the Mitchels for 0-8 points from play between them. Ballintubber too have the luxury of having play-maker-in-chief Alan Dillon back in the fold - his presence could be the difference even if as an impact sub.

This game will be tight with lots of slow ponderous play and cross-field passing, which will look dour at times. Ballagh' know they will have to be red hot in front of goal when the chances arise. Their ability to break out of the Ballintubber high press will have a big bearing on the result. This high press will give the Ballintubber defence time to have personnel in place for dealing with Andy Moran and Co.

In Drake, Akram and Hanley, they have those players capable of carrying the ball at pace out of danger but Ballintubber will put up a wall Paul McHugh's team haven't experienced before and for that reason I feel Ballintubber will sneak it - but not by a lot.

Intriguing intermediate final in store

The intermediate final between Ballyhaunis and The Neale is also very difficult to call. The Neale showed great resilience in their semi-final win over Louisburgh - needing a late goal to send the game to extra-time, where they eventually ended up winning by 0-4. Ballyhaunis are slow starters - as they showed against Ardnaree in the quarter-final and Burrishoole in the semi final, but when they get into the groove they look a very decent outfit.

They scored an impressive 3-08 in the second half of that semi-final against Burrishoole to win comfortably. Fergal Sweeney, Padraic Walsh and Tommy Conroy have caused headaches for defences throughout this campaign and will relish a battle against Keith Higgins and his team mates. The way Higgins marshals his defence is impressive. If his forwards duly oblige up the other end, Ballyhaunis could get their hands on the Pete McDonnell cup for the second time this decade.

Full house for Mitchels men

Heartiest congratulations to Castlebar Mitchels second string team on winning the county junior title. It really is a remarkable achievement. It completes the entire set of county medals from u14 right through to junior, intermediate and senior available to captain Eamon Tiernan and Barry Moran. I can't imagine that feat has ever been achieved before, it's a remarkable haul of medals. Answers on a postcard if you know anyone that got close.

PJ gets the big job next door

My old Sigerson team mate and house mate, Padraig Joyce, has decided to take the reins in Galway. He will certainly bring a much-needed freshness to the Tribesmen and you’ll imagine attacking play will be the order of the day for PJ and his management team. I wish him the best of luck in every game he plays - apart from when they're playing Mayo of course.


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