Battle to make the break to the top flight

GAA: Mayo Intermediate Football Championship

Thumbs up: Will Keith Higgins be celebrating a Mayo Intermediate Football Championship win on Saturday night? Photo: Sportsfile

Thumbs up: Will Keith Higgins be celebrating a Mayo Intermediate Football Championship win on Saturday night? Photo: Sportsfile

The Mayo Intermediate Championship never fails to surprise and this year is no different - predicting where the Sweeney Cup will rest for the Winter is one of the hardest things to do at the start of each season and this year it has proved no easier.

The final pairing of Ballyhaunis and The Neale isn't the one that many would have predicted at the start of the season, but they are both well deserving of their final spots and they are now tantalisingly close to winning the title and booking a place in the senior championship for next season.

This seasons final pairing is unusual in that they have already met in the championship this year when they were drawn together in group three, when the south Mayo men emerged victorious in their round two meeting on a scoreline of 1-11 to 1-8 in Ballyhaunis.

That win ensured that The Neale would make the last eight of the championship, while Ballyhaunis had to see off Mayo Gaels in their final group game, which they did on a scoreline of 0-13 to 1-6, to make it through to the knock-out stages.

In the last eight, Ballyhaunis went in as underdogs against Ardnaree and were held to a 1-7 each draw at full time, in extra time they found an extra gear and hit 1-8 without reply and haven't looked back since.

In the semi-final the east Mayo men came from four points down at the break to run out comfortable 3-11 to 2-6 winners over Burrishoole with the likes of Eamon Philips and Jason Coyne impressing in attack and the introduction of Morgan Lyons also having a major impact. They'll be looking for those players to lead the line at the front for them along with Eoghan Collins linking the defence and attack - with Keith Higgins stationed in the rearguard but also able to add a serious punch to their attack when he gets the chance to venture forward.

The Neale saw off Kiltimagh in their quarter-final by eight points in late September to make the semi-final the stage they exited the competition at last year - but they went one better this time around when they got the better of a battling Louisburgh side a fortnight ago, after extra time. Tommy Conroy is their danger man up front, but he is ably supported by the likes of Sean Cosgrove and Fergal Sweeney - with Adrian O'Sullivan in the middle of the park who will be looked to to have a big game tomorrow evening.

It may be a cliché to say this game is too close to call, but going on how both sides have progressed through the championship, it really is. Both teams have the potential and key players to get over the line tomorrow night - but it should come right down to the wire.

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