Stephenites looking to keep upward curve moving

GAA: Mayo GAA Senior Football Championship

They have won more Moclair Cups than any other club in the county with 36 to their name, but it has been 13 years since Ballina Stephenites last brought the old trophy to the banks of the Moy.

After a few years out of contention and the reckoning, last year the Stephenites made it back to the final four of the competition, and in this truncated season, they are looking to go even deeper into the competition.

They have warmed up for their championship opener against Kiltane on Sunday with two wins from two in the Michael Walsh League since the resumption of hostilities, seeing off Moy Davitts in round one and Breaffy last Sunday.

Speaking after their win last Sunday, Ballina manager Enda Gilvarry was looking forward to the ball being thrown in on the championship fare this weekend.

"It's great to be back and able to play football after so long of a break. The guys are really enthusiastic, they trained pretty hard during the time, boredom meant that they were going out and doing some physical training, which was great to see.

"It is always the ambition to progress, but we do realise it is a long journey to get there - the Mayo championship is very competitive there is no easy route there.

"Just because we got to the semi-final last year doesn't mean we'll get back there this year. You've no place guaranteed in the last eight, never mind the last four.

"We were delighted with getting back to the semi-final last year and the club was delighted to be back there. But it is something that there is a strong history of here that we are aware of - it is a stepping stone, we have a lot of work to do to break into the top two, but we are looking to keep progressing."

Gilvarry might have to get things moving this weekend without two of his top players, with both Ciaran Tracey and Mikey Murray sitting out last Sunday's game due to injury - and this Sunday might come too soon for them too, he says.

"We've picked up some since we came back but that was to be expected as well, all is positive for next week. We don't know yet (re Ciaran Tracey and Mikey Murray ), they are recovering and working with the medical team and progressing well, but this weekend may be a little bit early for them."

It is the first time in many years that clubs have been able to call on their county players for the duration of the championship, without county commitments limiting their availability and having that kind of experience and know-how on hand full-time is something Gilvarry says has been a great asset.

"This year we have Evan Regan and Ger Cafferjey back full time (after they finished up their inter-county careers last year ), but we also have Ciaran Travey, Padraig O'Hora, Mikey Murray and David Clarke.

"It is fantastic to see the leadership they bring to the squad, it is second to none, they bring leadership and guidance and quality not only on the field but in the preparation they have. David Clarke, what can you say, he's second to none in all he brings to the squad with his leadership and guidance."


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