Championships wrap up after sprint to the finish

Knockmore players celebrate following the Mayo County Senior Football Championship Final. Photo: Sportsfile

Knockmore players celebrate following the Mayo County Senior Football Championship Final. Photo: Sportsfile

It was a hectic weekend of action in the county ground last weekend - where four finals played out in front of an ever-revolving cast of fans.

No sooner were the trophies presented and a few minutes of joy shared between team-mates and small bands of lucky followers who were able to get their hands on a golden ticket - than the revolving door swung into action again and it was back out the gate to celebrate or commiserate with the succession of players in the eight sides who were in action on the field.

The big one headed to the 'Parish of the Backs' on Sunday evening for the first time since 1997, after Knockmore showed they had the nerve and steel to back up the skill and subtlety on the field to see off Breaffy by two points.

It's a huge win for the north Mayo men - they have been one of the big dogs of the game in the county for many years and have now nine times the Moclair Cup home with them.

Since they first claimed the title in 1973, no other team in the county has won the title as many times as they have in that time period of 1973 to 2020, with Castlebar Mitchels, who have 31 titles in total, next in line over that 47 year time period - with eight wins, while their near neighbours and fierce rivals, Ballina, have won it six times. If the Knockmore men can pick up one or two more over the next three years - they will be crowned as the most successful team in the county over half a century. That's some achievement and history.

And while every year is different and every team is different - that winning DNA is something that seeps into clubs and players and it's something that is still eluding Breaffy. Since 2013 they have made the final four times and each time, have gone home without what they desire most.

Each of those defeats have hurt - this one will probably sting a little bit more. As a club that contributes a number of players to the county set-up, they have often had to go into the championship campaigns trying to reintegrate a number of players into their set-up on short notice. They didn't have that this year, and while they had do-or-die games every round from the opening day after losing to Westport and managed to get over them, this time they came up short against a well-drilled and hungry side put together by Ray Dempsey and his management team.

While winning the Moclair Cup is what they wanted from the start of the year and being able to even play the competition is something that looked a long way off back in Spring time, it is only a pity that Knockmore aren't going to get to test themselves agains the best of Connacht and potentially, one of the greatest club sides we have ever seen in Corofin - with no provincial or All Ireland club championships this year.

Balla burst through to senior

What can you say about Balla - that hasn't already been said? A club that - around a decade ago - were battling it out in the lower reaches of the divisions in league football in Mayo, are now heading into the senior ranks after another memorable win in MacHale Park.

The west Mayo men were nobody's favourite to win this year and even when they got out of the group stages, they were still underdogs going into every game after it; but they answered all those questions with heart, skill and an unwillingness to see themselves be beaten.

It was the same on Saturday night when they saw off Kiltimagh in the final. Much like the side who lost the senior final, Kiltimagh know the taste of defeat on final day far too well in recent years - whereas Balla, who won the junior title a few years ago and have a number of underage sides that have won county titles in the recent past, they know what it is like to win and expect to win when they get to finals.

They got off to to a great start and when the game was closing in on them in the final quarter and it looked like they may have sat back on their lead too early - they burst down the field with a flurry of late scores to seal the deal and show that they were the real deal and ready to step up to senior.

And when they do if the balls fall right or wrong when the draw for next year is made, what odds on the ultimate local derby group with the possibility of Gang of Four made up of Balla, Castlebar Mitchels, Ballintubber and Breaffy all being pulled out of the hat together.

Kilmaine are finally the kings

If one side really felt the pressure going into last weekend, it was probably Kilmaine. Since being relegated to Junior four years ago, they were everyone's favourites to bounce back up - the three years since have seen finals lost to Lahardane and Castlebar Mitchels against the head and a quarter-final loss to Achill in another year.

This year, while favourites once again to win the junior crown, they knew they were facing a tough test from a Kilmeena team - who are a coming side themselves - and once again, Kilmaine were put to the pin of their collar last Saturday afternoon. But this time they didn't let it slip and they edged themselves home to a historic win. Heading up to the bear pit that is intermediate football next year won't faze them and they'll be confident they can make a dent at that level next season.

Mitchels minors make all the right moves

It may have been a year for their senior side to move on from quickly - after being dumped out of the senior championship at the group stages - but Castlebar won't be away from the top table for too long - going by the performance of their minor side last Sunday.

The meeting of Mitchels and Ballina Stephenites was keyed up to be a classic encounter, but it was a domination from the word go to the final whistle by the county town men. They played with abandon throughout and some sublime football, with exceptional passing and some ruthless finishing on display. The Mitchels underage structure has been pumping out some quality players in recent times and it doesn't look like that will dry up anytime soon.

 

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