Nothing is easy at the middle grade

GAA: Mayo GAA Intermediate Football Championship

On the line: Kevin Filan is in charge of a Castlebar Mitchels B side who will be looking to make a dent in the intermediate championship this season. Photo: Sportsfile

On the line: Kevin Filan is in charge of a Castlebar Mitchels B side who will be looking to make a dent in the intermediate championship this season. Photo: Sportsfile

The hardest thing to predict before the start of any championship season is who is going to win the intermediate title.

Balla's victory last term shocked many, except themselves - but that shows how close most of these sides are when it comes to crunch and we expect nothing different this year, with well over half the teams having a realistic shot at claiming they could do it this year. It is the most competitive championship in the county.

All to play for in group one

This group is one that could go any way when the games are all played out. Bohola Moy Davitts have come down from senior after a few years at the top grade and will be driving hard to get back up at the first chance. Parke-Keelogues-Crimlin, Bonniconlon and Swinford will all back themselves to have a real shot of getting out of the group also. Swinford will host Bohola Moy Davitts on Saturday evening, the hosts almost lost their intermediate status last year, but got out of jail late on against Islandeady in the relegation play-off. Paddy Brehony is the man in charge on the line for Swinford and he'll be looking for Liam Moran, Luke McNicholas and Colm Dempsey to play a leading role for them. The visitors have Jimmy Byrne on the line this year and he will have to contend with the loss of ace attackers, Brian Reape and Anthony Jordan - but with the likes of Conor Reid, Cian McHale, Fionn Cruise and Brian Heneghan in situ, they will be backing themselves to win this one. The other game in the group sees Parke host Bonniconlon - both sides will be backing themselves to make it to the latter stages of the competition and a win here will be vital for either side to get up and running. Pat Dunne is in charge of the hosts again this year, the experienced core of Simon Cloherty, Declan Neary and Ronan Carolon along with Arron McHale, will make up the men expected to lead the way for them. Bonniconlon got to the last eight last year and will be hoping to repeat that, Donnie Tuohy is the man in charge this term. They will be hoping the likes of Conor Igo, Ronan Neary, Ronan Conlon and Cillian Foody, will be key men - it could be one that finishes up as a draw.

Contenders square off in group two

The meeting of Mayo Gaels and Hollymount-Carramore in this south Mayo derby on Sunday morning is the meeting of two teams many would fancy to be battling it out at the end of the season for the title. It looks to be one of the games of the weekend across all grades. The home side lost the quarter-final to neighbours and eventual champions, Balla. James Fallon is in charge this term and with the likes of Ethan Henry, Liam Hughes, Adam Gallagher and James Jennings, it will be a team of big players. Hollymount-Carramore were beaten in the semi-final last year and will be going all guns to get back to the final this year. With Mayo men Stephen Coen and Darren Coen back in harness for the championship, along with Conor Keane, Nathan Moran and Conor Heneghan, they will need to be keyed up. It'll be tight - but the visitors could just shade it. The meeting of Lahardane and Burrishoole on Saturday evening is the meeting of neighbouring clubs, but ones who are based in different divisional boards, with Burrishoole in the west and Lahardane in the north. John Stagg is in charge of the home side again, they retained their status in the league on the last day beating Shrule Glencorrib and will be looking to the likes of Adrian Leonard, Matthew Queenan, James Maughan and Cormac Reilly to lead them. Burrishoole have not hit the ground running the past few years and Damien Loftus will be hoping his side can get off to a winning start this time. They are a big physical team and will look to impose that on their hosts - the loss of Jason Doherty to injury will be hard felt again. The league didn't go as desired but they will be keyed up for this one and the likes of Adrian McManamon, Alan Ryder, David Nevin, Colin Guifoyle and Patrick Cannon will be needed to step up. Home advantage could swing this one narrowly.

Hard to call in group three

This is one of the most evenly matched groups out there, with Kiltimagh, Louisburgh, Kilmaine and Ardnaree all live contenders. Louisburgh will travel to Ardnaree on Sunday afternoon, the Seasiders topped Division 2A in the league this term and have been promoted to Division 1 for next year, but injuries to key men, Dylan Prendergast and Kevin Gibbons, will be tough to get over for them. Ronan O'Grady is the man in charge this year and they will be looking to drive them on and will hope Padraig Prendergast, Alan Moran and Alfie Morrison turn out to be key men. Ardnaree have John Brogan in charge again this year. They held on to their Division Two status in the league earlier this year and will look to the likes of Stephen Tighe, Eoghan McCormack and Chris Walsh to lead the line for them. The second game in the group will see last year's junior champions, Kilmaine, host last year's beaten intermediate finalists, Kiltimagh, on Sunday at 3.30pm. The south Mayo men have Oisin Mullin back after Mayo duty and he, along with Adam Barrett, Cathal Murphy and Ja Mullin, will be key men. The east Mayo men have Damien Gallagher in charge - they retained their Division One status in the league again this year, but it is all about getting over the line in the championship for them. Cillian Finn, Donovan Cosgrove and Jamie McNicholas will all be key to their chances of success this term.

Tough battles in group four

Ballyhaunis, Crossmolina Deel Rovers, Ballinrobe and Castlebar Mitchels B are in the pot in the final group and all will fancy their chances of making a dent in the championship. Ballyhaunis will host Crossmolina on Saturday evening, the sides passed themselves at the end of the league with Crossmolina getting relegated to division three and Ballyhaunis going up to division two for next year. The visitors will welcome back Jordan Flynn and Conor Loftus after their Mayo involvement and that will be a major boost to their chances. Ballyhaunis also had Jack Coyne involved with Mayo this year and he will add to their resources and, of course, they have Keith Higgins in their ranks still. The sides played in last year's championship with Crossmolina winning narrowly, Ballyhaunis ended up in the relegation play-off last year after being in the final the year before, showing how close the competition is at this grade. It should be a close one, but home advantage might swing it. The final game is the meeting of Castlebar B and Ballinrobe in Castlebar on Sunday at mid-day. Both sides were promoted in the league this year, with Ballinrobe continuing their rebuilding job by getting back up to division one after topping division 2B and Castlebar's second string making it to division three after winning all their games. The Mitchels have loads of experience, with Alan Feeney, Aidan Walsh, Shane Hopkins and Richie Feeney all key men for Kevin Filan's side. Ballinrobe got to the semi-final last year and will be looking to drive on again; Arron McDonnell, Kevin Quinn, Evan O'Brien will all be key figures for them. This could be a great game and the home side, if they put out a team with the experienced players who have won numerous senior titles - this could sway it.


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