Gaels look to blow over Ballyhaunis believers

GAA: Mayo IFC Final

Who'll come out on top: Ballyhaunis and Mayo Gaels will face off in the Egan Jewellers Intermediate Football Championship Final on Saturday. Photo: Mayo GAA.

Who'll come out on top: Ballyhaunis and Mayo Gaels will face off in the Egan Jewellers Intermediate Football Championship Final on Saturday. Photo: Mayo GAA.

Somewhere along the N17 on Saturday morning the Mayo Gaels faithful will be joined on the road by the believers from Ballyhaunis as they both make their way to Charlestown for what promises to be a thrilling Mayo Intermediate Football Championship final.

Getting to the final of this competition is no easy task in the first place and now that they are there, neither side is going to want to cough up a chance of lifting the Sweeney Cup and getting promotion to the senior championship for next year.

It's seven years since Ballyhaunis last claimed this title, they also made it to the final in 2019, losing out to The Neale narrowly - but to show how close this grade of football is - last year they were in the relegation play-offs.

As for Mayo Gaels, it's a much longer wait for them with their last victory coming in 1998 when they pipped Ballinrobe by a single point in that decider and it's been a long two decades and change for the Mayo Abbey men since then.

Ahead of the start of the championship, Mayo Gaels were marked out as serious contenders for the title - but being looked at as contenders before it starts and backing it up is two very different things. But the Gaels have backed that up impressively so far. They were free scoring and free wheeling in the group stages against Burrishoole, Lahardane and Hollymount-Carramore.

While they've not been hitting the same high notes in the knock-out stages in the championship, what they have been doing is being ruthlessly effective in making sure they win their games. They saw off Moy Davitts (who had just come down from senior this year ) and Kilmaine (last year's junior champions ) in effective and efficient displays.

Up front, the Gaels have the potential to win any game, with Adam and John Gallagher both strong on the ball and well capable of taking a score, while James Jennings and Ethan Henry are both dangerous and potential game winners in their own rights. In the middle of the park, Jack Fallon and Tommie Keane will be their platform to keep things flowing forward and plug holes at the back before they develop.

In the defensive line, Paul Mannion is an experienced man between the posts while Sean Keane, Ruairi Keane, Liam Hughes and Luke Gallagher will need to keep things very tight and not give away silly frees that their opponents could exploit and be potentially vital in deciding the outcome.

As for Ballyhaunis - they have bounced back brilliantly from their opening day loss to Crossmolina Deel Rovers to see off Ballinrobe and then Castlebar Mitchels B in the group stages. They backed that up with a five-point win over Parke-Keelogues-Crimlin in the quarter-final and then held a fancied Louisburgh side to just 1-6 in the semi-final and just one score from play in that entire game.

Paul Jordan and his management team have put together a sticky and tigerish defensive unit, with Keith Higgins, Jack Coyne, Jarlath Carney and Connor Freeley teak tough and tight marking. In the middle of the field Kevin Byrne and Cormac Phillips will need to get on top to give their attacking talents such as Jason Coyne, Kieran Kiely, Eoghan Collins, Joe Sutton and Callum Gardiner the ball they will need to take on the Mayo Gaels defence.

This is a finely balanced clash, with both sides having more than enough reasons to go into it confident. Mayo Gaels have been building towards this moment for the past number of years and James Fallon and his management team have put an awful lot of work into getting them this far. As for Ballyahunis, they have been here before with a number of players winning it in 2014 and others having the experience of being pipped at the post two years ago and that could be a deciding factor. It'll be very tight you'd imagine when all is said and done - but the East Mayo men's experience might just sway it.

Verdict: Ballyhaunis.


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