Calling the eventual winners of the Mayo GAA Intermediate Football Championship is a fool's errand most years and this year is no different.
At least half the sides in the competition can have very good claims of being the side who will lift the Sweeney Cup this year and this weekend will see the action in the competition get underway with a number of tasty encounters spread right across the county.
Bonniconlon v Lahardane
Saturday, September 3 at 4pm in Bonniconlon
The men from the foot of Nephin will be heading to the foothills of the Ox Mountains on Saturday for this clash of two sides who passed each other on the elevator up and down at the end of their respective league campaigns. Bonniconlon are heading into the championship on the back of winning the division three league title, while Lahardane fell through the division two trapdoor after being beaten by Crossmolina in a relegation play-off. The league success will boost Bonni' no end going into this, but while Lahardane were relegated, they come into it off the back of facing much stiffer competition in the league. Conor Igoe, David Walsh and the Nearys Ronan and Sean, will be key men for the hosts; while for the visitors Cormac Reilly, Adrian Leonard and James Maughan will be key players.
Louisburgh v Crossmolina
Sunday, September 4 at 4pm in Louisburgh
The visitors on Sunday will be leaving the banks of the river Deel for the surrounds of Clew Bay when they take on a Louisburgh side who will be looking to follow up on last year's semi-final appearance with another right crack at the title. Louisburgh played their league football in division one and while they were ultimately relegated from it, they will be hoping to draw on the experience gained there in the championship. Crossmolina had to dig it out to avoid going down to division three, they were a good bit down early in that relegation final against Lahardane - before coming back to win and will look to draw on that in the championship. For the hosts, the likes of Alfie Morrison, Dylan Prendergast and Padraig Prendergast along with new arrival Shane Nallen, will be key men in their charge this year while Fionnan Duffy, Conor Loftus, Jordan Flynn and Dean Loftus will all be looked to, to lead them.
Kiltane v Burrishoole
Saturday, September 3 at 6pm in Bangor
The north Mayo men bounced straight back up to the senior ranks the last time they were relegated from it in the not-too-distant past and will be hoping to take the first step on a similar journey this year when they get going on Saturday evening against Burrishoole. This group looks like the hardest one to call, with all four teams in it justifiably believing they can have a real run at the competition. Kiltane managed to hold on to their division one stays and put in some good showings and with the likes of Ultan Corrigan, Kyle Holmes, Anthony Coyle and Adam Carrabine in situ, they have plenty of quality. For the visitors they didn't set the world alight in division two in the league but with Jason Doherty back in full fitness for the first time in a long time, along with Alan Ryder, David Nevin and Mícheál O'Malley, they will be ready to roll.
Ballinrobe v Parke-Keelogues-Crimlin
Sunday, September 4 at 4pm in Ballinrobe
Both of these sides will feel that they can claim the Sweeney Cup if the chips fall the right way for them over the next number of weeks. Ballinrobe are under the guidance of local legend Peter Ford this year and his youthful side put in a very good showing in the league, finishing in the top four in their division one group. Parke collected a Michael Walsh title earlier this year, beating Ballinrobe in the final of that competition and looked very good in division two, reaching the final where they were beaten by Davitts two weeks ago. Both sides trajectory looks to be on the up and a win will be vital in this very tough group. Liam Burke, Evan O'Brien and Joe Burke will be key factors for the hosts while for the visitors, the likes of Ronan Carolan, Sean Sweeney and the ageless Simon Cloherty will be key players. This should be a tight and fascinating battle that should go to the wire.
Ardnaree v Moy Davitts
Saturday, September 3 at 6pm in Ardnaree
It's a Moyside derby on Saturday evening in Ardnaree as the lads from Sraith Garb head north to Sean Duffy Park to get their championship season up and running. Ardnaree saw their league campaign in division two come to an end when they lost to Cill Chomain in a relegation play-off at home a number of weeks ago and will be looking to put that behind them come the weekend. Moy Davitts reached the last eight in that division and were beaten by Parke in the quarter-finals and will also be looking to shake that off. The visitors will be hoping that Brian Reape will be fit and raring to go alongside the likes of Cian McHale and Conor Reid, while the hosts will be hoping that the likes of Cathal Noone, Chris Walsh and Johnathan Doherty can all be key men in their drive to get a win and their championship up and running.
Verdict: Moy Davitts
Ballyhaunis v Castlebar Mitchels B
Saturday, September 3 at 4pm in Ballyhaunis
The Castlebar Mitchels conveyor belt of talent will be given a stiff test when they head to east Mayo on Saturday afternoon to take on Ballyhaunis. At half time in last year's intermediate final it looked like the hosts would be playing senior football this year, but they were hauled back by Mayo Gaels at the death to have to endure another year in this grade. These sides met last year in a winner-takes-all group game in round three and Ballyhaunis were the ones to emerge with the win. They are backboned by the likes of Keith Higgins, Jason Coyne, Eoghan Collins, Cormac Phillips and Kieran Kiely and will be looking to them to get them over the line again this time around. With this being a B team, Mitchels, by their nature, lose and gain players year in year out, but having just claimed the county u19a title, they have a good reserve of youth to call on alongside experienced heads who are no longer plying their trade with the senior team.
Kilmeena v Kilmaine
Saturday, September 3 at 6pm in Kilmeena
This could be the game of the weekend across all grades as the 2020 junior champions travel to meet the 2021 junior champions in a game that promises to be an electrifying affair. The sides have already met in the league this season in a game that ended in a 1-13 to 1-13 draw, and if we get anything like that again it will be a great day out. It could also see two of the best young talents in the game in the county going toe-to-toe in the middle of the park, if Mayo teammates Jack Carney (Kilmeena ) and Oisin Mullin (Kilmaine ) line up there. Both sides are on a big upward curve, Kilmaine reached the intermediate semi-final last year while Kilmeena backed up their junior win with Connacht and All Ireland success. It's not just a game where two big names will go head-to-head - there is plenty of quality elsewhere with the likes of Adam Barrett, Michael Hession, Cathal Murphy and Matthew Keady all top players for the visitors and Niall Feehan, Darragh Keavney, Keith Joyce and John Ryan all big players for the hosts. Get along to this one if you can.
Kiltimagh v Hollymount-Carramore
Saturday, September 4 at 4pm in Charlestown
Works on Fr Gilmartin Park sees Kiltimagh have to bring their home game against Hollymount-Carramore to Charlestown on Saturday evening. Last year saw Kiltimagh fail to escape their group after so many near misses in finals in the years before that and they will be looking for another crack at getting that elusive title this year. The east Mayo men came back from the dead in a relegation final a few weeks ago against Ballaghaderreen to hold onto their division one status and that will give them a serious pep in their step going into this one. The visitors were pipped by eventual winners Davitts in the division two semi-final not long ago and will feel they were very close to gaining promotion to division one for next year. In Darren Coen they have one of the sharpest shooters in the club game going and Stephen Coen's leadership is a vital cog in this side, while Dylan Morris and Conor Keane are also key men. Kiltimagh will be looking to Donovan Cosgrove, Brian Gallagher, Sean Walsh and David Lyons to be key men in their drive for the title. It should be another close encounter that will go to the wire.