Decision time in the championship as the draws are made

That wining feeling: Cillian O’Connor and Alex Corduff celebrate, O’Connor’s second goal against Down in last weekend’s All-Ireland Minor Semi-Final. Photo: Sportsfile

That wining feeling: Cillian O’Connor and Alex Corduff celebrate, O’Connor’s second goal against Down in last weekend’s All-Ireland Minor Semi-Final. Photo: Sportsfile

The draw was made last Monday night for the quarter finals of the championship. Our boys, Crossmolina, have been drawn to play Ballaghaderreen. It is a match that will definitely focus the minds of both outfits and I would anticipate a close exciting match on September 27. It has been a frustrating time for club teams throughout the summer months as a result of the start-stop nature of the championship. It seems like an eternity since we played the opening round of the championship against Knockmore and it is really difficult to try to keep a team fresh and focused throughout the summer. Two of our players from Crossmolina, Ian Rowland and Sean Kelly, went out to Boston to work and play football for the summer. There was no work here at home and they received a call with the offer of paid work along with the opportunity to play in the local championship. They did well on the football scene and both were very much to the fore in winning the Boston final last Sunday for a small club called St Christopher’s. They arrived back in Ireland on Tuesday morning and I was looking forward to having them both back at training this week and available for our league match against Ballina this Saturday evening in Crossmolina (6.30 ). At the time of writing I have just received a telephone call from the boys en route to Shannon for a Friday afternoon flight back out to Boston for the All-American finals this weekend! Sure it’s hard to blame them as they are both young and carefree and they don’t go back to college for another week. I assume when they saw the floods of water around these parts upon arrival here on Tuesday it wouldn’t have taken too much convincing to get them to travel back out!

Minors stand tall

I travelled to Croke Park last Sunday to support our minors. I wasn’t quite sure what kind of a performance to expect from them. As I mentioned here last week they looked mighty impressive against Galway in the Connacht semi-final, but didn’t produce anything near that quality of football in subsequent games. And to be perfectly honest I thought after 15 minutes of the game last Sunday they would be well beaten by a Down side that were, at that stage, flying all over the place and looking mighty impressive. Our young men, however, weathered the storm. They rolled up the sleeves and fought bravely to keep in touch, and to the great credit of management and players were only two points in arrears at half time, when it could and probably should have been eight or nine. A number of us chatted at half time and the general consensus was that, despite Down’s busy running and confident swagger, they (Down ) had left the door ajar and if we could manage a couple of early scores in the second half anything was possible. I wasn’t very convinced and like many others I have spoken to since, very few thought that Mayo were good enough to win at that stage.

There were a few reasons why we did win. We had an outstanding goalkeeper in Michael Schlingermann who continued as he had in the first half by making a number of outstanding saves. He was all the talk in the stand and of course lots wanted to know where this young man originated with a surname like his. I’m not quite sure what his origins are, but I was thrilled and privileged to see him make save after save to keep us in the game. Cillian O’ Connor stepped up to the plate at the business end of the field and scored two great goals early in the second half that almost incredibly had us leading then by six points.

It was mighty stuff and just goes to prove that, if you hang in there and refuse to bend at the knee, anything is possible. Down continued with their fancy angled runs and short little hand passes over and back the field and made a cardinal error of shooting for goals when the smart thing was to clip over a few points to reduce the margin. They threw the kitchen sink at us in the final quarter, but the Mayo defence was resolute, disciplined and smart. Mayo held out to win a game I honestly had almost given up on in the first half. In addition to the aforementioned two players I thought Aidan Walsh was terrific throughout. His free taking was impeccable and his work rate all over the field was eye-catching. Management deserves great credit too, as they made a number of smart switches and introductions at the right time that ensured this team would have the opportunity to play on the biggest stage of all in two weeks’ time. Well done to all.

Westport step into the future

I was in Westport last Saturday for a senior league match. For a change it was a beautiful evening for football. The first thing I noticed on arrival at the GAA grounds were the fantastic improvements Westport have made to their GAA facilities. It was my first time to see their new all-weather astro turf training pitch and it looks magnificent. I believe it is in constant use, which is great to hear, and I am sure it is the envy of most clubs that visit the grounds. The main football pitch has also improved with what I assume was an extensive drainage programme that has definitely made a huge difference to the playing surface. I can recall years ago being up to my neck in muck at games over there, but not anymore. Anyway I was hugely impressed with the set up and all involved deserve great credit for the good work done. The bottom line here is that the up and coming footballers in and around Westport have no excuses for not turning up to football training!

After the awful weather we’ve been having over the last few weeks, last Saturday afternoon was a welcome break from the black skies and persistent downpours and it was nice to play on a surface that allowed for a reasonably good open game of football. Crossmolina won the game, but I have to say I was impressed with the attitude and application of the Westport players. I got the impression when I arrived at the ground that this wouldn’t be a walkover as I saw Martin Connolly put his charges through an impressive warm up routine. All the Westport players were on the field early and practically every one of them was kitted out in what I can only assume was the standard pre-match gear. Despite trailing by eight or nine points at one stage early in the second half, they refused to concede defeat and battled back to reduce the margin to four. They have a relatively young squad and I get the impression they are heading in the right direction.

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