Slipping and sliding around the county finals

I took in all three county finals last weekend at McHale Park. Saturday’s Intermediate final between Westport and Tourmakeady was played in atrocious conditions. What a shame that a final had to be played during an evening when sheets of rain and high winds made a lottery of the result. I thought it might have been cancelled and played on Bank Holiday Monday. Apparently, had the game ended in a draw, the replay was scheduled for Monday as the Connacht Intermediate club championship is fixed for this weekend. I am sure both teams would have been more than happy to a rescheduling with extra time being played if necessary. The pitch would also have been saved from the battering it got and would have been in better shape for our big showcase games on Sunday. Martin Connolly, the Westport manager, must have been seriously concerned last Saturday morning when he realised that the final was to be played in a storm. His Westport team are young and light and playing in such conditions against the bigger, stronger, experienced Tourmakeady lads was an advantage conceded. He shouldn’t have worried too much as his charges were that bit fitter and sharper around the field than their opponents and they appeared to get to grips with the awful conditions a little bit better. Playing against the wind in the first half they managed to score two goals which gave them the cushion of a lead at half time when they might have expected to have trailed by a few scores. ‘ Do not concede a goal in the second half’ might have been the chat in the ‘Covey’ dressing room at half time and they would be home and dry (well the first part anyway )! They did that and successfully and manfully weathered the storm as Tourmakeady threw the kitchen sink at them in the closing minutes. Ultimately their success was deserved as I felt they were the better team on the day.

Castlebar underage talent keeps coming through

Thankfully conditions improved on Sunday and I went along early to see the minor final. Castlebar Mitchell’s won and deservedly so. However, I get the feeling watching Castlebar underage teams in recent years that they have to be at least 10 points better than the opposition to win. And so it appeared on Sunday. The Kiltimagh lads were honest and brave to the final whistle, never giving up, and reduced the deficit to a couple of points at the end. They needed a goal to create that type of exciting finish that neutrals craved for, but they didn’t get it. At a personal level I was delighted to see a club like Kiltimagh competing in the county minor ‘A’ final. It augurs well for a club that appeared to be struggling a few years ago. On the other hand Castlebar Mitchell’s embellished their reputation further as a club that produces lots of quality at underage level, but …… I genuinely believe that things could change for this club in the near future and I do expect they will begin to deliver on their potential. Time will tell.

Charlestown come through as ‘Ginger’ roles back the years

I genuinely hadn’t a clue who would win the senior county title. Normally if pushed I would have suggested some team, but Sunday was just one of those days where I found it hard to decide. I received a number of calls from punters around the country who normally bet on matches and my advice was to stay clear! In hindsight I probably should have suggested Charlestown and gone with the bookies consensus as the money apparently flowed onto Charlestown in the last 48 hours. Understandably when you consider that Knockmores’ two best forwards were out injured. That ultimately was the difference as the game was all square after 50 minutes of play. Knockmore missed the wiles and cunning of Damien Munnelly and the magic and elegance of Aiden Kilcoyne. Either of those two players might have tilted the balance in favour of the North Mayo club. However it was the old dogs for the hard road that stood up when it was counted. Ginger Tiernan rolled back the years with a typical all action display and produced one moment of pure class that ultimately was the turning point of the match. He was allowed to solo into enemy territory unchallenged, and once his target was in focus he pulled the trigger to score an incredible point. We also witnessed the mature experienced side of Tiernan too on Sunday. Almost incredibly, I believe I saw him pulling team-mates away from a mini fracas on Sunday. I never saw him in a peace- keeping role before, but this was a man who was fully focused on winning his third county medal and nothing was going to deny him. Another man from the old school had a fantastic match. John Casey in goal for Charlestown had a magnificent game. I love a footballing goalkeeper, a man who can act as an emergency defender and one that can travel out the field toe tapping the ball to set up attacks. He did this on numerous occasions last Sunday with confidence and assuredness that undermined Charlestown’s general attitude to the day’s proceedings. Mark Caffrey was another player who caught the eye on Sunday. He was immense throughout the match displaying an awesome appetite for work. His second half display in particular was up as one of his best.

However Knockmore’s dignity remains intact. They have made massive strides this season and look to have a crop of young players coming through that suggests they will be around for the next few years. Kevin McLoughlin and Trevor Howley embellished their reputations as inter-county players with excellent displays. I have often heard it said when watching a game you should never have to ask what players play for the county. An inter-county player should shine like a beacon above others. McLoughlin and Howley (particularly in the first half ) did shine.

So there you have it. The curtain draws down on another year’s activity. I am convinced that, having been involved in this year’s club campaign, not alone do we need a handful of new players for the Mayo senior team; we also need a new mentality. Our senior squad needs a shake up with the introduction of at least half a dozen five- star characters to strengthen our squad for the 2010 campaign. The challenge for John O’ Mahony and his backroom team is as big now as it was three years ago.

Congratulations to Ray Dempsey on his appointment as Mayo u21 manager. It was a logical selection as Ray has worked with these lads for the last three years and will know these players inside out. Only one position to be filled then. Any takers for the minor job?


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