The Michael Walsh league has been up and running for the past number of weeks, giving the club players plenty game time while Mayo were in national league action. This weekend the league proper as we know it gets under way with 28 games in seven divisions over Saturday and Sunday spread all over the county, in places from Shrule Glencorrib where their B team will take on The Neale B in division 1F to Belmullet, where they will host Burrishoole in division 1B.
The one team starting off the year with a target on their backs is Charlestown who claimed both the division one and senior championship titles last year; every side in senior football will have them in their sights for 2010. Charlestown manager Ciaran McBrien knows that everyone is gunning for them but is looking forward to the challenge. “We’re coming at it from the other side this year, we’re there to be knocked and every team will be looking to have a go at us. But something like that will be a motivational factor for the lads, because come the end of the year they are going to want to have put two championship titles back to back. We’ve had the hunger the past three years, losing two finals in a row before winning last year, so it’s to go for two in a row now. Because that in itself is a great achievement that not many sides get to do, I think Crossmolina back at the start of the last decade were the last team to do it.” Charlestown will open up their league campaign this Saturday evening with a tricky encounter away to Ballina in James Stephen’s Park in what will be a tough test for the defending double champions. “Well we only started training properly last Tuesday week, and had a few games in the Michael Walsh league. But the lads needed a rest after last year, when we only finished going at full speed in November after the Connacht final. Ballina will be tough, they’ve got a new manager in John Healy since the end of last year and would have put in a lot of work already. I’d say they’re approaching every game this year in league and championship as a knock out championship game, like we did the last few years. They’re looking to come back after a few disappointing years. It’ll a very tough game.” Charlestown will be without the services of inspirational veteran midfielder David Tiernan for the forthcoming few weeks also, McBrien said. “David Tiernan had to have an operation, so he’ll be out for at least six to eight weeks also so we’ll have to deal with that loss too.”
Focused on the future
One manager whose side won’t be in action this weekend after getting a bye in the first round of the league, but who is one of the sides that have Charlestown in his sights for the coming year, is Peter Ford. The Castlebar Mitchels supremo has seen his side, with an abundance of talented youngsters, make good strides over the past two seasons, but knows that now is the time to push on. “We’re getting closer, you can see that, we’ve been beaten in the last two years in the championship, by Charlestown in the quarter final two years ago and again last year in the semi-final, so we are getting there.” With the club celebrating its 125th anniversary this year, it would be a great achievement to round it off with success at the senior level , but that’s not in the Castlebar managers thoughts at the minute. “It would be, but we’re not thinking of it like that. Were looking to get out there and put in some good showings and be there at the business end of the season.” While the evolution of the Michael Walsh league this year aimed at giving club players more football, it’s getting games at the right stage of the season that is the important thing, according to Ford. “With the Michael Walsh league the league is starting that bit later this year, you might have two or three games played in it already. There were plenty games already before for lads to be playing, but it’s playing them when you’re supposed to that makes the difference. Playing games in June, July and August is what counts, you can’t have a game one week then none for four weeks and another five weeks later at that time of year. You’ve got to try and keep the games coming so the lads are interested and stick around.”
When Saturday comes and 6.30pm rolls around, the season will be well and truly underway and summer time starts in earnest.
Ballaghaderreen, Ballina Stephenites, Ballinrobe, Ballintubber, Charlestown, Claremorris, Crossmolina, Knockmore, Moy Davitts, Shrule-Glencorrib, Westport.
Aghamore, Belmullet, Breaffy, Burrishoole, Castlebar, Davitts, Garrymore, Islandeady, Kiltane, Kiltimagh, Tourmakeady.
Achill, Ardnaree, Ballyhaunis, Cill Chomain, Hollymount, Kilmeena, Louisburgh, Parke KC, Swinford, The Neale.
Ballina Stephenites B, Ballycastle, Bonniconlon, Charlestown B, Crossmolina B, Killala, Kilmaine, Knockmore B, Lahardane B, Mayo Gales.
For a full run down on this weekend’s fixtures from division 1A to 2F, see www.advertiser.ie/mayo