There was plenty of anticipation in the Café Bar of the Royal Theatre last Tuesday night as the winners and losers of the senior, intermediate, and junior championship group stages gathered to find out their fates for the last weekend in August. Only those sides in the senior and intermediate championship which finished in the no-man’s-land of third place in their group had no interest in the draw, with quarter final and relegation pairings to be decided by the luck of draw from the hat (or Pyrex glass bowl in this case ). With the draw about to begin, the unmistakable theme tune from the 1980s classic TV show and 2010 summer blockbuster flop The A-Team pierced the ears of those in attendance, but the errant ringing phone was quickly silenced as there was important business to be taken care of.
While the draw saw first the junior, then the intermediate, and finally the senior pairings pulled out most interest was on the senior championship and the draw did not disappoint. First out of the hat came Castlebar Mitchels, then Shrule Glencorrib. But they could not meet again having played in the group stages, back into the bowl they went and out came Breaffy. A big local derby straight off out of the hat, the metropolitans from the town against the country cousins from a stone’s throw away. Mitchels are celebrating their 125th anniversary this year with 27 senior county championships behind them, and are looking like a team well within the grasp of their 28th this year against a side which has stumbled through this year’s campaign and could only draw against the combined junior clubs from the west Mayo division the previous Saturday evening. But then championship is championship and anything will go when these two sides meet, and one thing is for sure, Breaffy will not be lacking any motivation come throw in.
Next up, Shrule Glencorrib were already known to be the second placed team in the next draw, but against whom would the 2005 beaten finalists show throw down? Kenneth Mortimer will have his side fearing no one in the competition, and thanks to the luck of the draw he gets to pit his wits against Ciaran McBrien's and the defending champions from Charlestown. The east Mayo men started the season slowly, but they have been building with every game and will go into their last eight pairing as favourites. The next team out of the hat was last year’s beaten finalists Knockmore, who if it was not for a bad run of injuries in the run-in to the final, could have easily won last year’s decider. Just to add some spice to the occasion, having already played Ballina in the group stages, there was only one other second placed team that Nigel Reape's men could meet, Crossmolina. Having met twice in last year’s championship, it is all systems go for another north Mayo epic battle. John Maughan has Crossmolina moving very well once again after they fell off a bit following a blistering start to the year, and this showdown is one that everyone will want to see. The final pair of names to be drawn out of the hat was a pure academic exercise, with Ballintubber, which under James Horan has moved on from being a side which just about won the intermediate championship a couple of years ago, to a side which is now a genuine title contender. Facing Ballintubber are a Ballina Stephenites, a side which has begun rebuilding its slightly tarnished reputation after a couple of fallow years following winning their 36th title in 2007. Ballintubber, along with Castlebar Mitchels, is one of sides which has been tipped could make the breakthrough this year and probably would have liked an easier draw, but there is nothing easy at this stage of the competition, and James Horan will have his team ready, willing, and able to face any challenge that John Healy's Ballina will throw at them.
While there are eight teams left battling it out for the championship, four other sides are fighting for their lives to be in the same grade as those eight next year. It all boils down to four teams, and three games, win your first game and you are safe, even if you loose and you win the third and final game you are safe. So there can be no excuses for the side which makes the drop back to intermediate for next year. The luck of the draw paired Kiltaine and the 2008 champions Ballaghaderreen on one side of the draw, with Bohola Moy Davitts and Claremorris on the other side.
Intermediate draw throws up interesting ties
In the intermediate grade all the smart money has been put on Colm McManamon's Burrishoole who have swatted away all comers so far in this year’s competition and are gunning for a quick return to senior football after being relegated last term. Last year’s beaten finalists Tourmakeady will not mind the favourites tag being draped over the men from McGovern Park, and they were the first team out of the hat in the draw for the last eight, facing them will be a Ballyhaunis side who made their way out of their group as runners up to Burrishoole on a paltry two points from three games. The second pairing in the battle for the Sweeney Cup will have those in a certain part of the county licking their lips as it places last year’s junior champions Kiltimagh face to face with Ballindine’s finest, Davitts, in what promises to be a real humdinger of a game. The favourite were next out of the hat and facing them is a potentially tricky encounter with Cill Chomain, who will not give anything easy and will not shirk a challenge anywhere on the field. The final game pitches another north Mayo side Belmullet, who on their day are more than capable of going all the way in this grade, against south Mayo side Kilmaine. There may be 85 miles between the two towns, but there will be far less come the end of this encounter.
In the relegation play off Kilmeena and Mayo Gaels will lock horns with the loser fighting it out with whoever fails to come out on top in the meeting of Crossmolina B and Killala.
The junior championship is only down to the last 16 and as is the case in most years in the grade any number of sides could have a legitimate chance of claiming the title.
Mayo JFC last 16 draw
(A ) Belmullet B v Ardnaree, (B ) Louisburgh v Ardagh, (C ) Castlebar Mitchels B v Shrule Glencorrib B, (D ) Ballintubber B v Lahardane, (E ) Islandeady v Kilmovee, (F ) Aghamore B v Parke KC, (G ) Ballina Stephenites B v Ballycastle, (H ) The Neale v Knockmore B
Mayo JFC quarter final draw
H v D, G v B, A v F, E v C
Mayo IFC quarter final draw
Tourmakeady v Ballyhaunis, Davitts v Kiltimagh, Burrishoole v Cill Chomain, Belmullet v Kilmaine.
Mayo IFC relegation play offs
Kilmeena v Mayo Gaels, Crossmolina B v Killala
Mayo SFC quarter finals
Castlebar Mitchels v Breaffy, Charlestown v Shrule Glencorrib, Knockmore v Crossmolina, Ballintubber v Ballina Stephenites
Mayo SFC relegation play offs
Kiltaine v Ballaghaderreen, Moy Davitts v Claremorris.