The intermediate football championship has been a graveyard for many a man who tried to predict the eventual winners of the competition for many a year. This grade is often so evenly matched that the vast majority of the 16 sides which start off at the beginning of the year could end up with the Sweeney Cup. The final four this year all can lay legitimate claims to being in with a very good shot of claiming the title, and by Saturday at 7pm we should know the final pairing. Things get under way at the county grounds when Burrishoole and Kiltimagh go head to head at 4pm, with Tourmakeady and Belmullet rounding off proceedings at 5.30pm.
Burrishoole are the favourites with the bookies and in a lot of people’s minds. They have been in great form throughout both league and championship this season. Colm McManamon took over the side this year after they were relegated from the senior championship at the end of last season and has directed them back towards an immediate return to the top table.
While Burrishoole were never a side that would lack commitment on the field, he has also instilled a consistent knack of winning in them this year which has seen them make their way to the top of division 1B in the league and into the last four of the championship. But he will have to do without the services of three key players who are out injured. Shane McDermott, Enda McManamon, and Adrian McManamon will be big losses that Burrishoole will have to overcome on Saturday if they are to make it to the final. Standing in their way are last year’s junior champions Kiltimagh, who have been on the go more or less since the beginning of 2009. The east Mayo men made it all the way to the All Ireland final of the junior championship at the start of the year in Croke Park and were back in action in Mayo not too long after. Mick Regan’s side made it to the final of the intermediate championship in the recent past before being dumped back down to junior, and now they have their sights on breaking into the senior ranks. They have shown plenty of purpose in the championship this season and their win over a fancied Davitts side in the last eight marked out their credentials.
The second semi-final pits last year’s beaten finalists Tourmakeady against the side they beat at this stage last year, Belmullet. While both sides have a number of good footballers in their ranks, they also have a good quota of men who are not afraid to go in where it hurts to do the hard work for their team. Tourmakeady have done well to get back to this stage after last year’s heartbreak, they blitzed through the group stage, but were made work extremely hard by Ballyhaunis in the quarter finals. Belmullet will be keen to make up for last year’s defeat, and their win over a difficult Kilmaine side in the last round will have keyed them up for this battle.
Jostling for junior final
While the junior championship may be the lowest rung on the championship ladder on display this weekend, there is no one who doubts that there will be any less heart and ambition used in this weekend’s semi final. One thing for sure ahead of this weekend’s action is that none of the sides is here just to make up the numbers. Both games get under way at 5pm on Saturday, with Islandeady and Louisburgh coming together in Westport, and Lahardane and Parke meeting in Knockmore. Islandeady have been battling to come out of this grade for a number of years and the recent success of both their minors and u21 teams shows the potential is there for the future. Vinny Feeney has been in great form for them up front while Ollie Feeney at the back has been a rock. However Brian McCormack will be a big loss as he misses the game with an arm injury. Louisburgh are a side who were used to operating in the senior championship before being dumped through the championship trap door in recent years, the seasiders have been working hard to regain their former status and the likes of Jarlath O’Malley and Stephen O’Grady have been key to this charge, but it might not be enough on Saturday.
In the other semi-final some spice has been added to an already tasty encounter with two former Lahardane players Mervyn Marley and James Gillespie in the Parke team. Lahardane’s win in the quarter final over The Neale was a bit of a surprise and they will be out to upset the odds again on Saturday, but Parke look to be too strong. Simon Cloherty has shown through the years that he is a top class forward, and shone for West Mayo in the senior championship earlier this year, and his accuracy could go a long way to deciding the outcome.