There is a busy weekend of action in store on the local junior soccer scene in Mayo. Four Mayo sides will be in action in the FAI Junior Cup fifth round, with two more in Connacht Junior Cup third round contests and one side in the Connacht Junior Shield.
In the FAI Junior Cup, Westport United will square off against City United, Ballina Town will travel to Avenue United, Castlebar Celtic will make the trek to St Peters FC, while Kiltimagh/Knock United will also hit the road when they go to Wilton FC. In the Connacht Junior Cup, both Iorras Aontaithe and Conn Rangers will also be on the road facing Craughwell United and Oranmore respectively. In the Connacht Junior Shield Moy Villa will host Oranbay 90.
The one Mayo side to have a home time in the FAI Junior Cup is Westport United, who will welcome Sligo side City United to the Sportspark. Westport United manager Barry Kilgannon is looking forward to the challenge of taking on the Sligo side. “It’s going to be a tough game, but I suppose fortunately for us that the weather has levelled the playing field out a bit for us this term,” he said. “Normally at this time of the year the Mayo sides are at a disadvantage because the other leagues are in full swing but this year the weather has seen most of them not get much football either.”
With the external competitions taking place mostly in the off season for the Mayo League it can be difficult to keep teams motivated in the weeks between games, but Kilgannon is happy with his side’s preparation. “We’ve been training straight through since the end of October when we could and we’ve been working hard. It can be tough to get friendlies though too. We were supposed to have one last Sunday but we had to call it off because of a combination of factors including the weather. But we’ve been moving well and the Manulla game the last week also helped.”
Kilgannon’s preparations have been hampered by a number of injuries to key players over the past while. “We have a few like Danny Scahill, Dave Hoban, and Martin Geraghty who will probably be out and we also have a doubt over Gerry McLoughlin. They are all key players who will be big holes to fill if they don’t make it. But we have been working on bringing through a number of new younger players over the past year, they have all stepped up to the mark when called upon and I’d have no fear of them not being able to do it again.”
With a new Mayo League season just around the corner, Kilgannon welcomed the return of Castlebar Celtic’s strongest team to the league, but was also very critical of the new make up of the Super League. “It’s good for football in the Mayo League to have Celtic back in the competition. But the new make up of the league I think is ill-conceived and ill-judged. I don’t see any sense in a eight team league, you’re turning it into a mini-blitz, not a league. If one team starts flying out the gate and wins five or six on the trot, if you’re chasing them and lose or even draw a game you’re going to end up so far behind. You only had to look at last year — two of the teams who went down, Ballyheane and Straide, and Foxford United gave us two of the toughest games we had all year and now their gone from the league. I don’t see the logic in having an eight team league.”