Back to basics in weekend of championship action

With dreams of Sam, put to one side for another year last weekend. It is back to the real heart of the GAA this weekend when the Mayo club championships thunder back into action at the quarter final stage. McHale Park on Saturday and Sunday is the place to be with a double header on the first day and the Sabbath day serving up a triple header of action in the county ground.

The meeting of Knockmore and Ballaghaderreen in the first of the Treanlaur Catering Mayo Senior Football Championship quarter-finals, kicking off at 4.30pm on Saturday. Ray Dempsey’s men have picked up their season from the floor after they were beaten by Kiltane in the first round of games and followed it up with wins over Ballinrobe and Breaffy to claim top spot in their group. Ballaghaderreen under the guidance of Kieran Gallagher look to be coming back to their best, but they did suffer a heavy defeat at the hands of Castlebar in the last round of games. A caveat must be added that they already had their place in the last eight booked before that game. Knockmore have a potentially devastating inside forward line of Aidan Kilcoyne and Damien Munnelly, while Trevor Howley and Kevin McLoughlin add guile and power in other areas. Kevin O’Neill did not start last time out for the Knockmore men, but when he came on he showed he has lost none of his sharpness and game awareness and is still a force to be reckoned with at this level. Ballaghaderreen will be looking to Andy Moran for inspiration and if he can pick up where he left off for Mayo this summer he will take some stopping.

The second offering on Saturday is the meeting of Ballina Stephenites and Breaffy at 6pm. John Healy’s Ballina men did not get off to the best of starts in the group stages, losing to Shrule Glencorrib, but they managed to put together back to back wins in the final two games to top their group. With David Clarke out through injury, Healy could find himself back between the posts for his side on Saturday evening. With Ronan McGarrity back in harness in the middle of the park and Ger Cafferkey’s stock on the rise following a fine display on Kieran Donaghy last Sunday, Ballina will be in confident mood ahead of the game. For Breaffy’s part they can call on three of Mayo’s starters from last weekend, with Robert Hennelly in goal and the O’Shea brothers likely to make up their midfield paring. Defeat to Knockmore in their last group game after wins over Ballinrobe and Kiltane saw them slip into second place in the group and leaves a few more questions to be answered come Saturday. It is the third time in four years that they have made the last eight but they have never gone any further. Come Saturday evening they will have to be at their very best if they are to change that record.

On Sunday the defending county champions Ballintubber will go in as favourites against Shrule Glencorrib whom they beat en route to last year’s final when the sides meet at 3pm. Ballintubber know how to win and have been doing so more or less come hell or high water for the past two years. Alan Dillon will be the orchestrator for them on Sunday, with Cillian and Padraic O’Connor along with Danny Geraghty and Jason Gibbons the other key men for them. For the borderline men, they will have to shake off losing to Tourmakeady last time. Ger Butler will have his work cut out. But with Trevor Mortimer, who looked to be back to his combative best last Sunday in Croke Park, and Mark Ronaldson more than capable of conjuring something out of nothing at this level, and a returning to fitness of Conor Mortimer in the side, they could spring a surprise on Sunday.

The last game on Sunday also promises to be a treat, with two former Mayo managers walking the line against each other. Pat Holmes has taken over Castlebar Mitchels this year and he will be pitting his wits against John Maughan and his Crossmolina Deel Rovers team in the last game of the day. Castlebar Mitchels on paper look to have everything that you would need to be county champions, but it is about delivering it on the field when it counts. Crossmolina are wily old hands who have been here before and done it all. But injury concerns to the likes of Ciaran McDonald, Peadar Gardiner, and Joe Keane jr are headaches that Maughan will have to deal with. Mitchels have the potential and will be looking to use this game as another step to going one better than last year.

Big battles in intermediate grade

Picking the winners of the intermediate championship is never an easy task. Burrishoole are rightly most people’s favourites to pick up the title this year having reached the final last time out and failing to really show up for the decider. On Sunday they will kick off the triple bill of action in McHale Park against Hollymount/Carramore at 1.30pm. Colm McManamon’s team should have more than enough to see off Jarlath Jennings’ side, with the likes of Jason Doherty, Liam O’Malley, and James Moran all players who can make a big impact at this grade. Before that game throws in on Sunday, Saturday will see the other three quarter finals down for decision. Crossmolina will host a double header where Cill Chomain and Parke will do battle in the first game at 4.30pm. The north Mayo men will go in as favourites against last year’s junior champions who qualified for this stage thanks to a last gasp draw in their final game. But Parke do have a couple of handy forwards who can prove a handful for any side.

The next game up after that is the meeting of Ballyhaunis and Belmullet at 6pm. The east Mayo men are tipped to come through this one as Belmullet continue to adjust to life without the likes of Billy Joe Padden and Stephen Carolan. Frank Browne’s side have looked good in a number of games this season with John Prenty leading the line and Keith Higgins the key man in defence for them. The final game in the last eight of the intermediate championship is the south Mayo derby meeting of Kilmaine and Davitts in Hollymount at 6.15pm. Both of these sides would be considered as potential champions and this game has the potential to be one of the games of the weekend with a real championship edge to it.

Who will jump up from junior?

The progress of last year’s champions Parke to the last eight of the intermediate championship will give all those still battling it out in the junior grade hope that they will be able to mix it in the grade above next year if they can win this year’s title. Islandeady will be hoping that this year is finally their year when they take on Castlebar Mitchels B in Breaffy on Saturday afternoon. A local derby is never an easy game to get over and with their first team flying a number of players on the Castlebar Mitchels B team will be eager to impress against Islandeady.

Ardnaree and Louisburgh will meet in a Kiltimagh contest that should have very little between them, while Ballintubber B will have their work cut out against a tough Lahardane side in Westport on Saturday night. The final last eight game of the weekend pits The Neale who made the final a couple of years ago against Ballina Stephenites B. Ballina won five out of five on their way to the knock out stages and will be tough opponents for the south Mayo side.

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