The colours may be from the opposite ends of the spectrum, but come Sunday afternoon in McHale Park the black of Davitts and the white of Burrishoole will collide for 60 minutes of all or nothing action.
For Burrishoole, they have been waiting 19 years to lay their hands on the Sweeney cup, for Davitts it is 30 years since the borderline club celebrated an intermediate championship win.
Since the full time whistle was blown in last year’s final, Burrishoole have been waiting for this Sunday’s game. They went into last year’s final as favourites to take home the honours, but they came undone against a hard working Tourmakeady side.
Come the New Year and Burrishoole were installed as favourites once again, they went through the group stages winning all three games and scoring 4-30 in their three games against Kilmaine, Swinford, and Bonniconlon. It took them two attempts to get over Hollymount-Carramore at the last eight stage. But they put Ballyhaunis to the sword in the semi-final running out 11 point winners on a score of 2-12 to 0-7.
Davitts similarly blitzed their way through the group stages beating Hollymount-Carramore, Kiltimagh, and Killala to claim maximum points. Over the course of the three games they scored 3-35, but conceded 2-29, and despite finishing with maximum points the only team in the group to have a worse scoring difference was bottom placed Killala. The quarter finals saw them see off Kilmaine by three points and Parke-Keelogues-Crimlin by the same margin in the semi-final. Davitts looked to have had that game wrapped up early in the second half when they went nine points clear, but took their foot off the gas and Parke nearly reeled them back in at the end.
Battle of the brains on the sideline
The sideline battle on Sunday will be an interesting ingredient to the overall flavour of the game. Colm McManamon is back in the banisteoir’s bib for Burrishoole this year and he will be pitting his wits against former Galway selector Pete Warren who has taken over Davitts this year. Warren has overseen a side which on paper always had the potential to make the break through at this grade, but failed to deliver to bring them to within 60 minutes of laying their hands on silverware. McManamon, who was for so long an inspirational leader on the field for his side, will be using all his leadership skills from the sideline this time.
Big performances needed from big players
Both sides have a number of marquee players they will be looking to, to deliver the goods on Sunday. Burrishoole will be hoping that Liam O’Malley will be 100 per cent fit on Sunday to take his spot in defence after missing the vast majority of the season through injury. Former Mayo minor Shane McDermott has captained the side from the half forward line this year, while Jason Doherty, who lit up Mayo’s National League campaign with seven goals, will provide a serious goal threat in their inside forward line. Other players like Adrian McManamon and James Moran are also more than capable of making a serious impact on the contest.
Davitts will be captained by Michael Conroy, who as a teenager scored 1-1 for Mayo in the 2004 All Ireland final after coming on as a sub. He has rediscovered his form this year and has been leading from the front for his side, and also put in an impressive season with the Mayo junior team during the summer. Colm Boyle has been operating at centre half back and is another man who has had inter-county experience with Mayo in the past few years. They can also call on experienced players like David McDonnagh and Ronan McNamara to try to take the game by the scruff of the neck if needed.
Last year’s experience should stand to the Burrishoole men and make sure that they have plenty of inspiration to draw on come game time. But Davitts have shown that they have the football in them when needed to take on all comers. Neither side has met this year in the league, with Burrishoole currently rock bottom of division 1a and Davitts sitting on top of division 1b. League form will not count for anything at this stage of the year, but last year’s hurt should be just enough of a driving force to see Burrishoole over the line.