Ballagh in with a good shout of dethroning champions

I missed the semi-finals of this year’s senior championship so I am basing my judgment on information I got from friends, many of whom are far more expert than I. The consensus is that Ballaghaderreen have a fantastic chance of dethroning the county champions. I assume that judgement is based on the semi-final in which Ballintubber looked very ordinary in their lucky victory over Crossmolina.

It has the makings of an intriguing final and one I am eagerly looking forward to. I noticed last night that the forecast for Sunday is good, so hopefully both junior and senior finals will provide us with ‘edge of the seat’ entertainment.

Buckley the man to fill O’Neill’s shoes?

On the inter-county scene, I believe senior manager James Horan was spotted in Ennis last Monday night. He must have been meeting with Donie Buckley, the former Kerry trainer, to see if he will come on board next year. The retired Clare County Council engineer normally heads to the United States for three months at this time of the year to, believe it or not, up skill his coaching techniques. He has been doing so for years. The affable Castle Island Desmond’s man would be quite a coup for Horan and I believe the deal is more or less signed sealed and, to be, delivered.

Player development is the key to success

I had a lot of GAA exposure last Sunday. I am assisting with the coaching of the Castlebar Mitchell’s u15’s at the moment. We trained at 10.30am last Sunday morning. It is a task I enjoy thoroughly as the young lads are hugely interested in developing their skills and simply love playing football. We had a squad of 20 in Moygownagh for a match while another 18 trained locally. I am involved with underage football since this time last year (u14’s last season ) and am hugely enthusiastic about the quality of young footballers I have seen throughout the county. I cannot wait to see how some of these young lads develop over the next few years and I really do believe, if the clubs can manage to create the proper environment in which this talent can be nurtured, that the future is very bright for the county.

I see also where the County Board have launched a Mayo Senior Development Academy earlier this week. This is a fantastic development and something that, for some inexplicable reason, was not allowed to proceed on a number of occasions previously. I suppose better late than never. The creation of this high performance culture will see the best 19-year-old footballers in the county invited to participate in a structure that will expose them to specialised coaching with individual strength and conditioning programmes for all participants.

They will also receive nutritional advice alongside other educational support and direction. There will be a series of workshops throughout the season to monitor progress in the programme followed by a skills and team assessment later on in the season. This is a win-win scenario for all. It is a fantastic opportunity for some of our best young footballers to be provided with a proper coaching structure by qualified experts. The county will then, hopefully, have a conveyor belt of quality footballers who will be better prepared for inter-county football.

I hopped straight from the training field over to a side pitch in Castlebar Mitchels to see Crossmolina play the local club in a senior league match. Crossmolina were, and still are, languishing near the bottom of the table and desperately needed the points to avoid relegation to intermediate league football. The Mitchels on the other hand were joint top of the table coming into this one and, perhaps, expected to prevail on their home patch to keep themselves in the hunt for a trophy. Both sides were without many regulars but that didn’t in any way prevent us from witnessing a match that was hugely exciting right to the very end. Crossmolina prevailed by a single point and were fully deserving of their victory. Gabriel Walsh was immense for Crossmolina at midfield. I think this guy began playing the decade before the decade before this one, but he played this game as if his life depended on the result. He was as vigorous as ever and typified a spirit and an attitude that was both uplifting and inspirational to his playing colleagues. With this guy on board Crossmolina should have no problem surviving in the senior ranks.

Charlestown won, because they were the better team

I popped home for some nourishment before making my way back into McHale Park for the county intermediate final. Charlestown won this final because they were a better team and played with wise heads. They recognised the potential threat of Burrishoole’s danger man, forward Jason Doherty, so they populated this area with an extra player (Enda Casey ) ensuring the Burrishoole player lived off scraps of possession. But Charlestown had better footballers spread right throughout the park and, in particular, Tony Mulligan at full-forward who was immense throughout. Mulligan is a tall fella and you would expect him to be good in the air, but some of his high fielding was on a par with the best you would see in the AFL. This guy is definitely worth a look for a Green and Red shirt at some level of competition. This said, the game never really sparkled and, as occasionally happens in finals for various reasons, teams can play way below their best. Charlestown will not mind however, but I believe they were not overly enamoured with the fact that they are out again this Sunday in the Connacht championship.

Armstrong let so many people down

The big low point in the last two weeks was the Lance Armstrong story. I read his book many years ago and it was inspirational on so many levels. He appeared to be an athlete who was simply on a different level to all the others. I suppose he was remarkable in many ways as he was still able to win so many tours in a time when most of the other competitors, it seems, were also drugged up to their eye balls. Still it is not a nice feeling to see a cyclist I had greatly admired being exposed as having been engaged in "the most sophisticated, professionalised and successful doping program that sport has ever seen".


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