While Christms is only around the corner the never-ending road that is Mayo soccer continues apace this weekend. Last weekend saw the Oscar Traynor side slip into the knock-out stages of the competition, this weekend the attention turns to the FAI Junior Cup. Both Castlebar Celtic and Manulla will be looking to make it into round six of the competition while Westport United and Mulranny United will battle it out to escape into the national stages of the competition.
Castlebar Celtic manager Declan Kilkelly, fresh from guiding Mayo to a hard fought 1-0 win over the Galway League last weekend, will be taking care of business back at home this weekend with Castlebar Celtic. Celtic face a long trip away to Holycross to face Rathkeale FC from the Desmond League in Limerick on Sunday in what will be Kilkelly’s first out-of-county test in the Junior Cup since he took over as senior club manager earlier this year. Kilkelly will be hoping that his experience of guiding the club’s youth side to FAI Cup success in 2007 will rub off on his players as they set out on the potentially long road to the junior cup.
The youths that brought the club the ultimate success in their grade in 2007 will be backboning the side, with the likes of Ger O’Boyle, Peter Dravins, Pat Fitzgerald and Shane Smyth all players who have shone in the competition so far for the Hoops. But there is plenty of experience in the side with Fintan McHale and Declan Flynn plugging the gaps in the midfield, while Sean McHale, Andy Neary and Ronan O’Boyle are all players who if they hit top gear will be able to give the leadership needed to see the Castlebar side through to the next round. However, Celtic will be forced to line up without the experienced Stevie Ryan whose commitment to the cause is second to none and will be a big miss for the side.
The Limerick side are currently sitting in fourth place in their league and saw off the challenge of Ballinagarry in the last round of the competition, Celtic have provend in this competition over the last number of years to be a side who can go places, but the open draw stages of the competition can throw up a lot of interesting encounters against sides clubs might not know too much about, and with home advantage in their favour this is sure to be a tough encounter for the Hoops.
Manulla look for magic
Manulla are the sleeping giant of Mayo football, capable on their day of putting it up to the best in the league and on others losing to sides they should beat and they have been hovering in the midtable positions for the past number of seasons. The have gone trophyless since their 2002 Mayo FA Challenge Cup win. There is plenty of experience in the for of Dessie Campbell, Barry Cuffe and Roger Clarke, who have all seen plenty of action in this competition down through the years and will be key to guiding some of the younger players through the game. The youngsters like Cillian McGlade, Michéal Jennings and Enda McGahan have all done well recently and they will be hoping to carry it on this weekend. Their opponents this weekend are Dublin outfit Ballymun who caused a bit of a stir in the competition when they saw off last seasons finalists Killester in the last round. Ballymun themselves are no strangers to success in this competition having won the cup in 2000 and will be a very stern test for Manulla, who will be hoping this season to see some of the success they have received for their off-field exploits transferrd onto the pitch.
Westport United, the only side to have won the competition, will be favourites to make it into the national stages of the comepetition when they take on Mulranny United this Sunday. The 2005 winners and current Super League champions have not really recaptured their form from 2004 and 2005 in recent years in this comeptition, but in reality there is no way that anyone could see them losing out to their fellow west Mayo side this weekend. Padraig Burns and the rest of the management team would love nothing more than to claim this title again and they will have the side well prepared for this tie.
Mayo march on
A win was what was needed and a win is what they got, the task was that simple for Mayo last weekend, nothing but a win and you’re out. Declan Kilkelly’s side put in a fine performace on the immaculate Milebush surface to see off a testing Galway League side in the final group game of the Oscar Traynor Trophy. Dessie O’Malley was the man who struck the decisive strike early in the second half. O’Malley has been one of the most outstanding talents in the Mayo league for the past number of years and once again he didn’t disappoint on the big occasion. It was a very solid team performance from a Mayo side who were short of a few numbers due to injury but the 11 who took to the field did their all. The defence of Tom O’Connor, Ger O’Boyle, and Westport duo Martin Geraght and Joe Lawless at the heart of it all were rock solid. Stevie Gavin and Alan McDonnell anchored the midfield well, while Brendan Nallen and Gerry McLoughlin worked well up and down the flanks. O’Malley and Ronan O’Boyle toiled away to no end upfront and led the line superbly all day. A good display all around and a good win for Kilkelly and his Mayo selection, the knock-out stages beckon in the new year.