It is back to the cut and thrust of championship football for the final four sides in both the intermediate and junior championship this weekend. The action gets under way on Saturday evening with a junior championship double header in Mayo GAA headquarters, and Ardnaree and Lahardane meeting in the first semi-final at 5pm, with Cill Chomain and Louisburgh meeting in the second game at 6.30pm.
Ardnaree, who have made the junior final three times since 2009 without making the breakthrough, will be really hoping this is year is their year. The struggled early on against Ballina B in their quarter-final and expect a similar start against Lahardane, and they will find it hard to bridge any gap against Shane Hopkins’ men. Ardanree’s experience of winning at this stage of the competition should prove invaluable for Hugh Lynn’s side, but they are going into the game with a number of injury worries, and the likes of Michael Walsh and Kevin Newell will be key men that Lynn will look to perform at their top level to get them over the line.
Lahardane saw off Castlebar Mitchels B in their quarter-final by five points, and have a few injury worries themselves. Gabriel Walsh, Cormac Rowland, and Adrian Leonard will be looked to on Saturday to get them going against last year’s beaten finalists, this should be a cracking game of football to kick off a big weekend of games in Castlebar.
The second junior semi-final sees another clash of west and north Mayo, between Louisburgh and Cill Chomain. The north Mayo men were relegated from the intermediate championships last season and are looking to make the step back up straight away. Kieran Moran’s side had a tough battle against Ballintubber B in the last eight after freewheeling their way through the group stages of the competition. It was probably a battle they needed, to prepare themselves for this semi-final. Louisburgh also saw off another B team in their quarter-final, but they did so with ease putting four goals past Charlestown B as they cruised to a comprehensive win. Last Sunday, Pádraig Prendergast lit up Croke Park off the bench with a couple of memorable scores for the Mayo minors in their win over Monaghan and will be full of confidence ahead of Saturday’s game. Pádraic Walsh will be hoping his side can repeat the result of the league meeting between the sides which they won by three points.
Kiltane and Kilmaine favourites for final spots
The intermediate championship will take centre stage on Sunday in Castlebar with Kilmaine and Parke opening up the evening’s action at 5.30pm. The south Mayo side last got to the final of the competition four years ago and will see this as a big opportunity to make it back to within one game of senior football. They go into the game as favourites with the likes of Pat Casey, and Brian Maloney, men who have experience at the top level in the game, while Darragh Doherty was in fine form for the Mayo minors last weekend. Parke though will not go down without a fight and are a sticky side that will not be shaken off easily. Michael Durkan will be looking to the likes of Simon Cloherty, Declan Neary, Seán McHale, and Dwayne Flynn to lead their charge for a final spot.
The second semi-final sees this year’s championship favourites Kiltane square up against last year’s junior champions The Neale. While staying in intermediate football after such a long wait to win the junior championship would have seemed from the outset to be a good year for The Neale to most, they have really gone for it again this year. Their win over Moy Davitts in the quarter-final would have been a surprise to most, but Paul Keane’s men were very good value for it. Keane will be hoping that Sean Cosgrove and Eoin Hughes will be two of his key men to stand up on Sunday.
As for Kiltane, they targeted a return to senior football from almost as soon as they dropped out of the top level late last season. They have a number of players who can take this game by the scruff of the neck, Tommy Conroy and Mikey Sweeney would be a threat to any defence in their forward line, while Shane Lindsey, John Reilly, and Ultan Corrigan are all top players who will be expected to put in big games.