It was a weekend for shocks and surprises last weekend as the two teams who have won the last three Moclair cups between them bowed out at the quarter-final stage. The biggest surprise of the weekend arguably was Breaffy’s victory over Ballaghaderreen in the first of Sunday’s games.
After getting off to a shaky first five minutes, Declan O’Reilly’s men grasped control of the game and drove on to a victory that never really looked in doubt, once they pulled themselves level at the break. Backboned by Mayo’s midfield pairing of Aidan and Seamus O’Shea, with Robert Hennelly in fine form in goal, Breaffy pushed on for a three point win, which if they took their chances could have been an even bigger victory. But there were plenty of other stars on the day for the blues, with Micheal Jennings putting in a fine showing at the back, while Rory Martyn and Tommy O’Reilly put in good shifts in the half-forward line and Alan Durcan kicking six points over the hour.
The second of Sunday’s double header, saw Knockmore take the game to Ballintubber from the off and never taking the foot off the pedal. The fact that Knockmore had to do so without Aidan Kilcoyne who suffered a freak knee injury before throw-in was even more impressive. In the injured Kilcoyne’s absence Declan Sweeney rolled back the years with a dominant display at full forward and Shane McHale was masterful at centre-half back. It was a victory that Nigel Reape’s men full deserved.
Castlebar Mitchels kept up their side of the bargain of being favourites with a devastating display against Ballina Stephenites hitting 1-20 over the hour and will be disappointed that it wasn’t even more. Barry Moran towered in the middle of the park for the county town men, while Neil Douglas and James Durcan were impressive in attack. Pat Holmes was also able to leave players of the quality of Tom Cunniffe and Alan Feeney on the bench until the second half. The contest between Charlestown and Garrymore looked to be the closest one to call before the weekend, but Denis Kearney’s side were just far to good for their south Mayo opponents with Tom Parsons putting in a huge performance over the hour, dominating the midfield area. Martin Mulvaney kicked 1-5 in attack and Aidan Higgins was able to control the defence with confidence and ease while he was on the field.
Charlestown get tangled up with blues
The action moves on to the semi-final stage this Sunday, with Breaffy and Charlestown meeting at 1.30pm and Castlebar Mitchels and Knockmore meeting straight after at 3pm in McHale Park. All eyes in the first game will be on the midfield battle between the two O’Shea’s and Tom Parsons and his partner Sean Morris. Parson’s put in a man-of-the match display against Garrymore last week and the former Mayo man will be keen to put it up to his former green and red colleagues on Sunday. While Morris is a quality foil for Parsons high-fielding style, the combination of Aidan and Seamus O’Shea should have an advantage in this area, with Seamus in particular in a fine run of form at the moment and he was in rampaging form last time out. The Charlestown forward trio of Richard Haran, Colm Maye and Martin Mulvaney were in sparkling form in their quarter-final landing 2-10 of their sides 2-17 total and will require watching. In the Breaffy defence, the tight marking Kevin Schaill along with the athletic David Gavin and Micheal Jennings will have to be on top form, to snuff out these threats, while the pacy Michael Hall and the physical Brian Howley offer them plenty outlets to launch attacks.
Alan Durcan kicked six points for Breaffy against Ballaghaderreen while Tommy O’Reilly and Gerry Jennings running game will pose a threat to the Charlestown back six. But even if they are able to keep those three quiet, the imposing Liam Irwin along with team captain Marty McNicholas still pose a potent threat to John Marren’s goal. Charlestown had to do with out the solid Darragh McMeel for last weekends quarter final with Sean Lenehan dropping back to the full-back position. Lenehan, Higgins and Enda Casey will have to be on their toes from the off to curb the Breaffy attack if it gets going.
Breaffy may have moved into the favourites tag for this game thanks to their win over the champions, but Charlestown have plenty know-how and championship experience in their ranks to be more than capable of booking a final spot on Sunday it should be a fascinating encounter.
Favourites attempt to down the men from the north
Pat Holmes’ side have been marked out as championship favourites since the start of the year. Castlebar look to have such an embarrassment of riches to cover for all eventualities over the course of the game. They were by far the most impressive of the winners of last weekend’s games, but Holmes will have got his side to forget that and their concentration directed firmly on Sunday’s opponents. Barry Moran looked back to his best against Ballina, kicking five fine scores and dominating the middle of the park, while Danny Kirby offered an imposing presence in the full forward position, with Neil Douglas and James Durcan running amuck either side of him.
The youthful but quality full back line of Eoghan O’Reilly, Donal Newcombe and Ray O’Malley will be in for big test on Sunday when Declan Sweeney and Kevin McLoughlin come to town. But the Castlebar defence has been impressive this year and they won’t fear facing down the Knockmore attack. Barry Moran and whatever midfield partner Holmes selects beside him, will be squaring down against Knockmore captain Andrew Keane and probably Tom Clarke who partnered him last weekend. At the back, John Brogan and Kieran Langan will be corner stones of the Knockmore rearguard effort to stop the Mitchels attack. Much like the first game, this one looks like a tough encounter with Mitchels looking like shading it at the end, but write off Knockmore at your peril.