On Sunday evening, Ardnaree and Cill Chomain will do battle for the right to bring the Pete McDonnell Cup home with them for the winter. For the men in green and gold, it will be their fourth junior final in five years and a chance to exercise the demons from those defeats. In 2009 Kiltimagh defeated them on their way to a day out in Croke Park in the All Ireland junior club final, while in 2011 it was Islandeady who came out on top in the county grounds and most dramatically last year, The Neale emerged victorious after a replay against Ardnaree after a Seán Ramsgrove goal deep in injury time in the replay forced the game into extra time where the south-Mayo men ended up winning by five points.
But Ardnaree keep coming back and once again they have made their way to the final day of the junior championship as they look to claim the title for the first time in 42 years and move up into the intermediate grade for next season.
Former Crossmolina manager Hugh Lynn has taken over the controls this year and guided his side through the group stages, then a tough battle against neighbours Ballina Stephenites and then Lahardane in the semi-final to get back to within 60 minutes of glory for Ardnaree. Lynn has a number of quality players on Sunday he will be looking towards to perform, with Mayo senior panelist Michael Walsh the key man in the middle of the park. Others like Shane Timlin who grabbed two goals in their semi-final win over Lahardane will be needed to spur on his side again. While Kevin Newell and Noel Beattie will be the key men in attack for Hugh Lynn’s side. At the back Conor Naylor will be looked to along with captain Pat Lacken to provide protection to Blaine Ginty’s goal, if Ardnaree are to exercise the ghost of their recent final appearances.
Big performances needed
As for Cill Chomain, Kevin Moran is the man in charge of the Glenamoy-based outfit this year and he has guided them out of the group stages and on to a quarter-final victory over Ballintubber, before they disposed of the challenge of a young Louisburgh side at the second attempt in the semi-final two weeks ago. Moran also has the experience of his opposing manager’s old trainer Jarlath Cunningham on board to get his charges into top shape.
The big news ahead of their 2-14 to 0-11 win over Louisburgh in the semi-final replay was the return to club colours of goalkeeper Fintan Ruddy who came home from Australia. The former Mayo senior man, along with possessing a steady pair of hands also has one of the longest kicks in the game and will be a huge threat from long range frees to the Ardnaree men. James McAndrew is another man who Moran will be looking for to exert an influence on the game, while Martin Geraghty’s eye for goal in the full forward line could be a decisive factor over the 60 minutes. At the back David Coyle and Matthew Burke will have to be on their toes in the heart of the defence.
The action gets underway in Elvery’s MacHale Park at 4.30pm on Sunday afternoon and it promises to be a real cracker of the game with not much between the sides. Both sides are operating out of Division 1C of the Mayo senior league this season, with Ardnaree in second place in the table and Cill Chomain in seventh, but they’ve a few games in hand and the sides have not met in the league this year yet. It should come down to the wire, but Ardnaree may just have enough experience built up over the last few finals to have luck on their side this time.