All roads lead to Castlebar on Sunday for Mayo’s showcase football final. The proximity of the two clubs with brothers and cousins being on opposite teams makes it intriguing to say the least. Barry Moran being fit for the Mitchels is a must to combat the power of the O’Shea brothers. I expect Castlebar to have the resources to shut out the threat of Alan Durcan, Liam Irwin, and co, and don’t expect them to get the same freedom they were afforded in the semi-final win over Charlestown. However Breaffy have a mean back line themselves and a very hard working half forward line to boot. I still think Castlebar hold the aces up front, and in Neil Douglas, Neil Lydon, and Richie Feeney they have three top drawer forwards. It is simple, the mid field battle decides who wins the game. If Castlebar break even in the middle their superior forward line will see them through. The bookies see this as a foregone conclusion, I am not so sure it’s that straightforward. Castlebar at 10/11 to start at -2 is the bet of the weekend.
A brilliant first half display by Kiltane in the Connacht Intermediate championship saw them ease past a very disappointing Menlough of Galway. That is two years in a row Mayo champions have easily disposed of their Galway counterparts. I expect big things from Kiltane this year and even next, and they possess a pretty lethal forward in Mikey Sweeney. Davitts’ run in this competition two years ago plucked Michael Conroy and Colm Boyle from the inter-county wilderness, culminating with Boyle playing for his country last weekend. Who knows we may see Mikey Sweeney in the Mayo colours next year.
All-Star nominations throw up a few surprises
The All-Star nominations always throw up huge debate and from a Mayo point of view I was disappointed Alan Freeman did not get nominated. If you go back through his championship campaign you will find he deserved a nomination. Let’s be honest, did Lorcan Mulvey the London player have a better year than Alan Freeman - simple answer no. London created their own piece of history but sentimentality won the day for Mulvey and that is not what the All-Stars are about. Mayo have six defenders with high hopes, I expect three to make the team. The fact Keith Higgins is named for a corner back spot is bad news for Ger Cafferky, Donal Vaughan and Chris Barrett as I expect to see Lee Keegan and Colm Boyle join Higgins in the team. It is a straight shoot out between Seamus and Aiden O’Shea to see who partners Michael Darragh McCauley, and Cillian O’Connor will win his first award after twice receiving the young player of the year. It is not good from a Mayo perspective to have only one forward nominated despite being in an All-Ireland final.
Not enough compromise from some
Normally the compromise rules would get my pulse racing, anticipating watching the cream of Irish and Australian sportsmen square up against each other with the odd little skirmish thrown in here and there, but not this time. I have to admire the four Mayo lads who all did their bit last weekend but here is my gripe. The Irish captain Michael Murphy was put in a precarious position ultimately having to decide to go hammer and tongs for his country the night before the biggest club game in Donegal. Lucky for him he stayed injury free and his club won the county title. Imagine if he picked up an injury playing for Ireland and his club lost the following day, he would not be welcome back in Glenswilly. Sean Cavanagh’s case is a little more bizarre. His club Moy were in a relegation playoff against Eglish (Cormac McAnallen’s club ) and the Tyrone county board fixed this game for last Saturday at 4pm, a water logged pitch meant he could play for his country. Bearing in mind Cavanagh has been one of Tyrone’s greatest players and the compromise rules cup is named after his former team mate - Cormac McAnallen it’s a very strange decision for the Tyrone hierarchy to deprive Cavanagh the chance to represent Ireland. It seems in the compromise rules there is no compromise between Croke Park and the county boards. Surely someone can sit down and pick two weekends of the year that frees players to represent their country without upsetting their clubs. It is the players I feel sorry for who had to make the decisions, and a few high profile individuals did not even take up the invite of trials which leads me to think the compromise rules may have run its course. I am sure Declan Reilly was a nervous wreck watching Aiden O’Shea playing for Ireland. Unfortunately for the player he cannot take part this weekend because of his clubs first county final appearance. He simply should not be in that predicament. Thankfully for Breaffy he came through unscathed last weekend.