Kiltane come knocking for more glory

Hurling Hero: Derek McDonnell, Mayo, receives his 2013 GAA GPA Christy Ring Cup award from Uachtarán Chumann Lúthchleas Gael Liam Ó Néill. GAA GPA All-Star Awards 2013 Sponsored by Opel, Croke Park, Dublin. Photo: Sportsfile

Hurling Hero: Derek McDonnell, Mayo, receives his 2013 GAA GPA Christy Ring Cup award from Uachtarán Chumann Lúthchleas Gael Liam Ó Néill. GAA GPA All-Star Awards 2013 Sponsored by Opel, Croke Park, Dublin. Photo: Sportsfile

A couple of minutes into the second half of their Connacht semi-final against Rosses Point/Drumcliffee it looked as if Kiltane had their place in this year’s provincial final wrapped up and tucked in the luggage compartment of the team bus and on the road home to Erris. But Martin Barrett’s men were made to sweat right until the final whistle in MacHale Park a few weeks ago, as a combination of taking their eye off the game and the Sligo champions refusing to go away saw Kiltane just hang on by the skin of their teeth to set up this Sunday’s meeting with the Roscommon champions Boyle in the county grounds in Castlebar.

The trips to Castlebar have become second nature to Barrett and his squad this year as they made their way back up to the senior ranks and collected the intermediate championship. Their opponents on Sunday have been on a similar trajectory by winning both the county intermediate championship and gaining promotion back up to the top division of league football for 2014 under the guidance of their manager David O’Connor. Kiltane booked their place in division 1a of the Mayo senior league for next year when they beat Westport last weekend.

There has been no real let up for Kiltane since the end of the summer with the action coming thick and fast both inside and outside the county, Sunday will be their third Connacht championship game since defeating Kilmaine in the county final in early autumn and they have been kept busy with plenty of league action over the last few weeks.

On Sunday they will be without the services of Stephen Sweeney who was sent off in their semi-final win a fortnight ago, which will cause Martin Barrett to reshuffle the decks at bit at the back. With John Scanlon back on board recently along with Tony Gaughan, with both men returning from playing in London in recent years, Kiltane still have a fine defensive line to call on. In midfield the towering duo of John Reilly and Jason Healy are as good as you will find at this level. But the man everyone was talking about after their semi-final win was Mikey Sweeney, the Kiltane attacker put on an exhibition of attacking football, taking his scores with aplomb and moving the ball around the forward line with gusto. Sweeney, along with Tommy Conroy, Edmund Barrett, and Shane Lindsay forms a potent attacking unit that will test the Roscommon side’s defence to their wits’ end on Sunday.

Boyle have been as impressive in Roscommon and outside it as Kiltane were in Mayo this year, with players like Sean Purcell, Enda Smith, Mark O’Connor, and Darren O’Connor all in fine form recently. However they have an injury concern in the shape of star forward Donal Smith who picked up a knock in u21 action recently. They come into Sunday’s game on the back of a massive win against Leitrim champions Eslin running out 4-25 to 1-5 winners, and Kiltane will be hoping that their sterner test in their semi-final will give them the advantage over David O’Connor’s side.

On Sunday evening not long after 3.30pm the north Mayo men will be hoping they will follow in the footsteps of Charleston and Davitts in recent years and add a Connacht title to their Mayo one, then come the spring time and the All Ireland semi-final it is all there for them once again.

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