Kiltane are the 2013 Connacht Intermediate football champions after a very professional performance against Boyle of Roscommon last Sunday in Elvery's McHale Park. They were never really in danger in this game, albeit for a sloppy patch midway through the first half in which they conceded a goal and a point on the spin but that was as good as it got for Boyle. Kiltane are keeping the tradition going by being the third Mayo team in a row to win the Gene Byrne Cup. Little did they know the favours Davitt's and Charlestown did for them the two years previous by playing almost all of their games away from home resulting in the Mayo champs having three home games in this years provincial series. You cannot beat home advantage when you are entering the unknown. It is hard to believe this team could have been out of the championship if Drumcliff/ Rosses Point substitute Colin Ginty kept his head instead of fluffing his lines in the dying moments of the semi final when it looked easier to score. Upon such outcomes All-Irelands are won, most All-Ireland champions have a little bit of luck along the way and that most certainly was Kiltane’s. Their ambition now certainly has to be to claim more silverware in early 2014, a feat which Davitt’s and Charlestown failed to achieve.
The Kiltane victory was based on a solid backline who snuffed out the danger of a relatively dangerous Boyle forward line, keeping them scoreless for long periods and also contributing 2-02 of the final tally. Boyle, boosted by the advantage to have three Roscommon senior players in their ranks, played second fiddle all over the field. The dangerous Donal Smith was completely outplayed by the Kiltane defence and his brother Enda whom I expected to be the game changer had to play second fiddle to John Reilly who was majestic for Kiltane. I thoroughly enjoy watching a forward line work really hard and tackling, so watching the men from Erris was very pleasing. Testament to his performances of late Mikey Sweeney had a reasonably quiet game but still ended up with a goal and three points. Tommy Conroy was Kiltane’s best forward on this day. Onwards and upwards and a reasonably quiet Christmas for the players, that is if they stop celebrating at all.
I cannot wait to see Pat Holmes’ Castlebar pit their wits against All Ireland champions St Brigids who of course are coached by our very own Liam McHale. Castlebar were 15/2 to win the Connacht Championship before they played Corofin, now they are 15/8 which are reasonably good odds considering how impressive they were in Tuam. The bookies have Brigids at 11/2 to repeat last year’s feat of winning the All-Ireland, while Castlebar are a very inviting 14/1 to win the Andy Merrigan Cup. If they get over Sunday anything could happen. We will know in the first 10 minutes if St Brigids have the stomach for the fight as it is very tough to keep going year after year, they pretty much have had no let up for three years. I now know Castlebar will have the stomach. St Brigids are unbeaten in Roscommon and Connacht for three years — a very impressive record. Liam McHale told me they have the leisure of not having to go hammer and tongs to win the Roscommon Championship which in turn keeps them fresh, and their run over the last few years means they do not do any intensive pre season training. Let’s face it, this is a monumental task for the Mitchel’s but one they are capable of achieving, They have a very strong defence and a superb man marker in Tom Cuniffe who will snuff out any forward, I am sure Richie Feeney will find himself in his own backline on numerous occasions giving a digout to Eoghan O’Reilly, Patrick Durkin and co. If Barry Moran has ideas of displacing any of the O’Sheas next year for Mayo this is the game the county will want to see him bossing, playing very well, and contributing on the scoreboard which is always impressive for a midfielder. He and Aidan Walsh are up against two wily campaigners in Karl Mannion and Ian Kilbride who have been there and done it all at club level, but the Castlebar duo have the potential to at least break even at midfield. The telling factor will be if Neil Lydon, Tom King, and Neil Douglas get the scores against a resolute and experienced back line. I think they just might. Castlebar to sneak it by the slimmest of margins.
May I offer sincerest sympathies to Willie and the Feeley family of Claremorris on the tragic and untimely death of their son and brother Alan. A truly dedicated human being by all accounts on and off the field who played his last game against Charlestown the day before he fell ill. Our thoughts are with his family at this time.