The first weekend of the new year is coming up and for the 2013 Super League champions, Ballina Town there is no rest in store for them as they make the long trip to Kerry to take on Castleisland Celtic in the fifth round of the FAI Junior Cup final. Ballina Town manager Fergal Forde has had to deal with a number of key players bowing out of action during 2013, but it has not dimmed his ambitions for his side. “We’ve also had to deal with a couple of retirements since the end of the Mayo league season with Philip Devers retiring and Keith Duffy moving on, also have goalkeeper Emmett Payton gone now too. We’ve a good squad, but will have a very young bench going down there, but they are all good lads coming up from the under 18s and they are the future of the club.”
It has been a few weeks since Ballina Town have had a game and that brings its own problems for Forde as he has to keep his side motivated while not having the carrot of a game each weekend. “It’s been hard when you look at the fact your training every week for a game every three weeks, the motivation is there, but it can be tough to keep it going. We’re training away but it’s the games that you need, coming from summer soccer it can be difficult, the fitness levels are there, but match fitness can catch you out near the end, but the lads are all ready to go for it on Sunday.”
The best of the best left at this stage
As for this Sunday’s opponents and the rest of the sides left in the competition, Forde knows that nothing is going to be easy in Kerry on Sunday. “You’ll get minimal information about opposition like this at this time of the year, but then it’s probably the same for them. It’s a long haul going down there, around four hours. We’re going down on the morning of the game and that brings its own things with them. But there is a great buzz about the place ahead of the game. You’re up against the cream of the crop at this level, but there is a great incentive to win. It’s a great competition and if we get through this, we’ll have a home game against one of the Dublin sides here in Ballina which would be nice. Last year we had Killbarrick come here and we held with them right until the last 10 minutes of the game, and they are a top quality side who have gone on to the very latter stages of the competition in the last couple of years.” Ballina Town kick off at 2pm on Sunday against Castleisland Celtic.
There are three other Mayo sides in external action this weekend, with Westport United looking to make it into round four of the Connacht Junior Cup when they take on Aughannagh Celtic in the Sportspark on Sunday at 2pm, and in the Connacht Shield round three action it is an all Mayo affair where Killala host Straide and Foxford United B at 2pm.