Oh to have a crystal ball to see what fortunes lie ahead for Mayo football in 2014. One thing for sure, one Mayo club — Kiltane have a superb chance to claim one of the early pieces of silverware when they take on Truagh of Monaghan in the All-Ireland intermediate final in Croke Park on February 9, a feat my own club Charlestown should have accomplished last season but for some calamitous decisions when they were coasting against eventual winners Cookstown of Tyrone in the All- Ireland semi final. Kiltane were simply brilliant last Sunday. If you were to tell me before the game that star attacker Mikey Sweeney and Tommy “Goals” Conroy were not going to score against Clyda Rovers, I would have re-mortgaged the house on Clyda.
The Bangor Erris men were/are so well prepared by manager Martin Barrett it will take something special to beat them. He is coolness personified on the sideline; he never panics, tells it as it is and is very giving of his time to the local media. No doubt a job of some sort at inter county level awaits if he so wishes. They decided to play with the gale force breeze in Ballinasloe, It did not look like a good decision 20 minutes in, as they were struggling to maintain a three-point lead against a very tight Clyda defence of which Cork county players Ray Carey and Paudie Kissane are the mainstays. There is no question the game was won in those final 10 minutes of the first half when they scored a very impressive 2-4. The first an opportunistic strike by Ultan Corrigan, the second some brilliant individual skill by Shane Lindsay when it looked like it would be easier to take a point, he never panicked he took the ball through the heart of the Clyda defence and finished brilliantly to the net. I must apologise as the customary Casey roar was not heard on Midwest radio for the goals as my view of the Clyda goal-mouth was obscured by a large metal beam which in fact was holding up the stand. It took me until the second half to realise I had to open the press box door to see around the badly placed beam.
It was truly amazing that Kiltane who were struggling up front went in 10 points up. I am sure the lessons of the near capitulation against Drumcliff/Rosses Point in the Connacht championship were ringing in the players’ ears at half time. Barrett and co got the scare of their life that day; it was never going to happen again. The second half was a truly professional performance, killing the game when needed and any time Clyda seemed to offer a mini revival they nicked the odd point here and there. Tony Gaughan was instrumental at centre back, he nailed practically any Clyda player that came through the middle, and I don’t think Paudie Kissane was ever harassed as much in a game - even at county level. Gaughan was my worthy Man of the Match but in general it was a team victory. I predicted what seems like an age ago now that Kiltane would win this title, they are only one win away. I wonder if it happens will Pat Joe Gaughan wear his cerise boots up the steps of the Hogan Stand. Remember you read this here first, if Kiltane keep their team together they will not be far away from the Moclair Cup next October.
On the road again
All roads lead to Newbridge on Sunday to see how Mayo will fare in the 2014 National League; I cannot imagine it is a secret that Mayo’s primary objective for this campaign is survival in division one along with unearthing a player or two. A play off place as occurred last year will be an added bonus. There have been contrasting fortunes for Kildare and Mayo in their January provincial cup competitions. Kildare retained the O’Byrne Cup while Mayo bowed out after a poor affair with Roscommon in the FBD league. This will not worry James Horan greatly but a lot of his tried and trusted are carrying niggles and are recouping after various operations. Kildare’s strength and conditioning coach this year is Ballaghaderreen native Barry Solan, who will have the Lilywhites in impeccable shape despite been in the same predicament as Mayo, with many of their stars just off the operating table. After the Newbridge clash Mayo are away to Tyrone and I really feel they will need to pick up something from one of those games, I am not sure if it is going to be Sunday however. Mayo recovering after last year’s heartbreaking All-Ireland loss and recent well deserved holiday to Dubai, Kildare fresh and trying to impress new manager Jason Ryan should see the Lilywhites shade it.