With just two league games under their belts for the 16 senior clubs in the county, the race for the Moclair Cup gets under way this weekend with eight games across the four groups in the Treanlaur Catering Mayo GAA senior football championship getting going to the whistle over Saturday evening and Sunday afternoon.
Derby day in Clogher
Group one has the big game of the weekend, the meeting of the teams who have won three of the last four titles, with the champions from 2010 and 2011 Ballintubber hosting last year’s winners Castlebar Mitchels. A huge crowd will be expected in Ray Prendergast Memorial Park for this meeting of the near neighbours. Ballintubber lost Jason Gibbons from the game after he got injured last Friday night while training for Mayo, while Castlebar will have to do without the services of Barry Moran. The new Mitchels’ management team of Alan Nolan and Shane Conway, will be hoping last weekend’s defeat to Breaffy was only a blip, while Ballintubber’s management team of Peter Ford and Tony Duffy will smell blood and be out for the kill. No inch will be given by either side in this game, which throws in at 2pm on Sunday.
Crossmolina Deel Rovers will make the long trip to the border to take on Shrule-Glencorrib at the same time on Sunday. Last weekend Deel Rovers had three points to spare over Davitts, and Ciaran McDonald chipped in with four points, one of them a monster of an effort from well out the field that got plenty of mentions on social media this week. Shrule-Glencorrib will not be giving up anything easy themselves, and Declan Ronaldson will have his team well drilled to deal with the Deel Rovers’ threat. Both sides will be behind the other two teams in the group in the betting to get out of the group and a win will be vital for either side if they are to have a real crack at making the last eight.
Local rivalries rekindled
There are plenty of local bragging rights, along with vital championship points up for grabs in group two this weekend. On Saturday evening, Garrymore will host Ballinrobe in a south Mayo duel at 7pm. Both teams met in the group stages last year in the same venue with the home team coming out on top that day. Garrymore have got off to a good start this year, but that might not count for much on Saturday evening. Shane Nally and Enda Varley will be key men for Garrymore, while Ballinrobe will be looking to Donal Vaughan and Kenneth O’Malley to lead the way for them.
It is all back to Bangor on Sunday afternoon at 4pm when last year’s Intermediate champions Kiltane host Knockmore. Both sides met just three weekends ago in the first round of the senior league where the high scoring encounter ended up in a draw. Knockmore reached last year’s senior championship semi-final, but that might not count for a lot by the time Declan Corcoran blows his full time whistle on Sunday evening. There will not be much between them at the end and another draw would not be a wild bet.
Everyone will fancy their chances of making the break
There is never anything written in stone when it comes to championship football and in group three of the senior championship any of the four teams can justifiably think they will be still standing in the last eight come late summer. The 2012 champions Ballaghaderreen will host Davitts on Saturday evening in what could be a free scoring encounter, Colm Boyle and Michael Conroy will be the key men for Davitts, and with Martin Connolly taking control of his home club, he will have them well prepared for battle. Ballaghaderreen will be seen as the big team in the group and Andy Moran and David Drake will be the key men that new manager Niall Egan will look to on the field.
Charlestown made it all the way to the semi-final last year in their first year back in senior football after their shock relegation to the intermediate championship the previous year. They will make the trip to Westport on Saturday evening, but it will not be for a night out they are going. Westport backboned by the likes of Lee Keegan and Kevin Keane will not fear the visitors from east Mayo, but Charlestown are a canny and experienced championship side who will back themselves to the hilt to go home with the points.
Four corners of the county collide
The last group in the senior championship features teams from each of the four divisions of north, south, east and west this year. Last year’s beaten county finalists Breaffy will be the team all the others are gunning for this year. They will open their championship campaign at home to Aghamore on Sunday afternoon at 4pm. Breaffy have seen a change in managment this year with the joint team of Damien Mulligan and Daniel Forde taking over from Declan Reilly, that sideline has been augmented in recent weeks with Tom Reilly and Jim O’Shea coming on board to lend a hand. Aghamore will be hoping that Cathal and Alan Freeman will be the players to propel them towards the quarter final, while Breaffy will be looking to the three O’Shea brothers along with last year’s All Ireland minor winners, Liam Irwin and Michael Hall to drive them on.
Claremorris will host Ballina Stephenites in south Mayo on Sunday at 4pm, both sides have been hit by the lure of the American dream with rumours over more than 10 Stephenites heading to the US for the summer, while Claremorris have also lost Brian Gallagher for the summer. A win for either side will be vital if they are to have any chance of making the last eight and not get involved in the relegation battle after the three group games.