The club championship got under way last weekend with the clash of the round in group one between reigning champions Castlebar Mitchels and local rivals Ballintubber, both pre tournament favourites for the Moclair Cup.
There was plenty of county talent on show, and with Jason Gibbons unfortunate injury the loss of Barry Moran for Castlebar did not seem all that bad. A few years back Charlestown seemed to be the bogey team for the Mitchels, after that the mantle fell to Ballintubber. No matter how bad Ballintubber played they always came out on the right side of the result when facing Castlebar, but now the tides have turned. Castlebar’s confidence after winning their first county title in 20 years last year is there for all to see, they are the team to beat again. Richie Feeney’s goal was the decisive score in Clogher. I have no doubt Ballintubber will qualify in second place in group one with games against Shrule/Glencorrib and Crossmolina to come. It is great to see Ciaran Mc back playing for Crossmolina but even he will struggle to get his team out of the group. Knockmore are in the driving seat in group two after a big win in Bangor. I fully expected Kiltane to give the senior grade a good rattle this year but you nearly always have to win your home games in the group stages. Their game with Garrymore will almost certainly decide who makes the quarter- finals along with Knockmore. My own club Charlestown have left themselves an awful lot to do after going down to Westport by a single point. Group three seems to be the most evenly balanced group with any team capable of beating the other. Ballaghadeereen’s win at home to Davitts is likely to see them prevail with any one of the others. Don’t rule out Davitts just yet. Sparks are likely to fly when Charlestown visit Ballindine. The most shocking result of the entire weekend occurred in Claremorris. One wonders what is going on in Ballina. Charlestown trounced Claremorris in the league a few weeks ago, Ballina suffered the same fate at the hands of Claremorris last weekend in the championship. Many present at the Charlestown v Claremorris league game would not have given Claremorris a prayer against the Stephenites. I know a lot of the old stalwarts have called it a day with Ballina, but surely the county’s second town should be able to produce a team capable of competing with anyone. Worrying times for the Stephenites club who will surely struggle to make the playoffs this year. Breaffy had a resounding win over Aughamore in the other game in group four. The game between Claremorris and Aughamore will be key to see who will join Breaffy in the quarter finals.
Second year syndrome for London
Galway eased past London in Ruislip as I expected, London suffering second year syndrome, the surprise package gone. Galway needed little in the line of motivation after the hiding they got from Mayo last year. Galway are likely to reach the Connacht final after Sligo’s best player Adrian Marren was carried off the field while playing for his club Curry against Tourlestrane. I am a firm believer that underdogs get one chance to upset the odds, to catch their opponents on the hop. This could not be truer after watching Tyrone dish out a tanking to Down in Newry. Remember the 21 yard free Down missed in the first game in Omagh to put them three points up with time nearly up. They are the little breaks you need in matches. I am sure all managers of teams that lost in the first round are delighted Tyrone are not playing in the qualifiers. The Derry and Donegal match flattered to deceive, both teams playing very defensively. Derry will never get a better chance to beat Donegal. Donegal allegedly in crisis, their team not rowing in the same direction, players leaving the panel, Derry with home advantage. What could possibly go wrong? Simple answer – Michael Murphy. Murphy played on the edge of the square for the second half and Derry were just not able to mark him.
I was not one bit surprised the powers that be decided to summon the referees for a seminar in Croke Park after a few of our high profile whistle blowers made a few horrendous errors, all in relation to the black card rule. When Joe McQuillan, the ref in the Derry v Donegal game, issued a black card to a Derry player having already given him a yellow, everybody except McQuillan seemed to realise yellow + black = red. This is on the back of David Coldrick making some terrible errors in the Tyrone and Down drawn game. Time for the men in black to learn the rules before they try to implement them.