Elvery’s MacHale Park is the place to be this weekend, when the best eight senior club teams in the county do battle for a place in the semi-finals of this year’s club championship.
The action gets under way on Saturday evening with a double header of action, with the defending champions Castlebar Mitchels facing Aghamore at 5pm, that will be followed by the meeting of Ballaghaderreen and Ballintubber at 6.30pm. On Sunday afternoon, it is another double helping of action, when Breaffy meet Knockmore at 2pm and Garrymore and Charlestown go toe to toe in the final quarter-final at 3.30pm.
Castlebar Mitchels v Aghamore
The defending champions are many people’s favourites to put together back to back titles this year. Having lost the services of Pat Holmes after their All Ireland final defeat, Mitchels had as seamless a transition as you could hope for with Holmes’ deputies Shane Conway and Alan Nolan taking the reins. It has been a case of picking up where they left off last year in Mayo this year for the Mitchels who have won all their three games in the championship so far, including a tough victory over Ballintubber in round one, along with easy wins over Shrule-Glencorrib and Crossmolina. Mitchels’ league form has also been very impressive, winning six of their eight games in that competition so far this year. With their solid foundation from Ciaran Naughton out through their solid defence anchored by Alan Feeney and captain Donal Newcombe, they have a very tight knit base, while the likes of Richie Feeney, Barry Moran, Danny Kirby, and Ger McDonagh are as formidable a force around the middle of the park as you could meet. Up front Mitchels have plenty of options to choose from and will be very warm favourites going into this game. Aghamore came through a tough group as runners up behind Breaffy thanks to wins over Claremorris and Ballina. Jimmy Lyons will have been working hard over the past few weeks to close down the Mitchels’ attack to make sure that they are in the game for as long as they can be, as they look to cause a major upset. While Cathal Freeman will be a major loss through injury, Alan Freeman will be expected to lead the charge for the east Mayo men, and the young guns like David Kenny and Fergal Boland will be expected to make big contributions.
Verdict: Castlebar Mitchels.
Ballaghaderreen v Ballintubber
Both of these sides will have genuine belief that they can be the team to take the crown from the county town side this year. Ballintubber came through their group as runners up to their near neighbours and rivals and have won seven of their eight league games this year, just dropping points in the league when they drew one game. Peter Ford is still in situ this year and a team which possesses the likes of Cillian and Diarmuid O’Connor, Alan Dillon and Jason Gibbons has more than enough firepower to back up their ambitions to be championship winners.
Ballaghaderreen topped their group thanks to wins over Davitts, Charlestown, and Westport. They won the championship as recently as two years ago and will fully believe that they can do the same again this weekend. Andy Moran, David Drake, James Kilcullen, and Barry Regan are all serious operators at this level and are sure to be chomping at the bit to take out the boys from the Tubber. This one has game of the weekend written all over it.
Verdict: Ballintubber (but only just ).
Breaffy v Knockmore
Can Breaffy back up the potential they showed last year, when they made the final? The Blues have been in good form in the championship this year with wins over Aghamore, Claremorris, and Ballina under their belts, while their league form has been indifferent, picking up just three wins from their eight games so far. As recently as last weekend, they had to rely on a late Tommy Reilly point to save a point against Charlestown. Damien Mulligan has taken the reins this year, where he is assisted by Daniel Forde, Jim O’Shea, and Tom Reilly. If Breaffy hit the ground running, with the three O’Sheas in form along with the likes of Alan Durcan, Peter Dravins, and Rory Martyn in attack, they can be a serious force. Robbie Hennelly will have the defence well marshalled, where David Gavin, Kevin Schaill, and Michael Hall are all top level players.
Knockmore are handicapped by the loss of two big players with Aidan Kilcoyne still injured and Shane McHale more recently tearing his Achilles. So Nigel Reape will be looking to Kevin McLoughlin to lead the charge with veteran Declan Sweeney along with Kieran Langan and Keith Ruttledge to take the task to the Breaffy boys.
Garrymore v Charlestown
The south Mayo men topped their group thanks to a win over Knockmore on the final day of group games, and their reward is a meeting with a Charlestown team that managed to make the last eight despite winning only one game from their three in the group. Garrymore have been pretty impressive this year in both league and championship, along with topping their championship group they are sitting in third place in division 1a with five wins from eight games. Shane Nally has been very impressive in the middle of the park, and the former Mayo minor captain looks to have really pushed on this year, while Enda Varley and Jimmy Killeen will be the men they will look to to provide the punch in attack. Other players like David Dolan and Caolan Crowe will also be expected to put in big showings.
Charlestown have done very well to make the last eight, and with Tom Parsons providing a serious foundation in the middle of the field they cannot be ruled out. They have lots of experience at the back with Dara McMeel and Kevin Deignan two lynchpins of the defence, while the experienced Aidan Higgins lined out at centre half forward last weekend in the league against Breaffy, and Colm Maye and Jack Reilly will be looked to, for scores in attack. It has the making of a right good championship battle this one.