It was a hectic weekend of action in the Mayo GAA Senior Football Championship, with four quarter-finals and one relegation semi-final down for decision, along with a reply in the intermediate championship quarter-finals.
The final four in the 2014 senior football championships are now known, with defending champions Castlebar Mitchels, Ballintubber, Knockmore and Garrymore making it through this weekend. In a strange quirk, all four teams in the semi-finals this year emerged from just two groups in the championship, with Ballintubber and Knockmore turning over seeded opposition.
Knockmore's win over last years finalists, Breaffy in Sunday's first game was the big turn up over the weekend. Nigel Reape's side who were unable to call on the services of key men like Shane McHale and Aidan Kilcoyne, were deserving winners over Breaffy. Knockmore had a game plan that worked and they stuck to it while Breaffy floundered from the off and found themselves six points down at the break on a scoreline of 1-6 to 0-3, with Darren McHale's goal a minute before the break just reward for Knockmore who only for the woodwork on one occasion and an fine save from Robert Hennelly could have hit the back of the net three times in the first half. Kevin Ruttlege was the star man for Knockmore kicking six points from play (three in each half ). When the game was really in the melting pot on the home straight, his partner in a two man full-forward line Gerard Gaughan also stepped up to the plate and kicked two good scores.
Breaffy will rue the number of bad wides they kicked over the hour, especially two from very kickable frees. While their attack misfired, it was at the back that they had most of their problems, unable to cope with Knockmore's rapid counter attacks and the movement of Ruttledge and Gaughan in attack. Knockmore ran out deserving two point winners on a score of 1-13 to 0-14.
In the second game of the day on Sunday, Garrymore were pushed to the pin of their collar by a determined Charlestown side who had to were handicapped by the loss of Tom Parsons from their starting 15 due to injury, the Mayo man did make an appearance from the bench with ten minutes to go and was a very positive influence on his side.
Both sides found the back of the net early on with David Dolan scoring one for the south Mayo men and Patrick Lenehan doing the same for Charlestown. Garrymore played most of the football, but kicked a number of bad wides over the opening 30 minutes. Despite bing outplayed for long periods, Charlestown went in level at the break thanks to the accuracy from the boot of Colm Maye from placed balls. The second half saw Garrymore push out into a 1-11 to 1-7 lead after 11 minutes, thanks to three Mark Tierney points and one from Martin Moloney. It looked that Garrymore were going to pull away, but Charlestown dug in and fought back with Maye keeping the scoreboard ticking over from frees. The did close the gap back to a single point with a time almost up and had a great chance to level it up, by Aidan Higgins screwed his effort wide and Garrymore were able to seal the win thanks to a late Moloney free.
Saturday nights alright for west Mayo men
Saturday nights action got underway with the meeting of last years champions Castlebar Mitchels and Aghamore. The Mitchels ran out impressive winners on a score of 2-12 to 0-7 winners, with the goals coming from Barry Moran near the end of the first half and a second half penalty from Neil Douglas. It took the Mitchels a long time to get going in this game and they only led by three points at the break despite having most of the ball. Aghamore set up very defensively and looked to to stop the Mitchels midfield threat from Moran and his parter Danny Kirby and took short kick outs on their own possession. But unfortunately for Aghamore, they were hemmed in by the pressing Mitchels attack and turned over the ball very often from them. The second half was a non-contest with Mitchels winning that 30 minutes 1-7 to 0-2 on the scoreboard and coasting home. One worry for Shane Conway and Alan Nolan going on is that their side kicked 16 wides over the hour and they won't be able to do that in the last four.
Ballintubber are back in the semi-finals this year after they came through a great battle against Ballaghaderreen where the decisive score was a Alan Plunkett goal eleven minutes from time. Ballaghaderreen were trailing by three points at that stage and a short while before, Andy Moran had a great goal chance cleared by the Ballintubber defence. Plunkett flicked the ball to the back of the net to complete a six-point swing and kill the game off as a contest as Ballintubber eased their way through the final ten minutes. Going into the semi-final the game will have been great preparation for Ballintubber as they were really pushed for long periods, by a physical and well drilled Ballaghaderreen team. Plunkett put in a staring role, kicking 1-6 for Peter Ford's team and they look very much like a team who are itching for a crack at a third county title in five years. The semi-final pairings for this years senior football championship are, Ballintubber v Knockmore and Castlebar Mitchels v Garrymore.
Crossmolina hold on at the top
In the first of the senior championship, relegation play-offs, Crossmolina Deel Rovers secured their status in the top tier of Mayo football on Sunday, with a comprehensive win over Westport in Foxford on Sunday afternoon with a 2-15 to 1-9 win. Crossmolina did the hard work in the first half and went in leading 1-9 to 0-4 at the break. Westport will have to pick up the pieces in a few weeks when they have one more shot to retain their senior status for next year when they face the losers of next Sunday's meeting between Kiltane and Ballina Stephenites in the relegation final.
Belmullet book intermediate semi-final spot
In the intermediate football championship quarter-final replay on Sunday, Belmullet booked their place in the last four with a 0-12 to 0-9 win over Mayo Gaels on Sunday in Ballina. Belmullet now go on to face Hollymount-Carramore in the semi-final, with Ballyhaunis and The Neale meeting in the other semi-final. Both games will take place in MacHale Park next Saturday evening.