Can Ballyhaunis hit into second Connacht final?

Running to victory: Ballyhaunis will be looking to the likes of Kevin Byrne to lead them to victory on Sunday. Photo: Michael Donnelly

Running to victory: Ballyhaunis will be looking to the likes of Kevin Byrne to lead them to victory on Sunday. Photo: Michael Donnelly

These are heady days indeed in Ballyhaunis GAA circles, the east Mayo outfit already have their hurling team in the Connacht Intermediate Championship final thanks to a 2-10 to 1-10 win over Roscommon champions Four Roads last Monday. This Sunday, their intermediate footballers have the chance to join them in the Connacht final when they take on Roscommon side St Croan’s in the home of Rossie football, Dr Hyde Park.

Tomás Morley’s men followed up their Mayo championship victory over Hollymount-Carramore with a dismantling of Leitrim champions Dromahair St Patrick’s in the provincial last eight to set up Sunday’s showdown. Morley will have been sweating on Monday that his dual players came through their duties for the hurlers without injury, with Keith Higgins and Brian Hunt among those who line out for both sides, he would have been keeping a close eye on the action in Athleague.

As for their opponents, St Croan’s saw off the challenge of Tulsk with ease in the Roscommon final, running out 13 point winners, as they picked up the Roscommon intermediate title and the Jamesie Murray Cup for the second time in half a decade. The arrival this year of former Boyle and Roscommon player David Casey as manager has sparked the St Croan’s revival that has driven them on to this stage. He will be looking to brothers Kevin and Shane Smyth alongside Brian Mullin and Michael Holland to step up in attack, while at the back Ger Mockler, Maurice Connaughton, Gregory Grogan, and Eamon Towey will be key men in their efforts to stop the Ballyhaunis attack. In the middle of the park James Connaughton will be someone that St Croan’s will look to to spur them on.

But Ballyhaunis will be just concentrating on themselves, and looking to improve as they have in every game this year. Their county final win over Hollymount-Carramore was a composed and accomplished performance, where Niall Prenty shot the lights out on a wet and windy day in McHale Park. Keith Higgins, who last weekend picked up his third All Star on the trot, before helping the hurlers to a place in the provincial decider, will be the keyman linking defence and attack. Fergal Kelly has rolled back the years since his return to the team and he has the physicality to cause plenty of problems for the Roscommon team’s defence. Morgan Lyons has been in flying form in the half-forward line, with Liam Lyons and Stephen Shanaghy forming a formidable midfield partnership.

Having the home advantage of playing in a Roscommon venue will be a boost to David Casey’s side, but Tomás Morley will have it well instilled in his side that it is just another pitch and another team to beat. Victory on Sunday would set up Ballyhaunis for a serious crack at the massively impressive double of Connacht intermediate titles in both football and hurling in the coming week. The game throws in at 2pm in Dr Hyde Park.

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