When we previewed the semi-finals of this competition, we said that Ballina were going to have to be on the top of their game to take down an impressive looking Breaffy side, and Ballina were just that. Tough, hard-working, and when it came to the crunch holding their nerve in digging out the win. When it looked like their semi-final was heading towards extra-time sub John Moylette kept his cool and put the ball between the posts to book their deserved spot in the final. This Ballina team coming good at u21 this year really should not be that much of a surprise as in 2011, this crop of players picked up the minor A title.
Standing in their way on Sunday afternoon is a classy Claremorris outfit who have looked like the real deal in this grade this year so far, winning all their group games before they saw off Swinford in the quarter-final and then having six points to spare over Ballintubber in their semi-final. Their main man that day was corner-forward James Shaughnessy who scored 10 points in their semi-final, five of them coming from play. Shaughnessy has been their go to man all year and the Mayo u21 player has really found his form in this competition.
On Sunday Ballina have a man equally deadly in front of goal as Shaughnessy in the form of Evan Regan, in their semi-final win Regan scored 1-3 and set up his team’s second goal. Whichever of these two deadly marksmen finds his form on Sunday will have a major bearing on where the title goes.
Claremorris will be looking to Shaughnessy to lead them from the front with Aidan Butler, another Mayo u21 this year, their rock in defence, while Ryan Quirke who only came on a sub in the second half of their semi-final due to an injury concern is expected to return to bolster their attack. Alongside Evan Regan, Padraic O’Hora, Sean Regan, and Andrew Stutt will be expected to be the men for Shane McCann’s side.
Claremorris have looked to be the most impressive side in the competition this year, but Ballina will not be paying any heed to reputation and will back themselves to the hilt to take the win. It should be a very interesting encounter on Sunday.
The game throws in at 2pm in Elverys MacHale Park.
Eastern promise in B final
The curtain-raiser in MacHale Park on Sunday is an all east Mayo affair as Kiltimagh and Ballaghaderreen meet in the u21B final at 12.30pm. Both sides booked their places in the final with wins last weekend in the Castlebar venue. Kiltimagh had three points to spare over The Neale in a 0-13 to 0-10 win, while Ballaghaderreen had six points in hand over Louisburgh thanks to their ability to find the net in a 3-8 to 1-8 victory. The B grade which is played as a 13-a-side game allows for plenty of free flowing football and Sunday’s game should bring more of the same to MacHale Park not long after high noon.
TJ Byrne was the main man for Kiltimagh last weekend, with the midfielder putting in a big shift, but Eoghan Lavin was the scorer in chief for the east Mayo blues, kicking eight of his team’s 13 points, five of them from frees and one from a ‘45. Gary Regan is another man that Ballaghaderreen will have to keep an eye on over the hour on Sunday, the corner forward chipped in with two points of his own last weekend.
Ballaghaderreen’s eye for goal was a key factor in their win over Louisburgh in their semi-final. Darragh Dunne was the main man for the Border boys, grabbing 2-3 of his side’s 3-8 total last weekend. At the back Aaron Lynch and Owen Jordan will be looked to lead Ballaghaderreen, while alongside Dunne in attack Michael Tyrrell will be a man to watch for the Kiltimagh defence. It should be a thrilling encounter on Sunday.