Garrymore picked up the first piece of senior silverware on Easter Monday, when they saw off Castlebar Mitchels to claim the Michael Walsh Cup in Ballinrobe, but this weekend the action proper gets under way with the first rounds of games in the Breaffy House Senior Football Leagues. The action in Division 1A, 1B, and 1C will throw in on Saturday evening, with Division 1E, 1D, and 1F getting under way on Sunday afternoon.
The top two divisions is where you will find most of the serious action with the 16 sides from the senior championship along with a handful of top intermediate sides and one junior wild-card going toe to toe.
On paper the big game in Division 1A is the meeting of Breaffy and Ballintubber in Breaffy at 6pm. This meeting of two of the big three teams from around the Castlebar area is one that neutrals will be keeping an eye on to see how they are shaping up. Breaffy have the same management team in place from last year with Damien Mulligan in charge for a second year, while Ballintubber have shuffled the decks a bit with Tony Duffy taking over as sole manager after his joint manager role with Peter Ford last year. Ballintubber, as defending senior champions, will be looking to keep up their winning ways, while Breaffy will be hoping to get off to a winning start after a disappointing 2014 that saw them exit the senior championship at the quarter-final stage and finish well down the league positions.
The clash of the yellow and blues of Knockmore and Kiltane in Knockmore on Saturday evening is another mouth-watering contest. The men from Erris picked up he Comórtas senior title last weekend in Tourmakeady and will head to the lion’s den in Knockmore full of confidence. The home team this year have a new man in charge with Paul Jordan wearing the banisteoir’s bib after being in charge of Ballina Stephenites and Tourmakeady in recent years.
The aforementioned Stephenites will open their league season at home to Hollymount-Carramore tomorrow. The Stephenites have flirted with relegation from the senior championship on a couple of occasions over the last few years. They had a very decent league campaign last year and will fancy their chances of picking up a win against the intermediate championship side from south Mayo to get things rolling. For Hollymount-Carramore’s new manager getting out of the intermediate grade in the championship will be top priority, but they will not want to start the league poorly before they get to the cut and thrust of the championship in a few weeks time.
Fresh from defeating Castlebar Mitchels in the Michael Walsh Cup final on Monday, Garrymore have a five day turnaround to get themselves ready for the cut and thrust of a local derby when they take on Davitts at home tomorrow evening. Local pride, along with two points, is at stake in what should be a cracking encounter between two top quality teams. Garrymore have started the new year well to follow on from a good showing last year, while Davitts will not want their near neighbours to get one over on them this early in the year.
On Deelside on Saturday the meeting of Crossmolina Deel Rovers and Claremorris should be a very interesting 60 minutes of football, the home team have Joe Keane in charge again this year, while Claremorris have the experienced Liam O’Neill with his hand on the tiller this term. Both sides will hope they can make an early statement of intent for the coming year in this game. The final game in the division is the meeting of Castlebar Mitchels and Kilmaine in south Mayo on Saturday night. Mitchels, who like Garrymore have a short turnaround from the Michael Walsh Cup final, will be looking to bounce back quickly tomorrow night as the management team of Declan O’Reilly and Declan Shaw look to make their mark on the 2014 All Ireland finalists. Kilmaine also have a man with All Ireland final experience in charge this year with Pete Warren who guided Davitts to the intermediate national decider a few years ago.
To B or not to B
The second division of league football in Mayo will be as hotly contested as the top division, with each of the 12 teams harbouring serious ability to claim the crown. Coming down from the top division last year are the east Mayo contingent of Charlestown and Ballaghaderreen.
Ballagh will be at home for their opening game against Ballinrobe on Saturday evening. There will be some extra interest to see how former Sligo star Eamon O’Hara deals with his first league game in charge of the 2012 senior champions, while Norman O’Brien will be in the opposite dug out for the Flanagan Park men. There is an all west Mayo clash in St Patrick’s Park in Westport, where the homeside will take on the Gaeltacht men from Tourmakeady in what should be a tough encounter. Westport got relegated from the senior championship last year and will be going all guns to get back to the top tier this year, and getting a winning momentum under their belts will be a top priority.
While they may be operating out of the junior championship, a title they must win some time soon, most would imagine Ardnaree Sarsfields will be pitting their stuff against a side that reached the senior-championship last eight last season when Aghamore head to north Mayo tomorrow evening. Championship is what matters to Ardnaree and this division will have them in battle hardened shape, when it comes around.
Kiltimagh will welcome Charlestown to the second tier of league football on Saturday evening when they visit Gilmartin Park. The visitors have struggled to get a management team in place over the winter months, but that seems to have been sorted out at this stage and they will be looking to make a winning start to the season. Last year Ballyhaunis did what their opponents Burrishoole came so close to, and came up just short on a number of occasions over the last few years and won the intermediate title. While they will be looking forward to pitting themselves against the best in the county in the championship, they are sure to get a warm reception from the locals in McGovern Park on Saturday evening.
Tough battles in the third tier
There will be a few sides feeling each other out in the first round of games in Division 1C this weekend ahead of meetings later in the intermediate championship. Islandeady will welcome Belmullet to west Mayo tomorrow evening in a dress rehearsal for their first round meeting in north Mayo in the championship in a few weeks time. Swinford will be looking to make home advantage count against Parke-Keelogues-Crimlin when they go toe to toe. The Neale and Mayo Gaels should be an interesting encounter as the 2012 junior champions continue to try to establish themselves in the higher reaches of the game in Mayo. It is an all junior affair on the seaside where Lahardane will make the trip to Louisburgh, while on the island Achill will be looking to follow up their triumph in the junior Comórtas competition last weekend with a win over Ballintubber’s B team on Sunday. The last game in the division also takes place on Sunday, with last year’s junior champions Castlebar Mitchels B hosting Bonniconlon in Josie Munnelly Park.