Southern shootout to light up Sunday evening

Over the bar: The Neale's Sean Cosgrove will be hoping to shoot his side to victory on Sunday. Photo: Michael Donnelly

Over the bar: The Neale's Sean Cosgrove will be hoping to shoot his side to victory on Sunday. Photo: Michael Donnelly

This one should be special, just as in the junior final that precedes it, the local rivalry between both sides will add something special to Sunday's intermediate final. Hollymount-Carramore and The Neale have crossed swords plenty of times down through the years, but never with this much at stake.

For the Hollymount-Carramore men it is a chance to finally get back to where they feel they rightly belong in the highest reaches of football in the county, while for The Neale this is a chance to complete the most remarkable journey to the top level of the game in Mayo in under five years. Just three years ago The Neale had never won a junior title in Mayo, they came from five points down at the death, forcing extra time in a replay against Ardnaree, and dug it out at the end. Since then they have gone from strength to strength and are now just an hour of football away from joining the senior ranks in the county. It's some achievement by itself to get this far already, but they will want to make sure they make this chance count.

Standing in their way is the formidable challenge that will be presented by Hollymount-Carramore, a club that have tasted success in the senior championship three times in the past and are working hard to get back to that level. Last year they lost out in the final to Ballyhaunis, but they have regrouped under the management of Tom Connelly and made their way back to the final this year. In their semi-final win over Belmullet, Darren Coen was the main man. The former Mayo senior panelist kicked eight points over the hour with six of them coming from play in a devastating display of scoring prowess.

At the back the old head and experience of Ray Connelly is very much the core to the work they do, while they also had to get through the semi-final without Darren McHugh, another lynchpin of their defence who missed that game through injury. They will hope to have McHugh back in situ for the final, while Barry Sheridan, Padraig Feerick, and Robert Molloy will also be key men. In the middle of the park, the 2013 All Ireland winning minor captain Stephen Coen will be expected to impose himself on the game, while the hard running of Ian and Kevin Costello up front will be needed to supplement the scoring threat of Darren Coen and Clifford Connolly. Hollymount-Carramore are the favourites for this game, a tag they will hope does not hold them back, but they have shown this year so far in the championship they know what they are doing, and in the league they have mixed it with the best senior sides and currently sit at the top of the table in division 1A.

But they will have their work cut out to get over The Neale, the men from Cong have been improving at a massive rate over the past few years and manager Donal 'Mossy' Costello has brought them to within an hour of senior status. They were simply outstanding at times in their semi-final win over Bohola Moy Davitts, running out 2-16 to 1-8 winners in some style. Their free scoring full forward line that saw Sean Cosgrove score 1-5 and Aidan O'Sullivan 1-4 will take some watching from the Hollymount-Carramore defence. Even if they lock up that duo, Simon Ryan and Paddy Hopkins have both shown throughout the year that they know where the posts are too. At the back goalkeeper Keith Hennelly is a solid and dependable shot stopper, while in front of him the full back line of David and Stephen Morrin along with David McGrath will be looking to keep that line locked down. In the half back line Pat Casey is a fine footballer as are Killian McHugh and wing-back James Duffy. In the middle of the park a lot will rest on the duo of Robert Holian and James Biggins breaking even on their fair share of possession to keep the ball flowing into their attack.

On paper the Hollymount-Carramore team come in as favourities and deservedly so, but The Neale have got serious momentum behind them and if they can play their own game the way they want to, they will be very close on Sunday evening. Whatever way this one turns out we should be in for a cracker.

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