I went to Elverys McHale Park last weekend expecting to see a whitewash, a landslide victory for Mayo champions Hollymount Carramore against Leitrim champions Melvin Gaels in the Connaught Intermediate final. It surely couldn’t have been anything else, I thought. The South Mayo amalgamation were priced at an unbackable 1/8 to win the game, Melvin Gales were 9/2 and the draw was 14/1. What ensued was far from a landslide.
It was one of the most enthralling, entertaining games you are likely to see in 2015, the Mayo/Dublin drawn semi-final apart. It had superb scores, brilliant defending, a controversial red card and a referee who was like speedy Gonzalez when he went looking for the culprit when he was issuing a card. What made this game so entertaining was the way the pendulum swung on several occasions. Hollymount-Carramore were home and hosed several times only for Melvin Gaels to miraculously claw their way back into the game.
I don’t think I have come across such a passionate and fired up bench than that of Melvin Gaels. Every man, woman, and child was on the same wavelength, they contested every challenge and decision with passion that was very often way over the top. This was never more evident with the dismissal of Conor Keane for what I thought was a harsh red card. The reaction of the Melvin Gaels bench especially their physio played a major part in referee Shane Hehir’s decision. If there is a lesson here, don’t commit a borderline tackle in front of your opponent’s bench. On several occasions the physio fist pumped to the stand to rev up the Melvin Gaels supporters and they duly responded. I never saw so many players out on their feet in the second period of extra time, it was testament to the effort both sets of players had put into the game.
There is no doubt Hollymount-Carramore clung on for dear life in normal time. Melvin Gaels had all the momentum in those final minutes but could not get their noses in front. It was in the first period of extra time Hollymount-Carramore turned the screw. There were two instrumental reasons for that. Hollymount-Carramore were able to play with the full complement of 15 players in extra time as it’s considered a new game and Melvin Gaels rested inspirational midfielder Jesse McGuiness. The Mayo champions scored five on the spin in that first half and when Melvin Gaels reintroduced McGuiness for the second half it was too little too late. I have no doubt neither set of players would have been able for much on Monday after the herculean effort they put in. Next up Galway champions Moycullen in the Connaught final for Tom Connelly’s men.
Top awards for top players
It’s highly likely Mayo will have two All-Stars on this year's team with Westport’s Lee Keegan nailed on to win his third award at wing back and Aidan O'Shea likely to fill the full forward berth. It will cap another memorable year for Keegan who was recently named as vice captain of the Irish Compromise Rules team which indeed is a great honour. Diarmuid O'Connor will surely follow his brother Cillian’s footsteps and win the young player of the year. I’m delighted my club mate Tom Parsons was also nominated as his very influential year was the result of some serious hard work and discipline, despite picking up some serious injuries throughout the year. Brian Fenton’s display in the final will surely mean Parsons will miss out but he gave everything for the Mayo jersey in 2015.
Mitchels back looking for more
Castlebar Mitchels travel to the scene of their finest hour when they take on Roscommon champions Clan Na Gael in Hyde Park on Sunday. The Mitchel’s victory over then All-Ireland champions St Brigid's in the Connacht final in the Hyde in 2013 was a performance to behold and savour, it was an unbelievable game. Despite losing midfielder Barry Moran to a red card in the 37th minute they clung on to win an epic battle in extra time. Clan Na Gael, the kingpins of Connaught in the 80’ somewhat surprised the footballing world by winning the Roscommon title this year. I know you can’t take anything for granted but I expect Castlebar to win this game and set up a mouth watering clash with All-Ireland champions Corofin. The Mitchels were very impressive in the county final against Breaffy and have any number of options on the bench to alter proceedings should things not be going their way. That fact should rid any of the starting 15 of any form of complacency. Castlebar to win by more than three is my tip.
Despite no East Mayo team making the final of any of the adult men’s county finals in 2015 both Aughamore and my own club Charlestown Sarsfields have been promoted to Division 1a in the league which I’m sure was the primary objective of both clubs. Charlestown’s promotion was impressive considering they had to play a large number of games without the inspirational aforementioned Tom Parsons after breaking his finger against Dublin in the drawn game. Playing out of division 1A should make both teams more competitive in next year’s senior championship.