Battle lines drawn ahead of senior showdown

The senior Connacht club final has pitted two of the heavyweights of club football against each other when Castlebar Mitchels take on current Connacht and All-Ireland champions Corofin on Sunday in Tuam in what promises to be a mouth watering clash. The Mitchels will need a near perfect ten out of ten performance to dethrone the Galway kingpins.

Castlebar will be more battle hardened after coming through a tough semifinal win over Clann Na Gael while Corofin have breezed their way to this year’s final annihilating Mohill of Leitrim and St Mary’s of Sligo by a whopping cumulative total of 27 points along the way. After nearly getting caught in the Galway quarter-final by Tuam stars, Corofin have steadily improved under the guidance of Mayo manager in waiting Stephen Rochford and recently look back to their brilliant best. It will be a strange scenario for Rochford pitting himself against players from Castlebar he will be managing in a few weeks time. Corofin losing to Castlebar in Tuam in the semifinal two years ago will surely eradicate any form of complacency the Galway men may have, and it will surely inspire them to exact some form of revenge so it is imperative Castlebar are ready from the offset, and unlike their performance against Clann in the semifinal they will need to play consistently well for the entire duration. The bookmakers see this as a foregone conclusion with Corofin priced at 4/11 to win the game while Castlebar are 11/4. I hope we get a cracker and that Castlebar make it three from three for Mayo clubs against the old enemy in Connacht club finals in 2015. It will be tough however.

Brilliant results from Mayo sides in junior and intermediate finals

It was double delight for Mayo clubs in the Connacht junior and intermediate finals last weekend. Ardnaree Sarsfields justified their 1/4 favourites tag with a reasonably comfortable victory over Galway champions Clifden in a rain sodden Elverys MacHale Park, Castlebar. The four point winning margin setting up an All-Ireland semifinal in January against the Ulster champions which is likely to be Faughanvale of Derry. Ace attacker and Ardnaree captain Eoin McCormack was the top marksman finishing the game with six points.

The intermediate final between Hollymount-Carramore and Moycullen was a much more dogged affair with the south Mayo amalgamation hanging on for dear life at the end to scrape home by the slimmest of margins. What was strange about this game was that both teams dominated — playing against the raging elements. The Mayo champions elected to play against the gale in the first half which confused many watching, including yours truly. It turned out to be a brave but decisive decision as Hollymount-Carramore were superb in that first half. They completely dominated possession and their powerful running and short passing game proved too much for Moycullen. Ian Costello and Damien Kelly were the first half heroes scoring two splendid points each from play while team captain Darren Coen chipped in with two himself, both from placed balls. The half time lead of two points could have been more were it not for a marvellous save by Moycullen keeper Seamus Friel when Darren Coen looked to slide the ball under him after a superb team move by the Mayo outfit. Just when you expected Hollymount-Carramore to push on — playing with the elements, your worst fears were realised. Tom Connelly’s men went into defensive mode and invited Moycullen on to them in what was a direct replica of the first half only this time it was Moycullen’s turn to take the game to the Mayo champions against the strong breeze. The highlight of that second half was two delightful scores from Darren Coen with the outside of his right boot, one of which from a free must have been from all of 60 metres. The full time whistle could not have come quick enough and now they also await the Ulster champions in the All-Ireland semi final. It will certainly shorten the winter for both parishes.

A leader and legend gets the perfect ten

What more praise can be heaped on Cora Staunton who picked up an amazing and record equalling 10th All-Star last weekend? She is now level with Kerry’s Mary Jo Curran with Cork’s Breege Corkery just one behind. Apart from her sterling performances on the field it is her longevity and desire to keep trying that is most impressive, and when you consider that it is 12 years since Mayo last won the All-Ireland ladies’ title and 15 years since her first All-Star award you cannot but be impressed. She has been giving her all for the green and red jersey for 20 years now after making her debut as a 13-year-old in 1995. She is a perfect role model for any youngster and one of the greats of ladies’ GAA. Well done Cora.

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