It has been a long journey for Ardnaree over the past 12 months, from the banks of the Moy to the banks of the Royal Canal, which will end tomorrow afternoon. The north Mayo men will go looking to create a little bit of history and become the first Mayo side to claim the All Ireland junior club title.
Standing in their way are Kerry and Munster champions Templenoe and they promise to pose a serious test to Declan O'Dea's outfit. For one day only, it will be the Mayo side who will be playing in green and gold against Kerry opposition in Croke Park, and the Ardnaree faithful will be looking to captain Eoin McCormack, old stagers Noeilie Beattie and Shane Timlin, among others to drive them towards success.
Ardnaree blitzed their way through the Mayo championship running up big scores against Ballintubber, Lahardane, Ballina Stephenites, and Killala in the county final, who they dispatched in impressive style. It was a sweet success in Mayo for Ardnaree after years of near misses which saw them come up short in the county final in 2009, 2011, 2012 and 2013, and since then they have gone on to claim the Connacht title in style and then disposed of Rockcorry from Monaghan in the All Ireland semi-final in Carrick on Shannon two weeks back. While the Ardnaree forwards have been hitting the high notes on the scoreboard, their performances are based on a rock solid defence that has conceded only three goals in all their championship games so far, and Conor Naylor, Pat Lacken, Shane Timlin, and Michael McCormack have formed a rock solid unit in front of Blaine Ginty in goal.
As for their opponents, Templenoe have been in impressive form themselves after claiming the Kerry junior title they easily disposed of Cork champions Bandon in the Munster semi-final, before Coolmeen of Clare were defeated in the Munster final. They also had to make the trip to the UK to see off Liverpool outfit John Mitchels in the All Ireland quarter final, and they had seven points to spare over Leinster champions Curraha in their All Ireland semi-final.
Of course Templenoe have one very familiar son with Pat Spillane hailing from the club, while a few of his relations are involved with Killian, son of Tom, a recongnisable face, as are to Mayo followers both Tadhg Morley and Brian Crowley, who were part of the Kerry junior side who saw off Mayo in the All Ireland final in Croke Park last summer.