It is an all West Mayo decider in MacHale Park on Sunday in the county junior final when Louisburgh and Balla meet at 3.30pm. It has a been a long time coming for both sides who are looking to make their way back out of the the junior ranks and into the intermediate grade for next year.
Balla have followed up on the promise of some really good underage work over the past number of years to reach this stage under the guidance of former Mayo midfielder Pat Fallon. They were impressive in their group winning games against Ardagh, Swinford, and Ballina to go into the last eight in a seeded position. They followed that up with two more big wins over north Mayo sides, seeing off Cill Chomain in the last eight and Ballycastle after a tough battle in the semi-final against last year's Junior B champions. Balla's trust in youth is easily seen on their team sheet with the trio of Barry Duffy, Val Roughneen, and Mattie Flanagan all key members of this side in leadership roles, the three of course were members of Mayo's successful All Ireland u21 winning panel from earlier this year. They have also added some vast senior championship experience with former Knockmore man Declan Sweeney now part of the set up coming on late in the day against Ballycastle in the semi-final to exert an steadying influence on the side.
As for their opponents from the seaside, they got a walk over against Kilfian in one group game before seeing off Cill Chomain and Ballycroy at that stage to top the group, they then got by the challenge of Ardagh in the quarter-final, before blitzing their local rivals Kilmeena in the semi-final in impressive style. Three years ago they reached the semi-final of the competition, before being beaten in the last eight in the last two seasons by Achill. This year has seen them really step up to the plate and rise to the challenge. One familiar name in the starting line up will be former Mayo and Wicklow inter-county man Austin O'Malley who is back with his home club for a second stint after a number of years playing club football in Dublin and Wicklow where he still lives and works. But there is plenty of young talent with Padraig Prendergast who has won both minor and u21 All Irelands for Mayo in recent years ready to lend a hand alongside the likes of Alan Moran, Marcus O'Malley, and Eugene O'Toole.
It promises to be a tough and hard fought west Mayo derby on Sunday one for everyone to enjoy.