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It is back to action after the winter break for most of the teams in the Mayo League with a full round of fixtures in the third round of the Connacht Cup down for decision this Sunday. There are 16 Mayo sides still in contention in the cup proper with five sides in the shield competition.
It is all down to Westport United if the Mayo League are to have an interest in the FAI Junior Cup in the latter stages of the competition. The aristocrats of Mayo soccer are the last side left in the competition after both Iorras Aontaithe and Ballyhaunis Town bowed out at the fifth round stage a few weeks before Christmas. This Sunday Westport United will take on New Ross Celtic in a game re-fixed from mid-December, with kick-off in the Sportspark at 2pm on Sunday.
It’s all down to Westport United if the Mayo League are to have an interest in the FAI Junior Cup post Christmas. The aristocrats of Mayo soccer are the last side left in the competition after both Iorras Aontaithe and Ballyhaunis Town bowed out of the competition at the fifth round stage of the competition last week.
In the end it was easier than expected, but Westport United are in the fifth round of the FAI Junior Cup alongside fellow Mayo teams, Iorras Aontaithe and Ballyhaunis Town, in three weeks’ time.
While some of their local rivals were bowing out of the FAI Junior Cup at the fourth round stage, Westport United were booking their own spot in that round last weekend with a 4-1 win over Claremorris in Concannon Park. The all conquering treble champions did have their supporters sweating for a while though, after they fell behind early on when Paul Burke finished a rebound to the net from close range. Westport United did manage to pull the game level before the break when Pat Fitzgerald rolled the ball to the back of the net after being set up by the veteran Vinny O’Malley. United took the lead early on in the second half when Martin Geraghty found the back of the net before Vinny O’Malley and Dave Cameron rounded off the win and booked their side’s place in the fourth round and their fourth meeting with Ballinasloe Town in the last three seasons.
The Mayo League make the trip to the far edge of Roscommon on Sunday where they will face down against the Roscommon and District League in the first round of the Oscar Traynor Trophy at 2pm.
There are not many superlatives left to describe how good Westport United have been this season in league and cup competitions in Mayo. A second treble in three years of the Elverys Sports Super League, FCS Cup and Connacht Gold Cup was achieved last Sunday, with a 3-0 win over Ballyheane in the Connacht Gold Cup Final, and with that they went through the entire domestic season, league and cup unbeaten. The only minor blemish on their record was a draw at home to Straide and Foxford United in July. But last weekend it was jut about taking care of business and they did that with ruthless efficiency and killing the game off early thanks to goals from Dave Cameron and Pat Fitzgerald inside the opening 20 minutes, with Philip Keegan rounding off the win before the hour mark.
Outside the Box was on a sabbatical overseas last week, but did make it back in time for the Connacht Junior Cup final in Milebush last Sunday and you can read all about that at www.advertiser.ie/mayo/article/69409. While Castlebar Celtic were suffering a heartbreaking defeat to Ballinasloe Town in the provincial cup decider, the team who lost to them in the previous year’s final, in a similarly heartbreaking way, were cementing their position at the top of the Elverys Sports Super League table.
After 110 minutes of hard work, sheer will and effort Castlebar Celtic saw their dreams of a tenth Connacht Junior Cup come cracking apart in the most heartbreaking of ways in a penalty shoot-out. The Hoops will feel hard done by, having made most of the running during a game played in wild and wet conditions in Milebush Stadium. But Ballinasloe were the ones to get their hands on the old trophy thanks to a 4-2 win from the spot kicks. Jason Hunt slammed home the first kick of the shoot-out for Celtic, with Ballinasloe Town captain Peter Keighery responding in kind. Both sides also converted their next kicks, with Ronan O'Boyle doing the necessary for the Castlebar men and Gary Egan for the Roscommon League side. Gerry Hunt tried to replicate his brothers effort with Celtic's third penalty, but his effort was scooped over Aidan Fallon's bar, Mark Duffy saw his effort just about get past Stephen Cafferkey to hand the advantage to Ballinasloe Town. Up next was Celtic full-back Stephen Walsh, who had been excellent all day. But when it came to the crunch his effort clipped the top of the bar and cleared the target, leaving David Cullen with the chance to win the cup. The Ballinasloe Town full back took the route one option and drove it down the middle of the goal and past Cafferkey to ensure his team retained the title they won last year.
Sunday morning will see a mass exodus of football supporters from Westport, but rather than heading south to Galway they’ll be pointing their wagons east, in the direction of the small Roscommon village of Lecarrow about 17km west of Athlone to the home of the Roscommon and District Football League. It’s there that Westport United will be looking to put together a historic back-to-back pair of Connacht Junior Cup victories. Last years rain-sodden penalty shootout victory over Athenry in Terryland Park will go down in history as one of the great days in the famous junior club’s history, but if they manage on Sunday to bring the trophy home for the second time in as many years, they’ll be telling tales of this side for many, many years to come around the town.