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The Mayo juniors will be contesting the Connacht Junior Football Championship Final for the fifth year in a row on Sunday when they take on Galway on the undercard of the senior decider between the Tribesmen and Roscommon.
It was a year to remember for Balla, Belmullet and Ballintubber as they claimed the Mayo junior, intermediate and senior crowns respectively.
Conditions were terrible and some of the football left a lot to be desired, but that won’t matter to Balla who are into the semi-finals of the Mayo Junior championship after a four point win over Achill on MacHale Park on Saturday night. Achill only managed to score once from play in the entire game and Balla were only able to add on one more point to the ten they hit in the second half. Come the semi-final Pat Fallon’s men know they will have to up their game if they are to make it into their second successive junior final.
The defending All Ireland U21 champions got off to a ropey start in the North West Cup last weekend against Sligo in the Sligo Centre of Excellence. After Derry's withdrawal from the competition this was Mayo's first outing in the cup, with Sligo having seen off the challenge of Donegal the previous weekend.
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.
For the third time in five years Mayo have made their way back to the All Ireland Junior final and for the third time the men from Kerry will be standing in their way. When the counties met back in the final in Ennis in 2012, Kerry accounted for Mayo by nine points on a score of 0-19 to 1-7, and last year in Croke Park the Kingdom did for them again, this time on a scoreline of 2-18 to 0-10.
Who is ever going to forget Mayo Day 2016? Not one Mayo GAA fan that's for sure after the heroics of our U21 team in reaching the promised land and claiming the county's fifth All-Ireland title at this level. Was I confident before throw in? Not really, we knew Brian Reape was out and I heard on the grapevine that fullback Seamus Cuniffe was very doubtful because of a hamstring, and that our most influential player Diarmuid O'Connor might not be able to give his all because of a fractured finger sustained against Dublin in the semi-final. We couldn't possibly win with three key players missing or not at 100 per cent was my gut instinct. I was relieved to see Cuniffee and O'Connor taking their positions for the throw in. The buzz in Cusack Park was surreal, Mayo fans making up at least 7,000 of the almost 8,000 crowd.
With six minutes left on the clock in Cusack Park in Ennis, it looked like it might finally go wrong for this marvellous Mayo team when Brian Coakley kicked his fifth point of the day to draw Cork level with Mayo with the score 3-7 to 1-13. Cork were coming and the momentum was with them at this stage. Peter Kelleher was causing havoc inside the Mayo defensive line and the legs seemed to be going in some of those in green and red.
There was no need for the Mayo faithful who made the 300km round trip to Tullamore to switch on their radios on the way home if there was more than one happy soul making the trip back west on Saturday evening. For they had plenty food for thought and conversation after seeing Mayo produce one of the gutsiest comebacks in memory to edge into the All Ireland u21 final on Saturday, April 30 against Cork.