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While Mayo head into Sunday's Connacht final as favourites, joint Mayo manager Noel Connelly is not taking anything for granted and he is very keenly aware that Sligo will pose a serious threat to his side's ambitions of claiming a 46th Connacht title. Sligo's performance against Roscommon and particularly that of their inside forwards impressed the Hollymount-Carramore clubman. "They were the underdogs, Roscommon were the hot favourites after winning the division two league final. Sligo had won three and lost three in division three, but they were the highest scoring county team in all the leagues, also they used very few players outside the 17 or 18, so they are a very settled team, a very young team, and they played with great belief and no fear, and led from the off. Nobody could say they weren't deserving winners," he said.
The last time that Mayo lost in the Connacht championship was back in 2010, back then Davitts' flying wing-back Colm Boyle had fallen out of favour with the then Mayo management and it was another two years before he returned to the fold under James Horan. Boyle did not make it to that game as a supporter he said last week. "No I missed it, I was at a wedding the same day," but like many a summer wedding in Ireland he was one of a few missing in action from part of the celebrations, adding that he did see it on TV. "I missed the dinner over it."
It is not the Connacht final we expected to see but it certainly is one that has been widely anticipated after Sligo threw away the form book when comprehensively disposing of Roscommon in the semi final. It is slightly ironic that it is the 40th anniversary of Sligo’s famous win against Mayo in the final. The big question on everybody’s lips is will they be able to produce again against the current Connacht kingpins to prevent the green and red going for an unprecedented five in a row.
Half a decade ago, Mayo were bounced out of the Connacht championship by Sligo in the shadow of Benbulbin, it was one of those bad days for Mayo football where nothing went right.
A fellow attendee, (a man clearly) was telling me last Saturday afternoon at a wedding in the Ardilaun Hotel in Galway that Niall Carew’s Sligo team were available at 7/1 in some bookies.
The Mayo junior footballers will go looking to claim the first provincial title of the year for the county on Sunday lunchtime when they face off against Galway in the Connacht Junior Football Championship final in Carrick-on-Shannon. Seán McLoughlin's men booked their place in the provincial final last weekend thanks to a 2-10 to 1-10 win over the defending champions Sligo in James Stephens Park in Ballina. Sunday's game will be the curtain raiser to the senior championship meeting between Leitrim and Galway, the winners of which will face Mayo in the senior semi-final in five weeks time.
Tomorrow evening in Elverys MacHale Park, Mayo will be looking to make it back into the Connacht u21 final for the first time since 2009 when they take on Galway in the provincial semi-final.
New Mayo management duo, Pat Holmes and Noel Connelly, will put their first Mayo senior football team out into competitive action in seven weeks time on Sunday January 4 when they take on NUIG in a Galway venue at 2pm. They will follow that up the following week with another test against a third level side when they head to Yeats County to take on IT Sligo. They will wrap up the group stages of the competition with a game against Roscommon at home on Sunday January 18. We sat down with the new management duo last weekend as they looked forward to the new year, you can read it at http://www.advertiser.ie/mayo/article/73605/meet-the-new-bosses-holmes-and-connelly-are-ready-to-go.
Tomorrow afternoon in Ballina the latest crop of St Gerald’s College, Castlebar, footballers will attempt to claim another Connacht senior title for the school. Last year saw the school claim the last ‘colleges’ only crown, before the separate colleges and vocational schools championships were blended together into one.
Winning the Mayo intermediate title this year was number one on Kiltane’s list of objectives at the start of the year, they achieved that a number of weeks ago and a summer season of senior championship football now beckons for the north Mayo men. But winning the Mayo title was not the be all and end all of this team’s ambitions and they have taken to the Connacht championships with gusto, and on Sunday they will return to MacHale Park looking for a place in the Connacht final and put themselves in with a chance of doing what both Davitts and Charlestown have done in the two previous years, top off a great season with provincial honours. Then come the spring time a crack at an All Ireland series could await them and set them up for 2014 in style.