By Mark Higgins
The semi-final pairings for the Mayo senior and intermediate club championships are complete after a weekend of high drama around the county. Several big names fell in the hunts for both the Moclair and Sweeney Cups as some new contenders announced themselves with eye-catching displays.
The big winners from the weekend’s senior action were Ballina Stephenites, who are back in the county semi-finals for the first time since 2011 after they emerged on top by 2-13 to 0-14 in an epic duel with Breaffy in MacHale Park on Saturday night.
Enda Gilvarry’s men produced a performance full of heart and defiance to knock out last year’s beaten county finalists, kicking for home in extra-time after Breaffy had shown no small amount of steel of their own to battle back from six points down in normal time.
Ciaran Treacy pulled the strings and Simon Leonard kicked 1-3 in extra-time as the Stephenites’ young team came of age, while there were also outstanding displays in defence from Stephen Mullins, David O’Mahony and, in particular, Ger Caffekery, who had to be carried off the field deep in extra-time after expending every ounce of energy in his side’s cause.
They will meet Ballintubber in the semi-finals in two weeks’ time after the reigning county champions produced a professional performance to see off this season’s surprise package Belmullet in James Stephens Park.
A Cillian O’Connor goal late in the first half set the foundation for Kevin Johnson’s men and they held a hard-working Belmullet at arm’s length throughout the second half to run out 1-12 to 1-7 winners.
The other semi-final will be a meeting of last season’s two beaten semi-finalists, Ballaghaderreen and Castlebar Mitchels, after they got the better of Davitts and Knockmore in their respective last-eight bouts.
Ballagh ran away to a comprehensive victory over Davitts in Castlebar on Saturday evening, goals in either half from Cian Hanley and Andy Moran helping the East Mayo men to 2-16 to 0-8 win. All of Ballagh’s key men came to the fore, with Moran in excellent form in the inside line, Hanley and Sharoize Akram running the middle third and David Drake impressing at full-back.
Davitts never really got going in what was their first senior quarter-final since 1986, but simply reaching this stage of the competition represented a good year’s work for the Ballindine/Irishtown club.
Mitchels, meanwhile, made tough work of their quarter-final against Knockmore in MacHale Park on Sunday. They found themselves five points down with 35 minutes played against the North Mayo men and were indebted to Neil Douglas, who pulled his side from the fires and finished with 1-5 to his name in the 1-12 to 0-13 win.
Knockmore, for whom Peter Naughton was outstanding, will be left to rue their inability to close the game out from that position of dominance.
Elsewhere in the senior championship, Moy Davitts and Hollymount-Carramore will clash in the relegation final after they shipped heavy losses to Westport and Claremoris respectively on Sunday.
Westport blew Moy Davitts out of the water with a 3-16 to 0-3 demolition in Ballyheane while Claremorris turned their poor form around to record an emphatic 4-14 to 0-8 win over their South Mayo rivals in Ballindine.
Moy Davitts and Holly-Carra will meet in two weeks’ time with the loser heading down to intermediate football for 2020.
Ballyhaunis, The Neale, Louisburgh and Burrishoole will contest the intermediate semi-finals after they came through their last eight encounters with various degrees of difficulty over the weekend.
The prize of most dramatic win of the weekend goes to Burrishoole, who beat Crossmolina by a point, 2-12 to 2-11, courtesy of a James Moran goal with literally the last play of the game in MacHale Park on Sunday.
Louisburgh justified their favorites tag by producing a dominant display to beat Parke/Keelogues/Crimlin by 0-18 to 0-11 in Islandeady on Saturday. Frank Noone’s men will head into the semi-finals as many observers’ favourites to lift the title.
That is after two of the presumed front-runners, Kiltimagh and Ardnaree, had their seasons abruptly ended at the respective hands of The Neale and Ballyhaunis on Saturday.
The Neale produced one of the performances of the weekend to run out handsome 1-14 to 1-6 winners over Kiltimagh in Mayo Abbey while Ballyhaunis dominated extra-time against Ardnaree after they finished level at full-time, the East Mayo boys eventually recording a 2-13 to 1-7 win.
The intermediate relegation final promises to be a fiery encounter between South Mayo rivals Ballinrobe and Shrule-Glencorrib after they lost semi-finals to Swinford and Islandeady respectively. Ballinrobe were shocked 0-10 to 0-5 by Swinford in Ballyhaunis while Islandeay were comfortable 1-12 to 0-6 winners over Shrule in Tourmakeady.
Finally, the Mayo junior A county final will be contested between Kilmaine and Castlebar Mitchels B after they came through semi-finals against Kilmeena and Ardagh over the weekend.
On Saturday, Mitchels were 1-9 to 0-7 winners over Ardagh in Knockmore, while Kilmaine came through a tough battle with Kilmeena by 1-16 to 0-17 in Breaffy on Sunday.
The junior A relegation final will see Achill take on Charlestown B after they lost their semi-finals to Killala and Ballina Stephenites B respectively.
See pages 4-13 for full coverage of all the weekend’s games in the Mayo senior, intermediate and junior championships.