Monday, 03 January 2011 14:03
As we come to the end of 2010 there were many highs and lows on the GAA front to reflect on in Mayo over the past year.
First thoughts suggest the lows outweigh the highs as we hadn't a lot to shout about on the playing fields. And there were some matters high up on the low side of things that had nothing to do with what happened on the playing fields.
On the county scene the first four months gave the Mayo supporters plenty of hope for the year after the senior team carved out some fantastic results in winning the FBD league and qualifying for the national league final.
Beating Derry, Kerry, Cork and Tyrone away in the league was a fantastic feat and one which seemed to have laid the foundation for a long and fruitful summer.
But that was as good as it got as it was downhill for the remainder of the year.
After our Under 21 team were sent packing at an early stage it was left to the county minors once again to keep the flag flying. And keep the flag flying they did.
After coming through Connaught pretty handy, they saw off Offaly in the All-Ireland quarterfinal. However, they were pitted against Tyrone in the semi-final and were never given any real chance of winning against an Ulster side regarded as the best minor team ever.
But the Mayo minors gave it one hell of a go and looked to be on their way to a famous victory when they led by six points in the second half. However, their magnificent exploits were killed off in the final quarter by a brilliant Tyrone recovery, plus a little inexperience from the Mayo boys. Yet, they did the county proud.
The club championships then took centre stage and by and large they provided plenty of excitement, some great games and, of course, some shocks.
In the group stages in the senior championship the surprise packet for me was West Mayo. After losing unluckily to reigning champions Charlestown in the first round, they went on to beat Kiltane, lost narrowly to Westport and finished level with Breaffy. They raised a few eyebrows and more than justified their participation in the championship.
It is a pity they were voted out of the championship for next year.
In the end, the surprise finalists to many (not to me) were Ballintubber and Castlebar Mitchels. While the final didn't live up to all expectations, it was Ballintubber who prevailed to win their first ever title.
In the intermediate championship it was Tourmakeady who made up for their previous disappointment by beating Burrishoole in the final. It was a victory they well deserved.But for me the team of the year was Burrishoole. After been demoted from the senior grade the previous year, they regrouped and under former Mayo star Colm McMenamom they won the county cup where they gave many five star performances, topped division 1B of the Mayo senior league and qualified for the intermediate final. In the end injuries to key players cost them further glory.
The junior championship was again highly competitive. In the end it was old rivals Parke and Islandeady who contested the final. Parke prevailed, and deservedly so as they produced one magnificent performance.
As we head into the New Year, Parke continue to fly the Mayo flag as, after a very impressive Connaught club championship campaign, they will travel to Manchester to play St. Peter's in the postponed All-Ireland quarterfinal. They could go one better than Kiltimagh did last year by going all the way.
Castlebar Mitchels Under 21 side were streets ahead of any team in the Mayo championship and easily saw off Ballintubber in the county final.
However, the three things which really stuck out for me on the GAA scene in 2010 were: the performances of the two Feeney brothers, Alan and Richie, and Tom Cunniffe in the senior club county final in really trying circumstances was magnificent; Carnacon's senior ladies team reaching the All-Ireland club final when Mayo ladies Gaelic football was in turmoil; and thirdly, Natasha Beegan's decision to interrupt her holiday in Mexico and fly home to play with Carnacon in the All-Ireland senior club final before flying back to Mexico to complete her two-week holiday. As it happened, the final was postponed and she was just able to cancel her flight back for the game at the last minute.
Feeney's tragic death top of the lows
The top of the lows for the past year was the tragic death of one of Mayo's greatest ever Gaelic footballers, Ger Feeney.
Nothing more can be said about the great wing back that hasn't already been said but his untimely death left the county without one of its greatest exponents of the game and a great character.
Along with Ger we also lost another great GAA follower in the tragedy, Donal McEllin, and along with the loss of Tony McHugh and Mick Ruane among others, Mayo GAA was deeply flattened off the field.
Next on the lows list was Mayo's showing at senior level. A big beating by Cork in the league final was followed by losing out to Sligo in the Connaught championship.
For me, the defeat by Sligo didn't come as any great shock as I felt they were playing a side which was firing on all cylinders at the time and had home advantage. It was a day when the services of Alan Dillon were badly missed.
But losing to Longford was the real killer blow.
Third up was the withdrawal by the ladies county board of the county senior team from the Connaught championship.
All the problems with the ladies GAA was blamed on the senior team, when in actual fact it was the county board who were the culprits.
Following the recent publication of an investigation into the problems in Mayo ladies football by Croke Park it seems the players are still wrongly blamed, which does not hold much hope for 2011.