Can Ballintubber do the three-in-a-row?
TYNAN'S TAKE: COLUMN BY STUART TYNAN
FOR GAA players and supporters in the county, it all builds up to this weekend.
The Michael Walsh league games have served up some cracking ties over the past two weeks as we have seen some form of competitveness return to the fields. Players have been able to shake off the rustiness while us fans, having only had reruns of games on TV in recent months to whet our appetites, were finally were able to cheer on their club sides.
But the return of the Mayo club championships is the one we have all been waiting for and there are some cracking games to kick things off.
All eyes will be on Ballintubber to see if they can join an elite group and claim their third Moclair Cup on the trot and it will take a very good team to stop them doing so. Their group looks a very manageable one on paper although their opening encounter against a tough Aghamore outfit could be a potential banana skin.
The 'group of death' has two brilliant opening ties with Charlestown hosting Castlebar Mitchels on Saturday evening and Breaffy 'welcoming' Westport on Sunday afternoon.
Charlestown have an exciting young team coming up but Mitchels' experience should see them edge it (sorry Aiden). Breaffy and Westport had disappointing campaigns last year and both will want to give an improved showing. I seem to tip Breaffy every year to finally claim that elusive senior title and they should have too much firepower for Westport. Whether they can get their hands on the trophy remains to be seen.
In the intermediate championship, Balla and Islandeady lock horns once more in an intriguing west Mayo derby. Balla didn't disgrace themselves last year coming up as junior A champions and they should overcome their opponents once more.
Hollymount/Carramore, relegated from senior last year, have a very tough opener against Parke/Keelogues/Crimlin. Parke is a fortress come championship time and I wouldn't be surprised if they catch out Hollymount/Carramore on the day.
Meanwhile Castlebar Mitchels B, junior A winners last year, take on Burrishoole on Sunday in Pairc Josie Munnelly. Like Breaffy in senior, Burrishoole have had their fair share of near misses in recent years. They are a match for anyone in this division on their day and I expect them to have another deep run this year. If star man Jason Doherty, who was out for the majority of their club campaign last season through injury, is firing, they are as capable as anyone of going all the way.
ON the whole, last weekend wasn't one that Mayo soccer clubs won't look back on too fondly.
Westport United exited the quarter-final stage of the FAI Junior Cup for the second successive year, this time at the hands of Dublin outfit Oliver Bond Celtic. Ballyglass, Manulla and Conn Rangers all bowed out at the fifth round of the T.P. Brennan Connaught Cup while in the Connaught Shield, Claremorris B and Kiltimagh/Knock Utd B also saw their respective cup runs come to an end.
It wasn't all doom and gloom though as Kilitmagh / Knock's A side enjoyed a very comfortable victory over Moyne Villa to advance to the quarter-finals of the Connaught Shield. Along with Glenhest Rovers they will certainly see this competition as an attainable one and will hope to keep the trophy on Mayo soil once again after Killala claimed to shield last year.
Mayo clubs will hope for some more positive news this weekend as Westport United and Castlebar Celtic look to progress in the Connaught Cup; Westport are at home to Tuam Celtic while Castlebar have a very tough encounter Athenry.
It maybe tough for Westport to pick themselves up after that defeat on Sunday but they should have enough to see off Tuam. Castlebar Celtic have a tough task on their hands against an Athenry outfit whose confidence will be sky-high after booking their place in the Junior Cup semi-finals over the weekend. But if the likes of Jordan Loftus and Jason Hunt are on form, Celtic can certainly advance.
Pictured: Ballintubber players celebrate with the Paddy Moclair Cup following their Mayo SFC final win over Ballaghaderreen at Elverys MacHale Park last year. They will be hoping to complete a historic three-in-a-row this year. PHOTO: HARRY MURPHY/SPORTSFILE
*You can read Stuart's full column every Tuesday in our print edition.*