No place like home as Mayo club championship draw throws up some great groups
“THAT'S when good neighbours become good friends." If you have any remote knowledge of soaps you will know the final line of the memorable theme from Australian soap Neighbours.
Well neighbours, friends and everything in between will have an added spice to it now over the coming months following last week's draw for the Mayo GAA club championship, especially in the senior championship.
Last year's intermediate champions Mayo Gaels have a tough group, having to contend with Ballintubber, Westport and The Neale. The local derby between Ballintubber and Mayo Gaels will be very interesting, with players on opposing sides team-mates in other sports in Mayo.
That said, Ballintubber are tried and tested and will be among the favourites for the title, along with Westport, and you'd expect both to progress.
Group 2 will definitely have see a big casualty with Knockmore, Ballina Stephenites, Ballaghaderreen and Aghmore in this one. Knockmore will be going for three Mayo senior championships in a row and the Stephenites should edge it out of the group and join their neighbours down in the road in the knockouts. It'd be no surprise to see both teams meet again in the final, like Knockmore and Belmullet did last year.
Speaking of Belmullet, they were the story of last year's championship. Written off time and time again, they beat Knockmore in the group stages before losing to them in the final. It would be a fools errand to write them off again this year, despite the departure of manager Damien Mulligan.
Who joins them will be interesting. One guarantee is it will be a side on the N60 road!
Separated by less than 10 miles, Breaffy will be seen as favourites to join them based on experience. But Balla and Claremorris will both feel they are capable of making the last eight.
The final group is another tough call, with Castlebar Mitchels, Charlestown, Garrymore and Davitts in this one. Again, there look to be another big name heading out at the group stage.
Garrymore had a brilliant run to the semi-final last year and will be seen as slight favourites to get out of the group. Their game against Davitts will be something special with less than four miles separating them. With a number of good young players coming through, Davitts could spring a surprise.
The other two teams, Charlestown and Mitchels, meet in the opening round of the championship. You feel whoever loses that one is in trouble straight away.
Ballintubber, Westport and Ballina Stephenites will be Knockmore's closest challengers but with their ability to handle the pressure in big match situations, it will take something special to stop the Saffron and Blue from doing the three-in-a-row.
We'll take a look at the intermediate and junior championship draws next week.
*You can read Stuart's full column every Tuesday in our print edition.