Lee Keegan in action for Westport during their round two Mayo senior championship game against Ballintubber. Westport’s form has caught the attention to the point where many see them as favourite to win the title. PHOTO: CONOR MCKEOWN

MARTIN CARNEY: Much to anticipate in the final round of Mayo senior championship

THE results from the upcoming round three championship group games will determine the fate of every competing team in this year’s competition.

Naturally, the main focus long term will remain on those who qualify for the quarterfinal phase. For others it can be an unforgiving experience as their season lurches to an immediate halt; cast in a footballing limbo by not having done enough to make the knockout stages while at the same time finishing above the relegation zone, they exempt themselves from further duty.

The third category, and on whose shoulders most pressure falls, are those who still have to drag a performance from within to stave off relegation. Kiltane, for example, are a case in point; relegated last year from senior, they now face the prospect of a relegation playoff tie to junior if they lose at the weekend.

Nearly all those competing for the senior championship’s Moclair Cup still have a target to aim for. One exception is league champions Castlebar Mitchels, whose successive wins over Charlestown and Davitts has seen them advance to the last eight irrespective of their result with Garrymore. This achievement is further endorsement of the positivity generated by Barry Moran in his inaugural season as manager. Whether or not their progress to date is sufficient statement of their championship prospects remains to be seen.

What has caught the eye more than anything is the speed with which the younger players have started to make an impact. Sean Morahan in the corner alongside Joe Tuohy are blending well at the back, while further afield the recently successful Under 19 stars Mark Cunningham and Bob Tuohy are showing promise. Big occasions beckon but within the club for now it’s a case of ‘so far, so good’.

Qualifying alongside them from the group will be either Charlestown or Garrymore. For many in the county, Charlestown's Paul Towey is still unknown. Reports of his scoring summer exploits in Chicago are what have brought him into the public eye. His impressive form evident against Castlebar in the opening round continued against Garrymore, when his personal 10-point tally did much to earn his side a share of the spoils. Whether or not this precious point gained will be enough to give his team a platform to qualify for the next round remains to be seen but the least they must get from their final game with Mayo Gaels is a win. The spectre of Garrymore beating an already qualified Castlebar isn’t beyond the bounds of possibilities and should that happen, Garry go through.


In capturing their title last year, Knockmore weren’t without experiencing hiccups during their qualifying rounds. Losing to Belmullet, at the time quite a shock, served only to get them to redouble their efforts and see out the remainder of the campaign unbeaten.

Though the last day's defeat to Ballina was less seismic, it nonetheless exposed some flaws that understandably manager Raymond Dempsey will have given serious consideration to in the interim. He will begin with the important matter of addressing the concession of three goals in a game; most un-Knockmore-like, it has to be stated, and happening with the team for the first time in quite a while. Failure to deal with a high ball may have contributed to conceding the first but more worryingly was the inability of the defence to deal with direct runners that led to goals two and three.

Sharpening their defensive awareness will be Dempsey’s starting point. Further afield, he will demand more from forwards Aidan Orme and Darren McHale. After a bountiful three goals and three points between them in their opening game against Aghamore, a measly one point is all they could muster against the Stephenites.

Kevin McLoughlin’s form, comparatively quieter against Ballina than against Aghamore, is critical to the team. Equally he needs more support from those around him. Expect, then, a chastened Knockmore to offer little mercy to Ballaghdereen and get the win that will allow them progress.

It will be the shock of the season to date if they are not joined from the group by Ballina. Last day out the Stephenites looked irresistible; powerful in the central channels and possessing a clear picture how to dismantle Knockmore, they catapulted themselves into contention with a win underpinned with real quality.

Padraig O’Hora’s influence is infectious, while the energy of Sam Callinan and the Irwin brothers sets a good tone. Managing to re-discover and release this winning formula repeatedly will be their immediate task.

In our weekly tea-room conversations about everything and nothing, football gets pride of place and in this department, both Ballintubber and Westport have recently come under closer scrutiny than most others – and for different reasons. Maybe we are being somewhat premature but already Westport’s form has caught the attention to the point where many see them as favourite to win the title. Young and energetic, they seem to possess quality in every department.

With the three McLaughlin brothers excelling both in defence and attack, Lee Keegan thriving with his midfield responsibilities and any one of Fionn McDonagh, Paul Lambert and Mark Moran capable of match-winning performances on their day, they look the real deal.

On the other hand, Ballintubber are struggling to reclaim lost glories and the news that Cillian O’Connor has again succumbed to injury won’t help their mood. Yet qualification is still in their control; an expected victory over The Neale will see to this but for now their force of yesteryear is just a thing of memory.

By positioning Aidan O’Shea at full-forward, Breaffy have given a new focus and dimension to their play this year. Unbeaten so far, they should have too much for Belmullet – who themselves still have an outside chance of qualification were they to upset the odds.

As nearly men in the championship over the last decade (they have lost four finals in total), Breaffy will be keen to put themselves in a challenging position once more for the title. Alongside them for this group I’d expect Claremorris to get the better of Balla and advance, provided they can rid themselves of a maddening inconsistency.

All told, there is much to anticipate in a championship that to date has given games of real quality.