Ballyheane captain Sean Kilcoyne says they remain to team to beat as they begin their quest for three Super League titles in a row. PHOTO: RYAN GALLAGHER

Ballyheane relishing the three-in-a-row challenge


UNQUESTIONABLY in the most successful period in the club’s history, Ballyheane are looking to join a very exclusive club this season.

Only Castlebar Celtic and Westport United have won three consecutive titles or more in Mayo’s top division - with United the only side to do so in the Super League era – and Ballyheane will now look to become only the third team to do so as they chase a third Super League title in a row.

They won their first ever Tom Kelly Cup in 2021, going unbeaten in the process, as well as winning that season’s Westaro Cup, the Under 21 Division 1 title, and reaching the Super Cup final.

Much of the end of that season was interrupted by Covid, with the finals of the Westaro, Under 21 League and Super Cup being played in 2022.

A week after the Super Cup final, which ended in a loss to United, they went straight into the defence of the Super League season and had to deal with the loss of Liam Irwin.

The season did have its challenges, but they completed a successful defence of their league title and manager Ashley Stevenson believes his side will benefit from a proper pre-season.

“The club is in a good place and we’ll be looking to kick on. We had the cup final at the end of the (2021) season and went straight into the league the following weekend. To go through back-to-back leagues with no break was an unbelievable achievement.

“You can see yourself towards the end of last season the fatigue kicking in and injuries accumulating, so to get over the line was magnificent. To have a pre-season has given us the hunger and the spark to retain our title again.”


Despite the loss of Irwin, the club’s conveyor belt of talent kept rolling, with players like Shea McAtamney, Liam and Rory Morris and Nathan Reilly Doyle all stepping up, the latter winning Young Player of the Year. Both the club’s A and B teams train together and captain Sean Kilcoyne believes that makes the step up to Super League more seamless as both sides play a similar brand of football.

“(The talent) seems to be kind of endless at the moment. A lot of players stepped up from the B team last year. Rory (Morris) was outstanding towards the end of last season. It’s great to see the young lads coming through.

“That’s the beauty of having the A and B training together. It’s seamless. Everybody knows exactly their role. Both teams play a similar style of football. Everyone knows what they’re doing.”

Ballyheane will have plenty of challengers this season, including Castlebar Celtic, Kiltimagh/Knock United, Ballina Town and Westport United. With all four sides strengthening in the off season, the defending champions know the challenge facing them. But Stevenson and Kilcoyne are relishing it.

“We’ll go with the same mentality with the last few seasons. Nothing is won until we win it. We’ll take each game as it comes. We won’t care about anyone else until the weekend we’re playing them. They have to come and beat us as we’re the champions. A bit of hunger and freshness from the pre-season is going to help and we’re ready to kick on.

“You look at the teams from last season who have strengthened. They’re coming for us and that’s what we want. We want the challenge and we’re hungry for more success. As Ash said, it’s up to them to come for us and we’ll do our best to retain it,” Kilcoyne concluded.